Mehlman Draws Fire, Praise

BY Kerry Eleveld

August 25 2010 10:45 PM ET

While Mehlman’s Wednesday confessional with The Atlantic
certainly wasn’t cause for celebration among prominent anti-gay
marriage forces, nor was it seen as further evidence of a conservative
party shifting toward a pro-marriage equality position, however slowly.

Brian
Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, told The
Advocate
that Mehlman was “abdicating core Republican beliefs” in
his support for the American Foundation for Equal Rights’ legal effort in challenging Prop. 8. “But it’s
never been about the leaders. It’s always been about the people, based
on an overwhelming majority of Republican voters — 85%, 86% —
who support marriage as a union between a man and a woman,” he said.
“That a few folks within the Republican Party are questioning a party
platform and have personal positions on same-sex marriage is a reality
of political parties. [Mehlman] is no longer a major party leader, so I
don’t know how influential he is, to be honest with you.”

Marriage
equality advocates, Brown said, are using high-profile conservatives
now supporting gay marriage — from Ted Olson to vice president
Dick Cheney — in order to “create an impression that there is an
inevitability to same-sex marriage. The facts strongly go against that
idea.”

Brown asserted that the RNC played a limited role in
rallying the anti-gay marriage vote during the 2004 presidential
elections, when Mehlman served as Bush-Cheney campaign manager. Eleven
states passed constitutional amendments banning marriage rights for
same-sex couples that year, including Ohio, which gave Bush his margin of
victory over Democratic senator John Kerry.

“These [amendments] were
pushed by people on the state level,” Brown said. “The whole notion
that it was some top-down, Machiavellian ploy by the Republican Party is
a farce.”

But Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin
Republicans, saw Mehlman’s revelation as an opportunity to move the
Republican Party forward on LGBT issues.

“Being gay and being
conservative are not mutually exclusive,” Cooper said. “As a fellow Bush
alumnus, I also look forward to Ken helping me and our colleagues build
a stronger more inclusive Republican Party.”











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