The freedom to marry: a conservative value

Nicole Neily, Torrey Shearer & Sarah Longwell Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry
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We are the future of American conservatism, and we support the freedom to marry. If this surprises you, it shouldn’t. It isn’t a counterintuitive stance, and it isn’t uncommon. According to recent polling, we represent nearly half of young conservatives, and that number is only moving in one direction: in support. We are made up of Republicans, libertarians, and other conservatives from across the country who believe that all Americans should be able to marry the person they love. We believe that now is the time to tear down the wall of assumptions surrounding the conservative position on marriage for gay men and lesbians.

Last week, we joined with others to launch Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry. We proudly joined this campaign because marriage for same-sex couples is not a partisan issue. In fact, it is in line with our core belief in limited government and individual freedom. As President Ronald Reagan said, it is the role of government to “work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back.” As such, we do not believe that excluding same-sex couples from marriage is a conservative or an American value. As Vice President Dick Cheney said, “Freedom means freedom for everyone.”

Conservatives have — rightly so — long cited the fundamental importance of marriage because it contributes to society and promotes stability and shared responsibility. Marriage makes our nation stronger socially and economically by strengthening families and communities. And, if we truly believe in family values, then we must value all families. Allowing same-sex couples to share in the freedom to marry enhances our ability to build strong communities and allows more people the freedom to live their lives without government intrusion.

Today, a majority of Americans support marriage for same-sex couples and, over the past several years, we’ve seen a steady increase in support among all conservatives, young and old. Since 2009, Republican support for marriage for same-sex couples has grown by 41%. Noteworthy conservatives like Vice President Dick Cheney, former Solicitor General Ted Olson, former First Lady Laura Bush, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman are among those who have publicly announced support.

In New Hampshire this past March, a majority of Republican lawmakers voted against repealing the state’s popular freedom to marry law, joining Republican lawmakers in New York and Washington who provided crucial support for passing freedom to marry laws. To date, nearly 200 GOP lawmakers have stood up for the freedom to marry. These legislators stood in support of marriage because they knew it was the right thing to do. They are just a few examples of conservatives who see the natural connection among the principles of liberty, community, and the freedom to marry.

As young conservatives, we are proud to be part of this growing group of Americans who see family members, neighbors, co-workers, fellow members of our church congregation, and other loved ones come out as gay or lesbian — and the struggle they face as a result of discriminatory laws that limit their freedoms. And, as young conservatives, we are proud to stand together as Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry to support same-sex couples who want to marry for similar reasons as all other couples — to make a commitment to one another in front of their loved ones, to share their lives together, and to protect their families.

We hope that our work as Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry will send a strong message to leaders, candidates, and voters that marriage matters to all American families. Our country was founded on freedom and should embrace the same freedom for everyone, including the fundamental freedom to marry the person you love. Our support for the freedom to marry is not a shift away from our conservative ideals, but in fact embraces our solid support for freedom for all. We invite all young conservatives to join us in supporting the freedom to marry.

Nicole Neily is vice president of Dezenhall Resources and the former executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum. Torrey Shearer is a government relations professional representing stakeholders before the U.S. Congress, federal agencies, national organizations and coalitions in Washington, D.C. Sarah Longwell is vice president at Berman and Company, a communications firm in Washington, D.C. that defends free market principles. All three are members of the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry Leadership Committee.