Karen Ocamb

Top Republicans Sign Onto Brief Opposing Prop 8

Filed By Karen Ocamb | February 27, 2013 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Ken Mehlman, marriage equality, Republicans

I had planned a fun connect-the-dots piece about Republicans and Prop 8 - and how former Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has now come out in support of marriage equality - along with 80 other high profile GOP conservatives signing onto an amicus brief in support of the AFER challenge to Prop 8. And late today, Fortune reported that at least 60 major American corporations - including Apple, Alcoa, Facebook, eBay, Intel, and Morgan Stanley - would sign onto another amicus brief in the Hollingsworth v. Perry case to be filed Thursday. Fortune reported that a draft of the brief says that laws like Prop 8 "send an unmistakeable signal that same-sex couples are in some way inferior to opposite-sex couples, a proposition that is anathema to amici's commitment to equality and fair treatment to all." The Supreme Court will hear Prop 8 on March 26 and the DOMA/Windsor case on March 27.

My story went back to 2004 when then-closeted Ken Mehlman, was the campaign manager for George W. Bush's re-election, working with Bush's brain Karl Rove to turn the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality into a spectre of catastrophe for religion, the nation and "traditional" marriage.  In his 2010 book, Rove claimed that successfully pushing those 11 state antigay marriage amendments to turn out the evangelical vote wasn't really his idea. And besides, they didn't make any difference in the outcome. Rove wrote:

"Neither Bush nor I regret his stand on gay marriage. The issue was thrust upon us and we were perfectly willing to make our case. To overturn the time-honored definition of marriage is a socially revolutionary act. To do so through the courts and against the will of the people makes the attempt even more radical."

But a lot happened after that - including a major effort in 2008 by West Hollywood-based politico and then-Log Cabin Republican/LA President Scott Schmidt to galvanize Republicans to oppose Prop 8 - including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had twice vetoed marriage equality bills on the advice of his lesbian chief of staff. And I had a whole riff on Ken Mehlman coming out and his redemption through action. But then I read this piece by Richard Socarides on NewYorker.com and since he knows and talked to Mehlman - I thought I'd direct you his way. Here's an excerpt from Richard's piece:

In the most high-profile Supreme Court case of the year, with the future of how we view civil rights and treat our fellow-citizens at stake, someone had quietly engineered enough prominent conservatives from the opposition party to sign onto a legal brief supporting full equality for gay and lesbian Americans. That someone was Ken Mehlman, the openly gay former political director of the George W. Bush White House, the campaign manager for Bush's 2004 reƫlection campaign, and the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.....

When Ken Mehlman came out of the closet, in August, 2010, announcing his sexual orientation to Marc Ambinder, in an Atlantic article, not everyone was completely surprised. But it did represent something of a turning point. For the first time, the gay and lesbian political community had a real conservative leader among its ranks, and you knew--if you knew anything about Ken Mehlman--that things would be different from then on.

It's not just that Ken Mehlman is a prominent Republican, which makes him an important asset to--and, now, organizer in--the gay-rights movement; it's that he is one of the smartest political operatives anywhere in the country right now, and that he understands better than perhaps anyone how moderate and persuadable Republicans think. These are the very people the gay-rights movement is now trying to speak to. As Mehlman told the Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "We are trying to say to the Court that we are judicial and political conservatives, and it is consistent with our values and philosophy for you to overturn Proposition 8."

The summer of his coming out, I asked Mehlman what he planned to do now that his sexual orientation was public. He told me that while he wanted to be an advocate and work for change and greater acceptance, he thought that he should first spend some time listening and learning. And, for a while, Mehlman kept a fairly low profile. They were many calls for him to apologize directly to the gay community for past misdeeds, some real and others imagined. When he came out he had said, "I can't change the fact that I wasn't in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally." (As an out democratic staffer to President Bill Clinton when he signed the Defense of Marriage Act, I understand some of what this might have been like for him.) Later, in May of 2012, after he had done substantial behind-the-scenes work to advance the cause of gay equality, he expanded on that: "At a personal level, I wish I had spoken out against the [anti-gay] effort... As I've been involved in the fight for marriage equality, one of the things I've learned is how many people were harmed by the campaigns in which I was involved. I apologize to them and tell them I am sorry. While there have been recent victories, this could still be a long struggle in which there will be setbacks, and I'll do my part to be helpful."

