We've seen some pretty big turning points in the effort to gain and cement marriage equality. There was the Iowa Supreme Court ruling in 2009, the ouster of three justices in 2010 before voters finally stopped the judge hunt this past fall. Democrats held the state Senate by the skin of their teeth twice, halting the push for a constitutional ban, perhaps permanently.
What happened yesterday in Des Moines may not look as "big." But I think it's pretty significant. From Radio Iowa:
About 30 Iowa Republicans met early tonight in Des Moines, the beginning of a more public effort to get the GOP to embrace marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Dave Kochel, Mitt Romney’s 2012 Iowa campaign manager, has been involved in Iowa political campaigns since 1982 and Kochel acknowledged he usually operates behind-the-scenes.
“But I think there comes a time for everybody where, particularly for me on this issue, you need to step to the front of the room,” Kochel said.
Kochel was joined by Ken Mehlman, a former chair of the Republican National Committee who headed George W. Bush's Iowa campaign in 2000. He's also one of the nation's most prominent gay Republicans. And that's not all:
Tom Synhorst, a former aide to Senator Chuck Grassley and Bob Dole’s 1988 Iowa Caucus campaign manager, was there, as was Eric Woolson, the manager of Mike Huckabee’s 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign. Woolson also served as Republican Govenor Terry Branstad’s press secretary in the mid-1990s.
Also on hand was Kathy Potts, a Cedar Rapids GOP activist and former county party chair. She backed Rick Perry's presidential campaign. The meeting was sponsored by Republicans for Freedom, the group started by former state GOP Sen. Jeff Angelo in an effort to convince GOP members that marriage equality is a conservative value.
The Iowa Republican also has coverage:
As for those “values voters” that Mehlman organized in 2004 to vote for George W. Bush, he says supporting same-sex marriage is supporting family values.
“You’re seeing it across Iowa,” Mehlman said. “It makes a society stronger. It makes it more caring. It makes it more focused on the long term. It creates stability in the lives of children across this country who are raised by two members of the same gender who are loving moms or loving dads and because of what happened in Iowa, now have stability and an ability to know that their home is more secure.”
Is the Republican Party going to do a 180 on this issue tomorrow? No. But more and more Republicans, including these top-notch strategists, are beginning to say, openly, that the GOP's stand against equality is out of step with they nation they seek to govern. And that's a problem.The bigger step will come when top elected leaders, people who have to face voters, start speaking out. My Linn County Supervisor, Brent Oleson, was among the first to join Angelo's group. That took guts. We need more Republicans with guts.