A historic number of conservatives attached their names to a brief filed Friday with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing for the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide.
More than 300 social and political conservatives, moderates and libertarians signed on to the brief organized by Ken Mehlman, the former aide to President George W. Bush and chairman of the Republican National Committee who came out as gay in 2010.
According to the brief, the signatories “share the view that laws that bar same-sex couples from the institution of civil marriage, with all its attendant profoundly important rights and responsibilities, are inconsistent with the United States Constitution’s dual promises of equal protection and due process.”
The brief was signed by a number of prominent Republican politicians, including seven current and former governors: Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, former Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift, former Michigan Gov. William Milliken, former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.
Of the Senate’s four Republican supporters of marriage equality, Sens. Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Susan Collins (Maine) signed the brief. Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) did not. Of the four Republican supporters of marriage equality in the House of Representatives, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.) signed the brief. Reps. Charlie Dent (Pa.) and David Jolly (Fla.) did not. Rep. Chris Gibson (N.Y.), who had not previously endorsed same-sex marriage, signed the brief as well.
Other notable signatories include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, billionaire and political activist David Koch and General Stanley McChrystal.
Mehlman organized a similar brief filed two years ago in the Proposition 8 case arguing same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. Around 100 attached their names to that brief.
Although the brief argues in favor of the principle of judicial restraint, they also state that are moments when actions by legislatures and popular majorities can pose “significant threats to individual freedom” and require intervention by the courts.
“Our constitutional tradition empowers and requires the judiciary to protect our most cherished liberties against overreaching by the government, including overreach through an act of the legislature or electorate. That principle, no less than our commitment to democratic self-government, is necessary to individual freedom and limited government,” the brief states. “It is precisely at moments like this one—when discriminatory laws appear to reflect unexamined and unwarranted assumptions rather than facts and evidence, and the rights of one group of citizens hang in the balance—that the courts’ intervention is most needed.”
The brief is one of dozens expected to be filed by Friday’s deadline for “friend of the court” briefs in the same-sex marriage cases before the nation’s highest court.
In January, the nation’s highest court agreed to consolidate four cases challenging same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee after the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld marriage bans in those four states. On Thursday, the Supreme Court announced oral arguments on the issue of marriage equality would be heard April 28, with a ruling expected by the end of June.
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