The Republican Party - or at least a third of it - is starting to show signs that it recognizes the inevitability of same-sex marriage in America.
According to a recent survey conducted for The New York Times, one-third of Republicans now say they favor gay marriage. The newspaper reported this week that dozens of prominent party members have signed a legal brief arguing that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry. The document was to be submitted to the Supreme Court this week in support of the upcoming suit it will hear challenging California’s Proposition 8 and other legal measures like it that block same-sex couples from marrying on a state level.
An amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief seldom changes the minds of justices, The Times reported. But some experts think the number and prominence of the conservatives signing this one may make it an exception. Signers reportedly include Steve Schmidt, a top adviser for the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign; Stephen J. Hadley, a national security adviser under Bush; Meg Whitman, a former supporter of Proposition 8 during her gubernatorial campaign; and Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah who made a bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Though Huntsman formerly favored civil unions, he published an article in The American Conservative last week making his new support for same-sex marriage explicit. He wrote, “All Americans should be treated equally by the law, whether they marry in a church, another religious institution, or a town hall.” Huntsman also noted that the Republican Party is at a crossroads, pointing out that “it’s difficult to get people even to consider your reform ideas if they think, with good reason, you don’t like or respect them.”
Some Republicans are changing (or, in political terms, their views are “evolving”) as it becomes clear that the shift in public opinion is only gaining momentum. Others, who might have been reluctant to candidly share their personal opinions on gay marriage while their party persisted in clinging to discriminatory social positions in order to pacify primary voters, may now find it more politically tenable to voice their opinions. The price of doing the right thing on marriage equality continues to drop as the idea’s popular support increases.
Then there are Republicans like me, who have supported gay marriage all along. I am not a Republican who changed his position on marriage; I’m a marriage rights advocate who changed parties. A few Republicans have been vocal from the beginning about marriage equality, though it has taken until now for them to gain much traction within their party. I have written in this space many times about the importance of equal marriage rights for all citizens, and it is heartening to see members of at least one cohort within the Republican party either changing outmoded views or finding the courage to speak up for what they believe to be right.
The New York Times reported another key statistic. Seventy percent of voters under 30 years old favor gay marriage. The change is coming, and our current crop of politicians faces the choice of whether to be on the right side of history or to cling to the past. In the past decade, most Republicans have been clinging. Now some of them have started to embrace equality, joining those of us who have been waiting for the rest of our party to catch up.
As the Republicans’ amicus brief argues, same-sex marriage aligns perfectly with the causes of “limited government and maximizing individual freedom.” That is a position the signers’ party should support without reservation.