A lot of people on both sides of the marriage equality debate seemed impressed that some 75 Republicans, including prominent members of the Bush administration and two members of Congress, signed a brief to the Supreme Court in support of marriage equality.
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.
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.
Ms. Pryce said Monday: “Like a lot of the country, my views have evolved on this from the first day I set foot in Congress. I think it’s just the right thing, and I think it’s on solid legal footing, too.”
Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor, who favored civil unions but opposed same-sex marriage during his 2012 presidential bid, also signed. Last week, Mr. Huntsman announced his new position in an article titled “Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause,” a sign that the 2016 Republican presidential candidates could be divided on the issue for the first time.
“The ground on this is obviously changing, but it is changing more rapidly than people think,” said John Feehery, a Republican strategist and former House leadership aide who did not sign the brief. “I think that Republicans in the future are going to be a little bit more careful about focusing on these issues that tend to divide the party.”
At the risk of sounding churlish and ungrateful — I’m glad they’ve come out in support; it beats the alternative — don’t expect me to stand up on my chair and raise a big ruckus like some people. With the exception of the two members of Congress — and Ms. Ros-Lehtinen has been on the record in support of the cause for years — very few of these people have a lot of influence in the current government. They also represent what used to be the mainstream of the moderate GOP which, in today’s climate, represents a fringe view. They are safe to take this stand now that they know it won’t mean much to the people who are the ones who are trying to keep DOMA and Prop 8 in place.
It also strikes me as a tad cynical that they’re now on board once they’ve seen where the country is now coming from in term of voting in favor of marriage equality in the various states where it’s been on the ballot. Where were these 75 when Maine and Maryland were voting last fall? Would it have hurt them to come out in September rather than five months later? Yes, the ballot measures passed, but that’s not entirely the point: being in favor of something before the decision is leadership. After, it’s just lip service.
If they truly want to be influential and get something done, these 75 could work to get 75 other Republicans — the ones with the actual power to change things — to vote in Congress to repeal DOMA. As it is, they are now one more amicus brief in the long line of briefs both in support and against the law. I would like to think — as they do — that their view would enter into the decision making process of the Court, but in the end, it would be a lot easier just to make the case moot by getting rid of the law in the first place.