Nearly 60 new Republican notables have signed an amicus brief filed to the Supreme Court today in support of the freedom to marry. John Avlon on who’s joined the movement—and its significance.

  • One hundred and thirty-one Republicans signed an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court on Thursday, arguing that marriage is a fundamental right that should not be denied to gay and lesbian Americans.

Gay Rights Activists carry a rainbow flag on the West Lawn of the US Capitol Building during a protest October 11, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty)

That is nearly double the number of Republicans who had publicly signed on to the amicus brief earlier this week, indicating a growing groundswell of support among conservatives who recognize the philosophic consistency of supporting the freedom to marry. Call them Pro-Freedom Republicans.

The coalition includes 12 current and former members of Congress, including New York’s Richard Hanna, California’s Mary Bono Mack, and Florida’s Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; seven former governors, including Utah’s Jon Huntsman, New Mexico’s Gary Johnson, and Massachusetts’s William Weld; and seven current state legislators. They join the 206 Republican state legislators who have supported the Freedom to Marry on a state basis to date.

The amicus brief carves out a clear distinction between social conservatives and the center right, a coalition that includes libertarians, neoconservatives, and former GOP administration leaders. Among the Bush administration alumni signing the brief are Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee; former homeland security adviser Frances Townsend; Bush chief speechwriter Mark Gerson; former commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez; former national security adviser Stephen Hadley; former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman; and former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz. This is compassionate conservatism.

Also interesting is the number of former Romney campaign honchos who signed on to the brief, including campaign manager Beth Myers, general counsel Katie Biber, and national counsel Ben Ginsberg. The Romney campaign, like the Bush 2004 campaign before it, supported a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution, but it appears that there must have been internal dissension in the ranks on this issue.

Influential party donors such as Cliff Asness, Lew Eisenberg, and Dan Loeb decided to add their names, as did policy leaders such as Doug Holtz-Eakin, Greg Mankiw, and Nancy Pfotenhauer, and strategist/media figures such as Alex Castellanos, Margaret Hoover (full disclosure, my bride), Nicolle Wallace, Steve Schmidt, S.E. Cupp, Ana Navarro, and The Daily Beast’s own David Frum and Mark McKinnon. Demographic of one Clint Eastwood even decided to sign on.

Bottom line, this is an impressive list of influencers that indicates the shifting tides on this issue, even within the Republican Party. Cynics will say the list shows only limited support against the total number of elected officials inside the GOP, but this fight matters precisely because it represents a vital front in the GOP civil war that is willing to engage in one of the great civil rights debates of our time. And contrary to social conservative stereotypes, there is an active debate on this issue.

This fight matters precisely because it represents a vital front in the GOP civil war that is willing to engage in one of the great civil rights debates of our time.

Backing the argument made in the Prop 8 case led by Reagan solicitor general Ted Olson and David Boies, Pro-Freedom Republicans argue that marriage is a fundamental individual right and a conservative virtue because it is societally stabilizing, creating a safety net that doesn’t rely on the state. In the process, they are attempting to resolve some of the contradictions between the rhetoric of individual freedom and social conservative policies. Economic freedom cannot be the sole issue that libertarians care about if they claim to be consistent, and reconciling this policy contradiction is crucial if the GOP does indeed want to stop being “The Stupid Party.”

This is a fight worth watching, playing out in the Supreme Court as well as the GOP. Presidential aspirants and sitting senators are notably absent from the amicus brief—joining this list still carries considerable political risk. Faith-based conservatives will oppose this policy on religious grounds, even as gay conservative groups like GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans are banned from attending CPAC alongside the likes of Chris Christie. There is still a long way to go before the Big Tent is rebuilt after having been purposefully burned down in recent years.

But this list of Pro-Freedom Republicans is an important step in that direction, planting a flag in what could be one of the most important Supreme Court cases in a generation. After all, as Dick Cheney once famously said, “Freedom means freedom for everyone.”

