Ever since former chairman of the Republican National Committee Ken Mehlman came out in 2010, he’s been trying to rectify the damage he perpetrated against the LGBT rights movement as architect of George W. Bush’s anti-gay campaign in 2004.
Mehlman’s latest step is a new non-profit designed to make the conservative case for marriage equality, Project Right Side. He introduced the campaign in The Wall Street Journal today (via ThinkProgress):
Some misperceive the issue of marriage equality as exclusively progressive. Yet what could be more conservative than support for more freedom and less government? And what freedom is more basic than the right to marry the person you love? Smaller, less intrusive government surely includes an individual deciding whom to marry. Allowing civil marriage for same-sex couples will cultivate community stability, encourage fidelity and commitment, and foster family values.
Conservatives don’t need to change core convictions to embrace the growing support for equal rights for gay Americans. It is sufficient to recognize the inherent conservatism in citizens’ desire to marry, to be judged on their work, and not to be singled out for higher taxes or bullying at school. These objectives can be achieved while also protecting religious liberty, as demonstrated by states enacting civil marriage with exemptions for religious institutions.
Of course, this was an argument made over 20 years ago by fellow conservative Andrew Sullivan, but the difference is Sullivan doesn’t actively lobby for noted anti-gay politicians. Still, Project Right Side has compiled some 16,000 surveys, including 2,000 voters in battleground states on Election Night, that show a majority in favor of marriage equality.
This election year, LGBT rights was not the divisive issue it had been in 2004, when Mehlman was behind the wheel effectively running himself over. It’s great that both sides are now beginning to agree on the value of marriage equality, but it’s also hard to trust someone who’s palling around with one of the biggest supporters of the Defense of Marriage Act.