American Foundation for Equal Rights

Freedom to Marry for Young Conservatives: The GOP Marriage Push

Michelle Goldberg of The Daily Beast reports on Freedom to Marry’s new initiative to engage young conservatives in the fight for marriage equality.

Given the way George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign demagogued against gay marriage, it’s amazing to contemplate how many prominent figures from the Bush team now support it. Laura Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and John Bolton all back marriage equality. Ted Olson, Bush’s solicitor general, is now at least as well known for fighting California’s anti-gay Proposition 8 as he was for litigating Bush v. GoreKen Mehlman, Bush’s 2004 campaign manager, came out of the closet in 2010 and now limits his political activities to championing gay rights.

Clearly, a fissure is opening up in the GOP. A majority of Republicans continue to oppose marriage equality, but, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, the party’s younger members, those 18 to 44, are evenly divided. That’s why, after years in which the gay rights movement has relied solely on Democratic support, the group Freedom to Marry sees a new opportunity for outreach on the right.

On Tuesday, the organization launched Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, an initiative to mobilize Republican supporters of marriage equality. It’s also hired a Republican lobbyist, Kathryn Lehman. In the 1990s, while serving as chief counsel for the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Lehman helped write the Defense of Marriage Act. Since then, she’s come out as a lesbian and turned against the law but retains her conservative connections. “We’re spending about half of our lobbying time and resources meeting with Republicans,” says Freedom to Marry’s national campaign director, Marc Solomon. “It’s a central part of our effort.”