At a time when stark partisanship has defined political debate, here's another sign that support for gay marriage is creeping into mainstream paradigm: A bunch of Republicans, including former California Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, have signed a brief declaring to the U.S. Supreme Court that laws banning same sex marriage are unconstitutional -- a position buried deep in the far political left just a few years ago.
The 75 signers also include active congressmen, former governors, senior officials from former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush Administrations; it also includes Jon Huntsman, who is best known for being the sanest candidate in the the GOP's 2012 presidential field.
The group joins an already notable list of Grand Old Partiers to back same sex marriage. Indeed, close associates of a president who once announced that "I trust God speaks through me," have been among those leading the elephant pack: W's VP Dick Cheney (whose daughter is gay), his Secretary of State Colin Powell, his Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, and his First Lady Laura Bush have each backed gays' right to marry. (Olson is one of the lead lawyers in the case; none of the other three have signed the brief as of yet. Also, President Obama has not yet filed a brief on the issue as the Thursday deadline looms.)
Signs of the Right's shifting sentiment -- like that of many Americans, and many Democrats -- have come recently and swiftly. For instance, take Whitman, who is now CEO of Hewlett Packard. When she ran for governor in 2010, she supported Prop. 8, the 2008 California ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage. Three years later, she has signed her name on a document seeking to persuade the Justices to rule that same law unconstitutional. (Although, it is worth noting that it may not be in the best business interest of a Silicon Valley executive to have such a public stance against one of the Bay Area's most cherished issues.)
In the wake of Obama's reelection, everybody is talking about how the GOP had to do some "soul searching" and figure out how the party would win over Hispanics, women, blacks, Asians, young people, gays, and pretty much every demographic other than old white men. The first step in the party's evolution was a shift in immigration policy, which manifested when Republican Golden Boy/Florida Senator Marco Rubio outlined a policy that offered a path to legality for undocumented immigrants.
The cynical observer, of course, would be quick to note that Rubio is one of the early frontrunners for the 2016 GOP Presidential nomination, and if he wants any chance at reaching the White House, he'll need to start winning over a wider swath of America.
This shift on gay marriage might seem the second step in the party's evolution -- "reflects the civil war in the party since the November election," noted the New York Times. Except the leaders in the push so far aren't the pols with their eyes on the next campaign. Instead, it's folks from the old guard, many who left Washington, with no vested interest, speaking out against their party's orthodoxy. There are only two active elected officials on the brief: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, of Florida, and Rep. Richard Hanna, of New York.
When it comes to gay marriage, a deep divide -- generational, geographical, and philosophical -- within the GOP becomes increasingly apparent. Perhaps something to be settled in the 2016 Primaries. In the meantime, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments over Prop. 8 in about a month, which could make same-sex marriage legal for all Californians -- finally.