A group of at least 75 prominent Republicans have signed on to an amicus brief supporting the two plaintiff couples who will challenge California’s Proposition 8 before the Supreme Court in oral arguments on March 26. The New York Times reports that the list includes two members of Congress –– New York’s Richard Hanna and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida –– four ex-governors, including Utah’s Jon Huntsman, who sought last year’s GOP presidential nomination, former Ohio Congresswoman Deborah Pryce, who was a member of the GOP leadership in the House, and leading figures from Republican presidential administrations dating back to Ronald Reagan.
The Times said the brief is “a direct challenge to Speaker John A. Boehner and reflects the civil war in the party since the November election.” Boehner has stepped in, on behalf of the House, to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act against constitutional challenges in the wake of the Obama administration’s 2011 decision to no longer do so. DOMA will be before the Supreme Court the day after it hears arguments in the Prop 8 case. (See Arthur S. Leonard’s reporting on the latest developments.)
The Times notes that several prominent Republicans who support the right of same-sex couples to marry –– including former First Lady Laura Bush, ex-Vice President Dick Cheney, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell –– are not on the list. Bush recently asked that a video clip of her endorsing marriage equality be removed from a television ad produced by the pro-gay Respect for Marriage Coalition.
Theodore Olson, who served as solicitor general in President George W. Bush’s first administration, is one of the lead attorneys hired by the American Foundation for Equal Rights on behalf of the Prop 8 plaintiff couples.
In a written statement, Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said, “A who's who of the Republican Party has come before the Supreme Court to affirm that support for the freedom to marry is a mainstream position that reflects American values of freedom, family, and fairness, as well as conservative values of limited government and personal responsibility.” Opposition to marriage equality, he said, is becoming “increasingly isolated and the exclusion from marriage increasingly indefensible.”
Marc Solomon, Freedom to Marry’s national campaign director, cited the spade work that Ken Mehlman, who headed up Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, has done in building Republican support for gay marriage.
“For the last three years, Ken has been working tirelessly on the cause,” Solomon told Gay City News. “He has worked quietly. Whenever I give him 10 legislators to call, he asks me for the 11th and 12th…This is the powerful culmination of his strategic mind and his leveraging of his relationships to advance our cause.”
When Mehlman came out in 2010, he faced considerable criticism by many in the LGBT community for the 2004 Republican campaign’s reliance on anti-gay marriage amendments to pull evangelical Christian voters to the polls.