Republicans sign on to support marriage equality
 

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posted Friday, March 1, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 9

Republicans sign on to support marriage equality
Amicus brief in anti-Prop 8 case draws 75 GOP endorsers

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In a development that caught many observers by surprise, 75 prominent Republicans have filed an amicus brief supporting marriage equality in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court will decide on the constitutionality of California's anti-equality Prop 8.

'[We] start from the premise - recognized by this Court on at least 14 occasions - that marriage is both a fundamental right protected by our Constitution and a venerable institution that confers countless benefits, both to those who marry and to society at large,' the brief states.

'It is precisely because marriage is so important in producing and protecting strong and stable family structures that [we] do not agree that the government can rationally promote the goal of strengthening families by denying civil marriage to same-sex couples.'

The brief, filed on February 25, was written by Seth Waxman, former solicitor general in President Bill Clinton's administration, and Reginald Brown, who served in the White House Counsel's Office under George W. Bush, and it is signed by the cream-of-the-crop of mainstream Republicans.

Among the signers are two current members of the House of Representatives - Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Richard Hanna (R-NY). Former Massachusetts governors Jane Swift and Bill Weld, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman signed, as did a slew of former Republican officials, staffers, and campaign consultants. Another signer was Meg Whitman, who had supported Prop 8 during her unsuccessful run for governor of California.

COULD BE INFLUENTIAL
Most legal experts say that amicus briefs generally do not change the minds of Supreme Court Justices, but this one may be different. Legal analysts said the brief had the potential to sway conservative justices both for the prominent names attached to it as well as for its legal arguments.

According to a New York Times summary of the brief, the Republicans cite some very conservative legal precedents, including Citizens United, in which the Supreme Court overturned federal campaign financing laws, and a D.C. Second Amendment case striking down a local ordinance against handguns.

SCOTUSBlog publisher Tom Goldstein said the filing 'has the potential to break through and make a real difference.'

'The person who is going to decide this case, if it's going to be close,' Goldstein added, 'is going to be a conservative justice who respects traditional marriage but nonetheless is sympathetic to the claims that this is just another form of hatred. If you're trying to persuade someone like that, you can't persuade them from the perspective of Gay rights advocacy.'

'CONSISTENT' WITH VALUES
'We are trying to say to the court that we are judicial and political conservatives, and it is consistent with our values and philosophy for you to overturn Proposition 8,' said former RNC chair Ken Mehlman. Once the creator of the Bush-era anti-Gay Republican strategy, Mehlman came out as Gay several years ago, and is now on the board of AFER, which brought the suit challenging Prop 8.

Mehlman reportedly spent months in quiet conversations with fellow Republicans to gather signatures for the brief.

One of the signers, former member of Congress Deborah Pryce, said that her views on marriage had changed.

'Like a lot of the country, my views have evolved on this from the first day I set foot in Congress. I think it's just the right thing, and I think it's on solid legal footing, too,' she said.

'The die is cast on this issue when you look at the percentage of younger voters who support Gay marriage,' said signer Steve Schmidt, who was a senior adviser to John McCain's 2008 Republican presidential campaign. 'As Dick Cheney said years ago, 'Freedom means freedom for everybody.'

Cheney, the former vice president, was not on the list of signers. Also missing were former First Lady Laura Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

A CHANGING CONSENSUS
Last month, National Journal's Political Insiders survey found that nearly half of Republicans think their party should avoid the same-sex marriage debate altogether. Nearly three out of 10 said they support same-sex marriage, while only 11% are opposed.

'That's a big departure from 2009,' National Journal observed, 'when half of the Republican insiders said the party should oppose Gay marriage.'



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