WASHINGTON — Dozens of prominent Republicans — including top advisers to former President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress — have signed a legal brief arguing that gay people have a constitutional right to marry, a position that amounts to a direct challenge to Speaker John A. Boehner and reflects the civil war in the party since the November election.
The document will be submitted this week to the Supreme Court in support of a suit seeking to strike down Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative barring same-sex marriage, and all similar bans. The court will hear back-to-back arguments next month in that case and another pivotal gay rights case that challenges the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act…
Legal analysts said the brief had the potential to sway conservative justices as much for the prominent names attached to it as for its legal arguments. The list of signers includes a string of Republican officials and influential thinkers — 75 as of Monday evening — who are not ordinarily associated with gay rights advocacy, including some who are speaking out for the first time and others who have changed their previous positions.
Among them are Meg Whitman, who supported Proposition 8 when she ran for California governor; Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Richard Hanna of New York; Stephen J. Hadley, a Bush national security adviser; Carlos Gutierrez, a commerce secretary to Mr. Bush; James B. Comey, a top Bush Justice Department official; David A. Stockman, President Ronald Reagan’s first budget director; and Deborah Pryce, a former member of the House Republican leadership from Ohio who is retired from Congress. “
I am a bit encouraged and a little bit disappointed by this development. On the one hand, it’s good to see the monolithic mindset within the Republican Party begin to crumble, at least a little bit. Slowly, painfully, dissenting views are being voiced, challenging the party orthodoxy. For the first time in memory, you’ve got Republicans saying that yes, the defense budget is as subject to budget cuts as any other part of the budget. For the first time since President George W. Bush’s attempt at immigration reform crashed onto the shoals of conservative groupthink, you’ve got a few Republicans admitting that amnesty would benefit not just illegal immigrants but the country as a whole.
Those are still minority viewpoints within the party, but that’s fine. At least they are being voiced and heard. That’s a healthy sign for a party that faces an immense modernization project.
However, it’s disappointing that the effort led by former GOP party chair Ken Mehlman — who himself came out as gay a few years ago — drew support from just two current GOP officeholders. The list of signatories includes four former governors, for example, but no current governor dared to sign on.
Some 70 percent of Americans under 30 support gay marriage, and the swing of public opinion in general over the past decade has been remarkable. Regardless of how the high court decides this particular case, we all know where we’re going to end up on this issue. Those who continue to throw themselves across the path of history in an attempt to block that progress do themselves, their party and their legacy a disservice.
– Jay Bookman