OPINION | Legalize marriage for all, say Republicans


Thinking about same-sex marriage is changing in the United States. For example, there was the front-page headline in Tuesday’s edition of the New York Times: “Republicans Sign Brief in Support of Gay Marriage.”

Again, this appeared in the New York Times, not The Onion.

The story is about a lawsuit seeking to strike down California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8. A contingent of Republican notables have signed onto a friend of the court brief in support of the lawsuit that goes before the Supreme Court next month. The high court also will hear arguments in a challenge to the 1986 federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The Times story notes that the Republican-backed amicus brief — signed by “top advisers to former President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress” — argues that gay people have a right to marry under the U.S. Constitution. This position “amounts to a direct challenge to Speaker John A. Boehner and reflects the civil war in the party since the November election.”

The Proposition 8 case already has a “powerful conservative supporter,” Theodore B. Olson, who was the former solicitor general under President Bush and is one of the lawsuit’s two lead lawyers, according to the newspaper.

The Times story also notes: “Legal analysts said the brief had the potential to sway conservative justices as much for the prominent names attached to it as for its legal arguments. The list of signers includes a string of Republican officials and influential thinkers — 75 as of Monday evening — who are not ordinarily associated with gay rights advocacy, including some who are speaking out for the first time and others who have changed their previous positions.”

Among the Republicans who have changed their position on the issue is Deborah Pryce, a former member of the House Republican leadership from Ohio who is retired from Congress. “Like a lot of the country, my views have evolved on this from the first day I set foot in Congress,” Pryce told the Times on Monday. “I think it’s just the right thing, and I think it’s on solid legal footing, too.”

Also signing the amicus brief was Jon B. Huntsman, the former Utah governor who opposed same-sex marriage during his 2012 presidential bid.

On the state level, following the defeat of the Republican-backed marriage amendment in 2012, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage is in the legislative hopper. And like the Republicans signing on to the amicus brief to the Supreme Court, Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, has become a co-sponsor of Sen. Scott Dibble’s proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota. Bloomberg News last week carried a story about Petersen’s decision under the headline: “Minnesota Republican May Be the First to Sponsor Gay Marriage.”

“I strongly believe that true freedom means freedom for everyone,” Petersen said in a statement e-mailed to Bloomberg News. “Continuing to exclude certain people from marriage simply because of who they are is not in the best interest of the future of Minnesota.”

The forces opposed to marriage equality fired back this week.

On Monday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) announced that it would spend $500,000 to defeat any Republican legislator who votes to legalize gay marriage in Minnesota, reported the Pioneer Press. NOM apparently wants to impose party discipline and has Sen. Petersen in its crosshairs, figuratively speaking.

However, Petersen will not be deterred by the single-issue lobby. He told the Pioneer Press: “Regardless of the amount, whether it’s $500,000 or $50 million, my vote is not going to be bought either way. I’m going to do what’s right. If they want to throw away $500,000, then that’s their decision.”

Hip hip hooray and yasher koach for Sen. Petersen.

Hopefully, the organized Jewish community will stand up and support the legislative proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota, as it did in 2012, when there was a ballot measure to enshrine bigotry in the state constitution.

The issue breaks down on generational lines. The opponents of marriage equality are mainly of an older generation that clings to irrational arguments about how society should be ordered. In 2013, we have a chance to move Minnesota forward in a loving and inclusive way.