March 26, 2013

I am perfectly comfortable with supporting gay marriage as a conservative, Republican position. This morning, I read with interest my colleague Hilary Rosen’s post regarding her personal experience with gay marriage. I also saw the exchange she had with Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, on Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” which she mentions in the post.

Hilary recounted this morning some of what she was thinking when she sat next to Ralph, an opponent of gay marriage and a longtime conservative leader. I don’t mean to pile on my friend Ralph, but I’ve yet to see a clear-thinking Republican give a poignant explanation of their opposition to gay marriage.

I was actually hoping that “Meet the Press” host David Gregory would ask Ralph whether he has any gay friends. The answer would be, “of course.” The follow-up I would have then liked to have seen would have been, “How do you explain to your gay friends that you want the government to outlaw their personal and private lifestyle choices?”

Politically, it is a losing argument for Republicans to try to explain what harm is done to the public if two people want to commit to each other and decide to paper-up the relationship with whatever certification their state chooses, including legal marriage. There is no harm done to anyone. Therefore, the states’ interest in prohibiting gay marriage is plain hard to justify.

Republicans everywhere need to reconcile our conservative, small-government, less-government philosophy with opposition to gay marriage. Politics and the government aren’t tools for personal lifestyle management. The government can’t be the private lifestyle police. Aren’t Republicans the party of smaller, less intrusive government? Aren’t we the party of personal responsibility? Aren’t we the party that encourages individual commitments to each other? If someone’s religion teaches that any particular lifestyle is a sin, well, that’s between the sinners and God on Judgment Day. It’s not the proper place for political judgment.

I’m sure I agree with Ralph Reed on infinitely more issues than I do with Hilary. But in this case, I couldn’t look Hilary in the eye and make an honest political or societal argument for keeping her from the type of commitment she wants to make to another person.

The gay marriage issue has changed quickly because so many gay Americans have come out and the rest of us have discovered they are our friends, neighbors and family members. If we honestly want to be fair and let people live how they want to live, then it seems personally unfair and politically untenable to use the political process to limit their options.