Gay Conservatives See Progress Beyond 2012 Platform

Despite backward-looking views in the Republican Party platform, gay conservatives and their allies report significant progress toward equality over the past decade.

BY Julie Bolcer

August 28 2012 4:00 AM ET

Super PAC founder Paul Singer

 

Gay conservatives intend to be visible in Tampa. Their plans include a Wednesday brunch presented by Log Cabin and Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, which launched this summer with gay and straight members. Organizers believe the event is the first ever focused on marriage equality during a Republican National Convention. The occasion has drawn about 100 RSVPs and features Andrew Langer of the Institute for Liberty.

"Our approach is to build on the dissonance that's already at play within the GOP on marriage,” said Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry. “About half of younger Republicans are with us, yet their voices aren't heard. We want to amplify and elevate those voices so that more conversations ensue, Republican to Republican."

Lobbyists successfully framed the dialogue in conservative terms in New York and New Hampshire, where Republican-led chambers passed a law and defeated an attempt to repeal marriage equality in the past year and a half. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders will make the same case in an ad set to run in the Tampa area this week, where he will connect marriage equality to “conservative values like responsibility and limited government.” The ad is sponsored by Freedom to Mary and the Human Rights Campaign.

“There is nothing antithetical about being conservative and supporting the freedom to marry,” said Longwell, citing the conservative principles of small government and increased individual liberty. “In fact, the two are very compatible. When that is your worldview, it is easy to see how freedom fits into that ideology.”

In practice, gay conservatives acknowledge the obstacles, beginning with the political reality. Republicans who vote for marriage equality may receive generous financial support from gay conservatives and allies, but they also attract primary challengers from the right. A high-profile test will come next month, when three of the four New York Republican senators who voted for marriage equality face primary opponents. The fourth opted not to run for reelection.

Another hurdle concerns the gap between progress in the states and Congress, where representatives have been slower to embrace equality legislation. While polling indicated that three-fourths of Republicans supported “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal when federal lawmakers deliberated in 2010, for example, only eight GOP senators backed the bill. American Unity PAC, launched by billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer with a $1 million investment in June, aims to bridge that divide. The super PAC announced last week the first three House races where it plans to advertise.

“American Unity PAC is the voice of Republican voters who are committed to equal rights and full relationship recognition for gay and lesbian Americans,” said Cook. “Through its independent expenditure efforts in highly competitive congressional races, American Unity PAC is demonstrating the strong network of support that exists for inclusive Republicans.  Republicans are stepping up to ensure the future of the GOP is one of inclusion.”

Singer, whose gay son and son-in-law married in Massachusetts in 2009, has donated an estimated $10 million to LGBT causes. His advocacy became more visible in 2010, beginning with his co-hosting of a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which filed the federal lawsuit challenging Proposition 8 in California. Ted Olson, who served as solicitor general under President George W. Bush, is one of the suit’s lead attorneys. Former RNC chair Ken Mehlman, who managed the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign in 2004, came out in 2010 and serves on the AFER board. He now provides strategic advice to marriage equality advocates.

In the past two years, Singer, a major Romney donor, has contributed $1.7 million to Freedom to Marry, according to the organization. Like-minded business leaders including Dan Loeb of Third Point LLC, Seth Klarman of Baupost Group LLC, and Cliff Asness, founder of AQR Capital Management, have contributed another $800,000. Their contributions have helped to finance efforts including $3 million the organization recently poured into state ballot initiative battles in Maine, Minnesota and Washington.

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