Dozens of prominent Republicans, perhaps remembering that they are supposed to be the party of limited government, have signed a brief that argues against California's gay marriage ban Proposition 8 and the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act. The document, which claims that gay people have the constitutional right to marry, will be handed into the Supreme Court this week.
Next month, the Supreme Court will hear back-to-back cases challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8. The Prop 8 case, in particular, has several high status Republicans backing it, including Theodore B. Olson (a former solicitor general under Bush who will be acting as one of the case's lead lawyers), Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Richard Hanna of New York, and Meg Whitman, who previously ran for Governor of California on a pro Prop 8 platform.
As of Monday night, the brief had over 75 signatures, demonstrating a powerful rift with in the Republican party. Unfortunately, however, a large number of the signatures come from Republicans who are no longer serving office, demonstrating perhaps that active Republicans are less brave when it comes to going against the party line. Some feel, however, that this is starting to change and that the divide will be a big issue come the election in 2016.
Republican strategist and former House leadership aide John Feehery (who did not sign the brief) told the New York Times, "The ground on this is obviously changing, but it is changing more rapidly than people think. I think that Republicans in the future are going to be a little bit more careful about focusing on these issues that tend to divide the party."
Despite Feehery's worries, many Republicans continue to march forward with former Utah governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr. writing that "Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause" and former member of the House Republican leadership from Ohio Deborah Pryce, who did sign the brief, saying, "Like a lot of the country, my views have evolved on [gay marriage] from the first day I set foot in Congress. I think it's just the right thing, and I think it's on solid legal footing, too."
Recent polls show that over half of the voting public now supports same-sex marriage (the numbers are as high as 70% in voters under 30), indicating a turning of the tides in future elections. House Speaker John Boehner continues to reject gay marriage, though experts say that the 75 Republican signatures of the pro gay marriage legal brief could play a significant role in swaying the Republican members of the Supreme Court.