The Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, who supported a California law that barred same-sex unions when she ran for governor in the state, explained on Tuesday that she had changed her mind after being persuaded that gay marriage would strengthen society rather than weaken it.Whitman is among scores of high-profile Republicans, including top advisors to George W Bush, former governors and members of Congress, who have signed a legal brief which is to be filed this week to the supreme court, in support of a lawsuit seeking to strike down Proposition 8, the controversial Californian ballot initiative on same sex marriage.
Whitman said her decision to switch her stance on the issue came about “after careful review and reflection” in the three years since she ran for governor. “Like several others who have either sought or held public office, including president Obama, I have changed my mind on this issue,” Whitman said.
In a blogpost published on Tuesday, she quoted David Cameron, the British prime minister, as among those who helped her to alter her thinking on the issue. She wrote: “In reviewing the amicus brief before deciding to put my signature on it, one passage struck an immediate chord with me. In explaining his own support for same-sex marriage, British prime minister David Cameron once said: ‘Society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative.'”
Whitman said that the amicus, or “friend of the court”, brief argues that the “oft-cited claims” that marriage between same-sex couples will hurt traditional marriage and be detrimental to children have been “rejected by social science”. It argues that same-sex marriage promotes family values by allowing children to grow up in stable two-parent homes and thus advances conservative values of limited government and individual freedom.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the sponsor of the federal constitutional challenge to Proposition 8, said it had worked hard to “strip the partisan veil” from marriage equality. It assembled a bipartisan legal team, led by Theodore B Olson, who was US solicitor general under George W Bush, to build up a case to demonstrate that Proposition 8 violates the US constitution by denying millions of people their fundamental right to marry and their right to equal protection of the laws.
Adam Umhoefer, the AFER’s executive director, said: “The support for marriage equality demonstrated by this amicus brief represents a microcosm of what we see happening all across the country.
“Americans are united behind the concepts of freedom, dignity and strong families. The conservative movement toward the freedom to marry is what we like to call the ‘Ted Olson effect’. We value the support of our conservative colleagues and welcome their voices to the growing majority of Americans who stand for marriage equality.”
Legal analysts told the New York Times, which first reported news of the Republican-supported legal brief, that the document had the power to affect conservative judges, as much for the legal arguments within it. The signers include a list of Republican officials and influential thinkers, many of whom are not normally associated with gay rights and some of whom, like Whitman and Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who opposed gay marriage during his 2012 presidential election campaign, have altered their thinking.
Among the names are representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, of Florida, and Richard Hanna of New York. Stephen Hadley, a Bush national security adviser, James B Comey, a top Bush Justice Department official, and David A Stickman, president Ronald Reagan’s first budget director, also signed.
Deborah Pryce, a former member of the House Republican leadership from Ohio, now retired, said on Monday: “Like a lot of my country, my views have evolved on this from the first day I set foot in Congress. I just think its the just the right thing and I think it’s on solid legal footing too.”
Huntsman announced his change of heart in an article for The American Conservative entitled Marriage Equality is a Conservative Cause.
Ken Mehlman, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who came out as gay a few years ago, is on the board of AFER and was a key figure in gathering signatures. He told the New York Times: “We are trying to say to the court that we are judicial and political conservatives and it is consistent with out values and philosophy for you to overturn Proposition 8.”
The supreme court will hear oral argument in Perry vs Hollingsworth on 26 March.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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