It feels like 1963.
A diminutive girl in a skirt is just trying to go to school. And a racist relic of a politician is blocking the door.
Chris Buttars -- a.k.a. "the mouth" -- is Utah's George Wallace. And Elaine Ball -- a.k.a. "pumpkin bread girl" -- is playing student Vivian Malone.
It's been nearly half a century since school desegregation played out in that stark confrontation between a girl and a governor. And Buttars seems completely unaware of history -- at least the part where he's on the wrong side of it.
But Ball has been brushing up.
In the weeks after Proposition 8 scraped Utah raw, the 24-year-old linguistics student decided there was a better way to help her neighbors figure out she's a human being first, bisexual second. So she organized leaf-raking parties and snow-shoveling brigades and baked that bread for Buttars. It's called Pride in Your Community. Ball is going to kill homophobia with kindness.
"We need to come together," she says. "These are the people who work with you, who you employ, who you give housing to. We want people to see that we're real. We don't want to be compared to radical Muslims."
Kilo Zamora, director of the Inclusion Center, calls Ball's tactics "unusual and beautiful."
They were lost on Buttars.
He suffered through her little visit. Then, two weeks later, he confided his deepest darkest fears of "pig sex" and Sodom and Gomorrah and a gay-rights-driven end of days to a gay documentary filmmaker. Apparently self-aware enough to realize he'd said too much, he thought he could censor his comments before the film was released. So, he blamed the filmmaker specifically and the "left-leaning media" in general when a "friendly interview" blew up in his face. Again. Almost a year to the day since his "black baby" comment.
"I would rather be censured for doing what I think is right than be honored by my colleagues for bowing to the pressure of a special-interest group that has been allowed to act with impunity," Buttars says.
Just like Wallace -- a victim of his own bile. He refuses to apologize or resign.
And why should he? He handily won re-election representing West Jordan, South Jordan and Herriman on the whisper of a rumor that his opponent was gay. When Senate President Michael Waddoups says Buttars is representing his constituents, he's right.
Unable to defend Buttars' racist comments last year, senators used a threatening letter to a judge as an excuse for censure. Confronted again this year by his verbal diarrhea, the new senate president (who owes his job to a vote from Buttars) stood "four-square" behind the homophobe's right to say whatever hateful, violence-inciting thing he likes about gays.
Still trying to tamp down the controversy, Waddoups yanked Buttars from the Senate Judiciary Committee -- he said it would free up the arch-conservative lawmaker to say more. And Republican Utah senators downplayed the Buttars backlash as so much hyper-political correctness. It's still OK to compare gay activists to terrorists, question their morals and wonder about their sex lives.
"We agree with many of the things he said," Waddoups says. "We may disagree with some of what he said. We may disagree with the way he said it."
What parts do Republican senators agree with? They won't say.
An LDS Church spokesman hastened to clarify late last week that Buttars "does not speak for the church."
The kind of bone-deep, dehumanizing hatred Buttars spews is dangerous.
Utah has had its Matthew Shepard. In 1993, after a night of drinking, drugs and an attempted kiss, a Nevada cowboy tracked down 31-year-old Douglas Koehler on a Park City street and shot him between the eyes. Judge David Young said Koehler contributed to the circumstances of his death and let his killer off with six years in prison.
Last weekend, the Utah Pride Center was burglarized.
Buttars says we'll look back on this moment in history and see it as a "crossroads." Just not the crossroads he thinks.
As Unitarian minister Tom Goldsmith says: "Time's on our side. The old bigots are going to die. It's the younger generation that's going to carry the standard."
Like Elaine Ball. She and her pumpkin bread will be here long after Buttars is gone.