And wow - helpful he has been. Mehlman's on AFER's Board and check out the list of people he's been able to sign onto the AFER Prop 8 brief.  Maybe Karl Rove is next to join the "social revolution." Here's the AFER press release:

What do Mary Bono Mack, James B. Comey, Jon Huntsman, Ken Mehlman, Steve Schmidt, William F. Weld, and Meg Whitman have in common? In addition to being conservative leaders, they're also signatories to a brief calling on the Supreme Court to overturn Prop. 8.

Additional names are still being added, with a final list of names to be released when the brief is filed with the Supreme Court. Enacted in November 2008, Proposition 8 eliminated the fundamental freedom of gay and lesbian Californians to marry.

Building bi-partisan support has been part of AFER's mission ever since the filing of its federal constitutional challenge to overturn Proposition 8. AFER assembled a bi-partisan legal team led by Theodore B. Olson, Solicitor General of the United States during the first term of President George W. Bush, and renowned litigator David Boies to demonstrate that Proposition 8 violates the United States Constitution by denying millions of people their fundamental right to marry and their right to equal protection of the laws.

In January 2010, AFER worked with Ted Olson to land a cover story in Newsweek entitled "The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage."  This was the first time that a nationally recognized conservative of Mr. Olson's stature had laid out the reasons why conservatives should support marriage equality.

In September 2010, AFER hosted a New York event to help shore up support for the Perry case.  The event was the first to tap into Republican support for marriage equality and was attended by members of John McCain's presidential campaign and Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential campaign, members of the Bush administration, corporate CEOs, two former GOP governors, and representatives from every major firm on Wall Street.  This coalition of supporters stayed together and went on to fund New York's successful marriage equality effort in 2011 and New Hampshire's successful effort in February 2012.

While the list of amici continues to grow, the current list includes:

