Ken Mehlman was interviewed by OUT Magazine after the Supreme Court decision on Wednesday. Mehlman was a key player in creating the momentum on marriage equality which created the climate for the Court to makes its historic decision.
He worked through Freedom to Marry, American Foundation for Equal Rights, Human Campaign Fund and Project Right Side. More than any other individual he is responsible for lining up major conservative and Republican endorsements and raising literally millions of dollars to fight for full equality.
Here is part of that interview and you can read it all here.
Are we likely to see a Republican backlash?
I don’t think so. If you look at the history of marriage from the beginning, what you see is that after states pass civil marriage, support invariably grows across party lines. Look at Massachusetts and New Hampshire, both states where marriage equality laws were passed with fewer Republicans, but ultimately Republicans and Democrats came around to embrace gay marriage. As people see what happens when people are treated equally under the law, when there is the opportunity for civil marriage, they see their family values being enhanced, they see their community values getting stronger. When I went up to New Hampshire last year during an attempt to roll back marriage equality, I met with a whole lot of Republican state legislators, and one of the questions I asked, particularly of those who were conceptually skeptical of the issue, was if they could name anyone in the community whose life was worse because of marriage equality. And then I asked if they could name anyone whose lives were better. They recognized that point.
Is the battle won?
No, there’s a lot of work to do—although 30 percent of America is going to live in a place where loving couples, regardless of sexual orientation, have the right to marriage, there are 37 states where that right still does not exist, and 29 states where people can be fired because of their sexual orientation, so that’s where a lot of the work ahead lies.
What role will you play in that?
What I will do, and keep doing, is to listen to the experts and professionals, from people like Chad Griffin [at HRC] to Evan Wolfson[at Freedom to Marry] and Matt Coles [at ACLU], and others. I do think when you look at these places where there are no legal protections, making the case from a conservative values perspective is an imperative, not an option, so I hope to be helpful from that perspective. As we look to other states with ballot initiatives I hope there’s an opportunity to utilize technology like micro-targeting and big data to be more effective in targeting the people we still need to persuade on this.
One thing I was very proud of was helong to get 130 Republicans and conservatives to sign an Amicus brief saying that all Americans have a right to marry—a number of those people have since then gone to work to help this fight. Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense under George W. Bush, wrote an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle. Others went on television.
What role do you think the media has played in this?
An important role, for sure, but the single most important role is the role of every one of your readers and the role that Harvey Milk outlined—the role everyone has in simply coming out and telling their story to their family and their friends and their colleagues. There are so many examples, every day. What was so compelling about these cases was Edie’s story and Edie’s example.
We all have the power to tell stories, and the media can magnify that. It’s also important for kids who are growing up—who want to grow up in a nation where they have equal rights under the law. I do think we need to recognize that this is a pluralistic society, and what we are discussing is civil marriage, and that while a marriage license ought to be available to everyone regardless of sexual orientation, we also respect the fact that different faiths come to different conclusions—and we’re not talking about taking a sacrament here.
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