There's a strong case to be made that one of the most surprising developments in America over the past five years has been the rapid acceptance--political and cultural--of gay marriage. There are many reasons for this. But in the political realm, a big one has been the efforts of Tim Gill, a Denver software mogul and philanthropist, who organized many wealthy like-minded folks and developed an intricate, stealth, and strikingly successful strategy to legalize gay marriage at the state level. I profiled Gill for The Atlantic four years ago ("They Won't Know What Hit Them," March 2007). Back then, he was working to lay the groundwork for gay marriage in Iowa and had just knocked off the acting House Speaker, an influential social conservatism. But here's the thing--the poor guy had no idea what had happened to him. He found out he'd been targeted by Gill only when I called to tell. His sputtering reaction became the lede to my piece.
More important is how the Gill strategy worked. His team would swoop into races at the last moment, make major donations to favored candidates and attacks against opponents that wouldn't show up in public disclosure statements until well after the election. In Iowa, this strategy helped tip the legislature to the Democrats (although Gill says he supports or opposes politicians in both parties based only on their position on gay rights). When the state supreme court voted to legalize gay marriage, conservative opponents had no avenue to override the decision.