  • Ken Mehlman, Chairman, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007
  • Tim Adams, Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, 2005-2007
  • David D. Aufhauser, General Counsel, Department of Treasury, 2001-2003
  • Cliff S. Asness, Businessman, Philanthropist, and Author
  • John B. Bellinger III, Legal Adviser to the Department of State, 2005-2009
  • Katie Biber, General Counsel, Romney for President, 2007-2008 and 2011-2012
  • Mary Bono Mack, Member of Congress, 1998-2013
  • William A. Burck, Deputy Staff Secretary, Special Counsel and Deputy Counsel to the President, 2005-2009
  • Alex Castellanos, Republican Media Advisor
  • Paul Cellucci, Governor of Massachusetts, 1997-2001, and Ambassador to Canada, 2001-2005
  • Mary Cheney, Director of Vice Presidential Operations, Bush-Cheney 2004
  • Jim Cicconi, Assistant to the President & Deputy to the Chief of Staff, 1989-1990
  • James B. Comey, United States Deputy Attorney General, 2003-2005
  • R. Clarke Cooper, U.S. Alternative Representative, United Nations Security Council, 2007-2009
  • Julie Cram, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director White House Office of Public Liaison, 2007-2009
  • Michele Davis, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Director of Policy Planning, Department of the Treasury, 2006-2009
  • Kenneth M. Duberstein, White House Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President, 1981-1984 and 1987-1989
  • Lew Eisenberg, Finance Chairman, Republican National Committee, 2002-2004
  • Elizabeth Noyer Feld, Public Affairs Specialist, White House Office of Management and Budget, 1984-1987
  • David Frum, Special Assistant to the President, 2001-2002
  • Richard Galen, Communications Director, Speaker's Political Office, 1996-1997
  • Mark Gerson, Chairman, Gerson Lehrman Group and Author of The Neoconservative Vision: From the Cold War to the Culture Wars and In the Classroom: Dispatches from an Inner-City School that Works
  • Benjamin Ginsberg, General Counsel, Bush-Cheney 2000 & 2004
  • Adrian Gray, Director of Strategy, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007
  • Richard Grenell, Spokesman, U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations, 2001-2008
  • Patrick Guerriero, Mayor, Melrose Massachusetts and member of Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1993-2001
  • Carlos Gutierrez, Secretary of Commerce, 2005-2009
  • Stephen Hadley, Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor, 2005-2009
  • Richard Hanna, Member of Congress, 2011-Present
  • Israel Hernandez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, 2005-2009
  • Margaret Hoover, Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, 2005-2006
  • Michael Huffington, Member of Congress, 1993-1995
  • Jon Huntsman, Governor of Utah, 2005-2009
  • David A. Javdan, General Counsel, United States Small Business Administration, 2002-2006
  • Reuben Jeffery, Undersecretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs, 2007-2009
  • Greg Jenkins, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Advance, 2003-2004
  • Coddy Johnson, National Field Director, Bush-Cheney 2004
  • Gary Johnson, Governor of New Mexico, 1995-2003
  • Robert Kabel, Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, 1982-1985
  • Theodore W. Kassinger, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, 2004-2005
  • Jonathan Kislak, Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture for Small Community and Rural Development, 1989-1991
  • David Kochel, Senior Advisor to Mitt Romney's Iowa Campaign, 2007-2008 and 2011-2012
  • James Kolbe, Member of Congress, 1985-2007
  • Jeffrey Kupfer, Acting Deputy Secretary of Energy, 2008-2009
  • Kathryn Lehman, Chief of Staff, House Republican Conference, 2003-2005
  • Daniel Loeb, Businessman and Philanthropist
  • Alex Lundry, Director of Data Science, Romney for President, 2012
  • Greg Mankiw, Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers, 2003-2005
  • Catherine Martin, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Communications Director for Policy & Planning, 2005-2007
  • Kevin Martin, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, 2005-2009
  • David McCormick, Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, 2007-2009
  • Mark McKinnon, Republican Media Advisor
  • Bruce P. Mehlman, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, 2001-2003
  • Connie Morella, Member of Congress, 1987-2003 and U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2003-2007
  • Michael E. Murphy, Republican Political Consultant
  • Michael Napolitano, White House Office of Political Affairs, 2001-2003
  • Ana Navarro, National Hispanic Co-Chair for Senator John McCain's Presidential Campaign, 2008
  • Noam Neusner, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Speechwriting, 2002-2005
  • Nancy Pfotenhauer, Economist, Presidential Transition Team, 1988 and President's Council on Competitiveness, 1990
  • J. Stanley Pottinger, Assistant U.S. Attorney General (Civil Rights Division), 1973-1977
  • Michael Powell, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, 2001-2005
  • Deborah Pryce, Member of Congress, 1993-2009
  • John Reagan, New Hampshire State Senator, 2012-Present
  • Kelley Robertson, Chief of Staff, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007
  • Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Member of Congress, 1989-Present
  • Harvey S. Rosen, Member and Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers, 2003-2005
  • Lee Rudofsky, Deputy General Counsel, Romney for President, 2012
  • Patrick Ruffini, eCampaign Director, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007
  • Steve Schmidt, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor to the Vice President, 2004-2006
  • Ken Spain, Communications Director, National Republican Congressional Committee, 2009-2010
  • Robert Steel, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, 2006-2008
  • David Stockman, Director, Office of Management and Budget, 1981-1985
  • Jane Swift, Governor of Massachusetts, 2001-2003
  • Michael E. Toner, Chairman and Commissioner, Federal Election Commission, 2002-2007
  • Michael Turk, eCampaign Director for Bush-Cheney 2004
  • Mark Wallace, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Representative for UN Management and Reform, 2006-2008
  • Nicolle Wallace, Assistant to the President and White House Communications Director, 2005-2008
  • William F. Weld, Governor of Massachusetts, 1991-1997, and Assistant U.S. Attorney General (Criminal Division), 1986-1988
  • Christine Todd Whitman, Governor of New Jersey, 1994-2001, and Administrator of the EPA, 2001-2003
  • Meg Whitman, Republican Nominee for Governor of California, 2010
  • Robert Wickers, Republican Political Consultant
  • Dan Zwonitzer, Wyoming State Representative, 2005-present

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