American Foundation for Equal Rights

New Yorker: Ken Mehlman’s Gay-Marriage Mission

The news, on the front page of the Times this morning, that dozens of leading Republicans had signed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the case of Proposition 8, the California gay-marriage ban, merited the A1 treatment that it received. Despite their party and their own past positions, Jon Huntsman, Meg Whitman, Ken Duberstein, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and others said that they supported a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage. This comes two days before the Obama Administration must decide whether it is ready to file a similar brief. In the most high-profile Supreme Court case of the year, with the future of how we view civil rights and treat our fellow-citizens at stake, someone had quietly engineered enough prominent conservatives from the opposition party to sign onto a legal brief supporting full equality for gay and lesbian Americans. That someone was Ken Mehlman, the openly gay former political director of the George W. Bush White House, the campaign manager for Bush’s 2004 reëlection campaign, and the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Mehlman, now an investment banker by day, is on the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that has organized the challenge to Proposition 8, and which hired the superlawyers Ted Olson and David Boies to spearhead it. He has worked with the other most prominent national organization fighting for gay marriage, the New York-based Freedom to Marry, and has offered his help to pretty much in the effort anyone who wants it. (I have worked with the same organizations.) He was active in the past election on the side of advocates who won in all four states where marriage equality was on the ballot: Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State. Perhaps he will never be able to fully undo the 2004 effort by Republicans to put anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendments through in order to bring out the conservative base vote. But it will not be for lack of trying.

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