A new campaign plans to tap into and build upon the growing support for marriage equality expressed by young conservatives in the United States.
Freedom To Marry, the national advocacy group, launched the initiative, Young Conservatives for the Freedom To Marry, on Tuesday. The campaign intends to show the bipartisan nature of marriage equality by providing a platform for conservatives, Republicans and Libertarians under the age of 44 who believe the issue "fulfills basic conservative values of responsibility and community, as well as limited government and individual freedom," according to a news release.
Recent polls show that support for marriage equality has grown across every demographic, including conservative voters, and in particular among young people. A poll from ABC News/Washington Post in May found that while 61% of Republicans thought that same-sex marriage should be illegal, 46% of Republicans between the ages of 18 and 44 supported marriage equality.
"The future of this fight is in youth, and it's not just Democrats or people who describe themselves as liberals," said Jo Deutsch, federal director for Freedom To Marry, in a telephone interview with The Advocate. "We wanted to show support among Republicans, conservatives and Libertarians. We wanted to give that a face."
A Republican-controlled legislature in New Hampshire defeated an attempt to repeal the state's marriage equality law in March, while last year, the New York state senate became the first Republican-controlled legislative body to pass a marriage equality law. Since then, marriage equality laws have passed with bipartisan support in Washington and Maryland, which are both facing referendums this fall. In addition, Paul Singer, a billionaire hedge fund manager and major Republican fund-raiser, recently created a super PAC to support GOP lawmakers who back marriage equality.
Central to the new initiative from Freedom To Marry is a leadership committee of nine young conservatives. The group includes men and women, gay and straight, selected for their potential to influence the conversation as spokespeople and engage like-minded conservatives through social media and other outlets.
"Freedom and family are core conservative values," said conservative commentator Margaret Hoover, a leadership committee member, in the group's news release. "We have a historic opportunity to reaffirm these important values by supporting the fundamental freedom to marry for all Americans. Now is the time for a rising generation of voters and leaders to embrace these virtues and join Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry."
The initiative will kick off in Washington, D.C. with a training day and evening reception attended by about 100 people. A larger event is planned for the Republican National Convention in Tampa next month, said Deutsch.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the first and only Republican to co-sponsor legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, will speak to attendees at the launch event on Tuesday.
"As Republicans we believe in limited government and we believe that the best way for the federal government to spur growth and jobs is to get out of the way and let small and medium businesses thrive," she said in the news release. "We also believe in equality of opportunity rather than of outcome. Most importantly, we believe that the individual and the family are the central engines in our society. The right for individuals to lead their lives without government intrusion is a bedrock conservative principle and it is much more than just about sexual orientation. It is about the fundamental rights we all share as Americans, it is about equality for all with no exceptions."
The Senate Judiciary Committee controlled by Democrats last year approved the DOMA repeal measure, known as the Respect for Marriage Act, and so far, more than 150 co-sponsors, all Democrats, have signed on to the legislation in the House. House Republican leadership, meanwhile, has taken up the legal defense of DOMA and appealed its case to the Supreme Court, which makes efforts like Young Conservatives for the Freedom To Marry all the more critical in the long run, said Deutsch.
"I think there is a growing number of Congress members who do support the freedom to marry, have not co-sponsored, and it's only a matter of time," she said.