Prominent conservatives defend gay marriage before Supreme Court

Spencer Amaral Contributor
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More than 100 prominent Republicans have signed an amicus brief supporting gay marriage, which will be submitted to the Supreme Court this week.

Those who have signed on include former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, former Massachusetts Govs. William Weld and Jane Swift, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Also adding their support are Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Richard Hanna of New York; Stephen J. Hadley, a national security advisor to President Bush; Carlos Gutierrez, a commerce secretary under Bush; James B. Comey, a top Bush Justice Department official; David A. Stockman, President Ronald Reagan’s first budget director; Deborah Pryce, a retired member of the House Republican leadership from Ohio; and Beth Myers, who served as head of  Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign and closely advised him on his 2012 run.

However, some high-profile Republicans who already support same-sex marriage, such as former first lady Laura Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, have yet to add their names to the list.

The Supreme Court will hear back-to-back arguments in two pivotal gay-rights suits next month, which center on California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage and the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The Proposition 8 suit already has a powerful Republican supporter: Theodore B. Olson, the former solicitor general under President George W. Bush and one of the suit’s two lead lawyers. An amicus curiae — or “friend of the court” — brief is a document that presents a legal argument in an effort to sway the court to rule one way or the other.

The brief’s signatories call their argument “a conservative case for gay marriage.” (RELATED OPINION: Conservatives shouldn’t necessarily oppose gay marriage)

While amicus briefs often do not have a significant impact on the Supreme Court, legal analysts say the sheer number of prominent conservatives backing gay marriage in this case may present an exception. Tom Goldstein, publisher of Scotusblog, a Web site that analyzes Supreme Court cases, said the amicus brief “has the potential to break through and make a real difference.”

Polls show that public attitudes towards same-sex marriage have shifted drastically over the past decade. A majority of Americans now favor same-sex marriage, up from roughly one-third in 2003. And while only a third of Republicans today favor gay marriage, recent polls show that 70 percent of voters under 30 approve same-sex marriage.

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