The passage of a marriage equality bill in Rhode Island last week marked the debut of a new lobbying group focused solely on helping to drive such bills through state legislatures.
American Unity Fund is the creation of some powerful hedge fund managers with a lot of money to spend, which is great news for marriage equality supporters. Oh, and it’s a Republican group.
Yes, American Unity Fund is explicitly a GOP advocacy group, and its goal is to strengthen the spine of Republican lawmakers who are afraid to vote for marriage equality for fear of losing re-election. The group is already at work in Minnesota, where it has dropped $250,000 to support the marriage equality bill working its way through the legislature there. All told, American Unity Fund expects to raise $7 million this year for marriage equality.
The men behind the Fund have a track record of supporting LGBT rights and just as important of success in doing so. In particular, Paul Singer and Clifford Asness where key players in the passage of New York state’s marriage equality law. Singer has a personal stake in the issue: his son is gay and married his partner in Massachusetts in 2004.
“The institution of marriage is in very bad shape in this country, yet gay and lesbian couples want very much to be a part of it, to live as committed husbands and wives with their children in traditional family units,” Singer told The New York Times. “This should be what we want as conservatives, for people to cherish and respect this model and to want it for themselves.”
That kind of sentiment highlights the rift in the GOP between those who would change with the times and those with a death grip on the past.
American Unity Fund has a smart strategy. They are beginning to target more conservative states as part of a long-term play to change attitudes. They are also recruiting GOP legislators who voted for marriage equality to talk to their peers in other states. And then there’s the prospect of getting financial support come re-election time.
Of course, the usual suspects on the religious right are loudly condemning American Unity Fund. “You want to see where the money will get you?,” asks Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “Look to 2012. That was the money part of the party having their candidate and access to the resources. And it wasn’t enough.”
But it was in New York. And what Perkins forgets is that it’s not just money that American Unity Fund has on its side. It’s also time. And history.