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Gay-rights backers woo young Republicans

Conservatives hit marriage views

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Gay-rights supporters are openly rallying sympathizers who until now may have been content to stay in the closet — young conservative Republicans.

"Freedom and family are core conservative values," said conservative gay activist Margaret Claire Hoover, a leader of a new campaign called Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry.

"We have a historic opportunity to reaffirm these important values by supporting the fundamental freedom to marry for all Americans," said Ms. Hoover in remarks issued before a launch party for the new campaign Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Other members of Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry leadership team, such as Torrey Shearer and Craig Stowell, said they expect their new group to inspire other young conservatives "to do what's right" and "accelerate" the acceptance of same-sex marriage.

However, the leader of a national organization fighting to preserve one-man, one-woman marriage said there is no evidence of grass-roots support for gay marriage among conservatives.

"It's not conservative to want to undermine marriage," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.

"One of the core pillars of conservatism is protecting and uplifting marriage as the union of a man and a woman" — and all major conservative thinkers — "the fountainhead of American conservatism" — were agreed on that, he said.

Instead, a more likely purpose of the new campaign is to "bifurcate religious organizations — get religious organizations to support redefining marriage — and also the Republican Party," said Mr. Brown. "It doesn't represent the grass roots, I can tell you that."

The new campaign is part of Freedom to Marry, an organization founded in 2003 by gay activist and attorney Evan Wolfson to legalize gay marriage in the United States.

Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry, praised the new group for making the case for gay marriage to a growing audience.

"The center of political gravity has shifted for good," said Mr. Solomon, citing polls showing surges in support for gay marriage among Republicans under age 44.

The new campaign for young conservatives comes on the heels of conservative leader David Blankenhorn's public decision to stop "fighting gay marriage," and instead help "build new coalitions bringing together gays who want to strengthen marriage with straight people who want to do the same."

Also, the Cato Institute is hosting a July 18 event for in-house author David Lampo on his new book, "A Fundamental Freedom: Why Republicans, Conservatives, and Libertarians Should Support Gay Rights." Conservative pundit and same-sex-marriage supporter Michael Barone is scheduled to comment on Mr. Lampo's book, which argues that, in Republican circles, the ones "who are keeping faith with core conservative principles" are those who are defending gay rights.

Historically, conservative support for gay rights is hardly new — the Log Cabin Republicans have been around for 30 years, and GOProud joined the arena in 2009. The American Foundation for Equal Rights, which also formed in 2009 to overturn California's voter-passed marriage amendment, boasts the legal team of conservative Theodore Olson and liberal David Boies.

American youth have indeed been led to accept, unquestioned, certain "liberal paradigms" about homosexuality by the media, entertainment and in academia, Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, said Tuesday. That means educational efforts are still needed to counter those liberal views, he said.

But "it's an oxymoron to say that you're a conservative for same-sex marriage," said Mr. Sprigg. People "may be conservative on other issues, but changing the definition of marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry is not conservative by any possible definition of the word. That's a radical redefinition of marriage and family."

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About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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