Conservative case for gay marriage: Column
Margaret Hoover and Meghan McCain
1:46p.m. EDT March 19, 2013
Our confidence in conservatives’ growing support for the freedom to marry is not wishful thinking.
The conservative movement has learned many lessons in recent years. As young women whose families have long been involved in Republican politics, we see the movement rapidly changing in a positive way. On one issue in particular, the freedom to marry, there is a major shift happening among conservatives. We feel so strongly that this change is necessary for our party that we’ve joined about thirty other young conservatives from around the nation in the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry.
Our confidence in conservatives’ growing support for the freedom to marry is not wishful thinking. In fact, the evidence is all around us. Most recently Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio announced his support for marriage, saying, “I believe all of our sons and daughters ought to have the same opportunity to experience the joy and stability of marriage.”
More than 130 Republicans signed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court urging justices to support the freedom to marry. Organized by Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, the brief was signed by representatives from various wings of the conservative movement, libertarians, neoconservatives, and establishment Republicans, including cabinet advisers of President George W. Bush and senior advisers to our past three GOP presidential campaigns.
In more signs of change, the organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference were widely criticized by mainstream conservatives for excluding pro-gay organizations from this year’s conference. Yet even the CPAC organizers were not absolute in their opposition to gay conservative participation; there was a panel discussion hosted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute titled, “A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition, Bringing Tolerance Out of the Closet.”
All around us, new leaders are stepping up as Republicans question whether the opposition to gay rights is consistent with our small-government values – and rightly so. The last two election cycles showed that some candidates discredit the movement at large when they advocate for a bigger, more intrusive government. They are rightly described as “extreme,” and they are increasingly out-of-step with the mainstream of the country, especially when it comes to marriage.
For example, where the freedom to marry made significant legislative strides in the last two years, Republicans played a critical role in that progress. In New York and Washington, Republicans cast deciding votes to pass marriage in their states. In New Hampshire, an astounding 119 House Republicans – a majority of the caucus – voted to protect the state’s freedom to marry law at a time when Republicans made up nearly 75% of the legislature.
Of course, we still have a long way to go in reaching out to fellow conservatives. When our party platform was debated last year, participants adopted a position emphatically against the freedom to marry by advocating bans at the state level and in the Constitution. Many of the Republican presidential hopefuls signed a draconian pledge by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) to continue excluding same-sex couples from marriage. These positions are inconsistent with the rising generation of conservative leaders – not to mention established leaders like former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former First Lady Laura Bush – and they will soon fade into the shadows of history.
Young people understand this better than anyone. A 2011 Gallup poll showed that 70% of adults age 18-34 believed that marriage should be legal for same-sex couples. And a polling analysis by pollsters Joel Benenson and Jan van Lohuizen, released earlier this month, found that 51% of Republicans under age 30 supported the freedom to marry. The tide is shifting rapidly across the conservative spectrum as a whole, but young people are way ahead of the game.
Like other conservatives making the case for the freedom to marry, we young conservatives believe that marriage, family, and personal freedom are Republican values. Getting out of the way of same-sex couples who want to marry means empowering them to take full responsibility for their loved ones. In the words of Vice President Dick Cheney, “Freedom means freedom for everyone.” Marriage is marriage, whether a person is straight or gay.
Marriage also promotes outcomes that we as conservatives should support: stable homes, with committed couples who take care of themselves without government intrusion. We know the benefits to society from healthy marriages, and we celebrate them. Our fellow Republicans should be strengthening this great institution – not stifling it with roadblocks.
As this movement changes we find ourselves joined by many more young voices like our own in the media and on Capitol Hill. Our message is simple: Get on the right side of history by honoring the conservative values of limited government, freedom, and family by supporting the freedom to marry.