The full list:


Kenneth B. Mehlman, Chairman, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007

Tim Adams, Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, 2005-2007

Cliff S. Asness, Businessman, Philanthropist, and Author

David D. Aufhauser, General Counsel, Department of Treasury, 2001-2003

Charles Bass, Member of Congress, 1995-2007 and 2011-2013

John B. Bellinger III, Legal Adviser to the Department of State, 2005-2009

Katie Biber, General Counsel, Romney for President, 2007-2008 and 2011-2012

Mary Bono Mack, Member of Congress, 1998-2013

William A. Burck, Deputy Staff Secretary, Special Counsel, and Deputy Counsel to the President, 2005-2009

Alex Castellanos, Republican Media Adviser

Paul Cellucci, Governor of Massachusetts, 1997-2001, and Ambassador to Canada, 2001-2005

David C. Chavern, Business Association Executive

Mary Cheney, Director of Vice Presidential Operations, Bush-Cheney 2004

Thomas J. Christensen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2006-2008

Jim Cicconi, Assistant to the President & Deputy to the Chief of Staff, 1989-1990

James B. Comey, United States Deputy Attorney General, 2003-2005

Jeff Cook-McCormac, Senior Adviser, American Unity PAC

R. Clarke Cooper, U.S. Alternative Representative, United Nations Security Council, 2007-2009

Julie Cram, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director White House Office of Public Liaison, 2007-2009

S.E. Cupp, Author and Political Commentator

Michele Davis, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Director of Policy Planning, Department of the Treasury, 2006-2009

Tyler Deaton, Secretary, New Hampshire Young Republicans, 2011-Present

Alicia Davis Downs, Associate Political Director, White House, 2001-2003

Kenneth M. Duberstein, White House Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President, 1981-1984 and 1987-1989

Janet Duprey, New York State Assemblywoman, 2007-Present

Clint Eastwood, Producer, Director, Actor, and Mayor of Carmel, California, 1986-1988

Christian J. Edwards, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Press Advance, 2005-2007

Lew Eisenberg, Finance Chairman, Republican National Committee, 2002-2004

Mark J. Ellis, State Chairman, Maine Republican Party, 2005-2006 and 2007-2009

Elizabeth Noyer Feld, Public Affairs Specialist, White House Office of Management and Budget, 1984-1987

Charles Freeman, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for China Affairs, 2002-2005

David Frum, Author and Special Assistant to the President, 2001-2002

Reed Galen, Director of Scheduling & Advance, Bush-Cheney 2004

Richard Galen, Communications Director, Speaker’s Political Office, 1996-1997

Mark Gerson, Chairman, Gerson Lehrman Group and Author of The Neoconservative Vision: From the Cold War to the Culture Wars and In the Classroom: Dispatches from an Inner-City School that Works

Benjamin Ginsberg, National Counsel, Bush-Cheney 2000 & 2004

Josh Ginsberg, National Field Director, Romney for President 2007-2008

Juleanna Glover, Press Secretary to the Vice President, 2001-2002

John Goodwin, Chief of Staff to Raul Labrador, Member of Congress, 2011-2013

Adrian Gray, Director of Strategy, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007

Richard Grenell, Spokesman, U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations, 2001-2008

Mark Grisanti, New York State Senator, 2011-Present

Patrick Guerriero, Mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts, and member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1993-2001

Carlos Gutierrez, Secretary of Commerce, 2005-2009

Stephen Hadley, Assistant to the President and National Security Adviser, 2005-2009

Richard Hanna, Member of Congress, 2011-Present

Jill Hazelbaker, Communications Director, John McCain for President, 2007-2008

Israel Hernandez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, 2005-2009

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Director, Congressional Budget Office, 2003-2005

Margaret Hoover, Adviser to the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, 2005-2006

Michael Huffington, Member of Congress, 1993-1995

Jon Huntsman, Governor of Utah, 2005-2009, and Ambassador to China, 2009-2011

David A. Javdan, General Counsel, United States Small Business Administration, 2002-2006

Reuben Jeffery, Undersecretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs, 2007-2009

Greg Jenkins, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Advance, 2003-2004

Coddy Johnson, National Field Director, Bush-Cheney 2004

Gary Johnson, Governor of New Mexico, 1995-2003, and Libertarian Party Nominee for President, 2012

Nancy L. Johnson, Member of Congress, 1983-2007

Robert Kabel, Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, 1982-1985

Neel Kashkari, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, 2008-2009

Theodore W. Kassinger, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, 2004-2005

Jonathan Kislak, Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture for Small Community and Rural Development, 1989-1991

David Kochel, Senior Iowa Adviser, Mitt Romney for President, 2007-2008 and 2011-2012

James Kolbe, Member of Congress, 1985-2007

Cyrus Krohn, eCampaign Director, Republican National Committee, 2007-2009

Jeffrey Kupfer, Chief of Staff and Acting Deputy Secretary, Department of Energy, 2006-2009

Ed Kutler, Assistant to the Speaker of the House, 1995-1997

Kathryn Lehman, Chief of Staff, House Republican Conference, 2003-2005

Thomas A. Little, Vermont State Representative, 1992-2002, and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, 1999-2002

