Meg Whitman, John Huntsman, and Richard Hanna, along with dozens of other Republicans, recently signed an amicus brief defending same-sex couples’ right to marry.
No, that’s not a typo.
The brief was to be filed in the Supreme Court case on Proposition 8, a California law banning same-sex marriage, which will appear before the court at the same time as the now-infamous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a heterosexual union for the purposes of federal law. Whether it was a result of cries for “limited government” coming from within and without the Republican Party, an attempt to expand the party’s appeal among youth, or an effort by some Republicans to defy House Speaker John Boehner, the amicus brief is welcome respite from the party’s history of anti-gay rights activism.
As a proud Republican and a supporter of same-sex marriage, I have often lamented the lack of vocal gay-rights activists in the party. This lack has obvious political advantages, given the party’s alliance with the religious right. However, it is dismaying to those of us who believe the government should have little to nothing to say about what constitutes a “proper” romantic relationship or a “proper” family.
The fact that the Republicans’ recent call for the legalization of same-sex marriage comes in the form of an amicus brief advocating for recognition of the institution as a constitutional right may be worrying to some, even among its supporters. And, indeed, whether same-sex marriage is guaranteed by the “equal rights and privileges” clause—or any other clause—of the Constitution is an entirely separate question from whether or not it ought to be legal in all 50 states.
For the time being, though, I suggest that we—as Republicans and as citizens—accept the amicus brief for what it is—a sign of political and social progress that I personally thought was decades away at best.
The brief was put together by former RNC chairman (and openly gay man) Ken Mehlman, and now reportedly includes over 100 Republican signatures. Notable signatories include former World Bank President and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, and former governor of New Jersey Christine Whitman.
Perhaps this sudden outpouring of support for same-sex marriage on the American right is indicative of a libertarian revival within the Republican Party. And if this is true, the party and the country alike are in for an interesting, tumultuous, and promising generation to come.
Lucia Rafanelli is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.