Better late than never

5 Conservatives Who Found The Courage To Support Freedom To Marry

157036-australia-gay-marriageThere’s nothing sweeter than being able to say “told you so.” With marriage equality potentially approaching in as little as a month, there are going to be lots of opportunities for pioneering pro-equality politicians to say exactly that.

But we should resist that temptation. Instead, let’s take a moment to celebrate the thought leaders and trend-setters who were brave enough to change their minds about the freedom to marry. Let’s face it: Sometimes it’s easier to promote your own cause than see the beauty of another’s, especially when you are surrounded by people engaging in group-think.

Related Posts: See all of Queerty’s #ToastToMarriage coverage

The folks, many well meaning conservatives and religious leaders, spent most of their careers surrounded by people who oppose the freedom to marry, but they nonetheless came out to publicly support LGBT equality — or at least, to shut up and stop opposing it as strongly as they once did. And they took heat for it.

Where once they might have been repulsed by the mere notion of same-sex marriage, today they’re clamoring aboard the unstoppable marriage freedom train. And we could not be happier to have them by our side.


politifact-photos-PFolson21. Ted Olson

Ted was one of the attorneys who argued the case that overturned Proposition 8, and he was an unlikely figure to do so: his previous claim to fame was installing George Bush 2 in the White House, a disaster for the immediate prospects of equal marriage, and working in the Reagan White House. What made a renowned conservative Republican lawyer support LGBT equality? It’s hard to say exactly what changed Ted’s mind, but you might be able to trace it back to a youthful experience with social justice. Traveling through the south with a debate team that included black students, he saw first-hand the effects of racial discrimination when they were turned away from businesses. That instilled a sense of right and wrong that stayed with him to this day.


2. Rob Portman

Sometimes, it takes a coming-out to change someone’s mind. Rob Portman is an Ohio Senator who opposed marriage equality until his son came out of the closet in 2011. That’s when things got real and he was like “oh lol whoops.” Well, actually it took him two more years to change his stance publicly. But hey, better late than never. Previously, he voted for DOMA, and also supported a bill that would have prevented gay couples from adopting kids. Because, you know, orphanages are so much better.

“It allowed me to think about this issue from a new perspective and that’s as a dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister have,” Portman told reporters after he saw the light.

George HW Bush at same-sex wedding

3. President Bush 1

George H. W. Bush seems to support marriage equality now, since he served as a witness at the marriage of two lesbians friends. Photos leaked out in September of 2013 showing the Bush patriarch signing the two ladies’ marriage documents (while wearing mismatched socks). He hasn’t exactly made any public statement one way or another, but he’s also surrounded by people who support the freedom to marry: Laura Bush, the younger Barbara Bush, and Dick Cheney have all said that gay couples ought to be able to get married. Even walking turnip Jeb Bush and his brother (who had something to do with anti-freedom campaigns ten years ago) have softened their antigay rhetoric in recent years. It would seem that the Bush clan is making slow but true pro-equality progress. W?


4. Charles Cooper

For decades, Charles Cooper was your go-to lawyer when you needed a gay marriage ban defended. He worked on the Hawaii case, one of the first in the nation to challenge marriage bans; and he worked on the Prop 8 case, which will be remembered as among the last. But for the last few years, he’s kept a somewhat lower profile, probably because he discovered that his stepdaughter is a lesbian, which may explain his passionless and rather bumbling attempt to defend Prop 8. That news of his stepdaughter’s sexual orientation came out a year ago, and since then Coop hasn’t popped up much in the media around the issue of marriage.  Instead, he acknowledged he was going to be helping his daughter plan her wedding, which sounds like a much better way to spend your time than denying your daughter the freedom everyone else takes for granted.

blankenhorn15. David Blankenhorn

David Blankenhorn never asked to become a figurehead of the antigay-marriage movement. He’d actually spent most of his career working on the front lines of social justice, trying to improve the lives of disadvantaged people by helping them forge stronger family ties. As part of his work, he emphasized the role of two-parent households, which at the time generally meant a mom and a dad. “Children have the right, insofar as society makes it possible, to know and to be cared for by the two parents who brought them into this world,” he wrote.

Antigay ideologues took his research and ran with it, nudging Blankenhorn onto the witness stand to try to prove that gay parents are inferior. He was sorta vague about his position. Finally, he had enough of that nonsense. In 2012, he announced that he now supports the freedom to marry. His hope: that allowing gays and lesbians to wed will strengthen the institution of marriage.

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