Daniel S. Loeb, Businessman and Philanthropist

Alex Lundry, Director of Data Science, Romney for President, 2012

Greg Mankiw, Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers, 2003-2005

Catherine Martin, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Communications Director for Policy & Planning, 2005-2007

Kevin Martin, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, 2005-2009

David McCormick, Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, 2007-2009

Mark McKinnon, Republican Media Adviser

Aaron Mclear, Press Secretary to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2007-2011

Bruce P. Mehlman, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, 2001-2003

Susan Molinari, Member of Congress, 1990-1997

Connie Morella, Member of Congress, 1987-2003, and U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2003-2007

Michael E. Murphy, Republican Political Consultant

Beth Myers, Romney for President Campaign Manager, 2007-2008, and Senior Adviser, 2011-2012

Michael Napolitano, White House Office of Political Affairs, 2001-2003

Ana Navarro, National Hispanic Co-Chair, John McCain for President, 2008

Noam Neusner, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Speechwriting, 2002-2005

B.J. Nikkel, Colorado State Representative and Majority Whip, 2009-2012, and District Director for Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, 2002-2006

Susan Neely, Special Assistant to the President, 2001-2002

Meghan O’Sullivan, Deputy National Security Adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan, 2005-2007

Richard Painter, Associate Counsel to the President, 2005-2007

Ruth Ann Petroff, Wyoming State Representative, 2011-Present

Nancy Pfotenhauer, Economist, Presidential Transition Team, 1988 and President’s Council on Competitiveness, 1990

Gregg Pitts, Director, White House Travel Office, 2006-2009

J. Stanley Pottinger, Assistant U.S. Attorney General (Civil Rights Division), 1973-1977

Michael Powell, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, 2001-2005

Larry Pressler, U.S. Senator from South Dakota, 1979-1997, and Member of Congress, 1975-1979

Deborah Pryce, Member of Congress, 1993-2009

John Reagan, New Hampshire State Senator, 2012-Present

Luis Reyes, Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Assistant to the President, 2006-2009

Tom Ridge, Governor of Pennsylvania, 1995-2001, and Secretary of Homeland Security, 2003-2005

Kelley Robertson, Chief of Staff, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007

Mark A. Robbins, General Counsel, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, 2001-2006

Brian Roehrkasse, Director of Public Affairs, Department of Justice, 2007-2009

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Member of Congress, 1989-Present

Harvey S. Rosen, Member and Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers, 2003-2005

Lee Rudofsky, Deputy General Counsel, Romney for President, 2012

Patrick Ruffini, eCampaign Director, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007

Corry Schiermeyer, Director for Global Communications, National Security Council, 2005-2007

Steve Schmidt, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor to the Vice President, 2004-2006, and Senior Adviser, John McCain for President, 2008

Adam Schroadter, New Hampshire State Representative, 2010-Present

Christopher Shays, Member of Congress, 1987-2009

Faryar Shirzad, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs, 2004-2006

Ken Spain, Communications Director, National Republican Congressional Committee, 2009-2010

Robert Steel, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, 2006-2008

Nancy Stiles, New Hampshire State Senator, 2010-Present

David Stockman, Director, Office of Management and Budget, 1981-1985

Jane Swift, Governor of Massachusetts, 2001-2003

Richard Tisei, Massachusetts State Senator, 1991-2011, and Senate Minority Leader 2007-2011

Michael E. Toner, Chairman and Commissioner, Federal Election Commission, 2002-2007

Frances Fragos Townsend, Homeland Security Adviser to the President, 2004-2008

Michael Turk, eCampaign Director for Bush-Cheney 2004

John Ullyot, Communications Director, U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, 2003-2007

Sally A. Vastola, Executive Director, National Republican Congressional Committee, 2003-2006

Jacob P. Wagner, Chairman, New Hampshire Federation of College Republicans, 2012-Present

Mark Wallace, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Representative for U.N. Management and Reform, 2006-2008

Nicolle Wallace, Assistant to the President and White House Communications Director, 2005-2008

William F. Weld, Governor of Massachusetts, 1991-1997, and Assistant U.S. Attorney General (Criminal Division), 1986-1988

Christine Todd Whitman, Governor of New Jersey, 1994-2001, and Administrator of the EPA, 2001-2003

Meg Whitman, Republican Nominee for Governor of California, 2010

Robert Wickers, Republican Political Consultant

Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, 2001-2005, and President of the World Bank Group, 2005-2007

Dan Zwonitzer, Wyoming State Representative, 2005-present

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John Avlon is senior columnist for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and the anchor of Beast TV. He is a CNN contributor regularly appearing on the show Erin Burnett Out Front at 7 p.m. EST. He won the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ award for best online column in 2012.


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