A Republican congresswoman from Florida known for holding pro-LGBT views said earlier this week she supports marriage equality, making her the first GOP member of Congress to hold that view.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the only Republican co-sponsor of legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, confirmed on Tuesday she supports same-sex marriage after remarks she delivered at the launch of Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry at the Capitol Hill Club in D.C.
Asked by the Washington Blade whether she’s a supporter of same-sex marriage in addition to backing DOMA repeal, Ros-Lehtinen initially expressed confusion about why the question was being asked, saying, “I don’t know why you’re asking that. It’s such a weird way.” But she later affirmed she’s a supporter of marriage equality.
“Oh, yeah, I am,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “I thought you were trying to get some tricky thing here. No I am.”
Her office did not respond to Blade inquiries following up on the remarks. Ros-Lehtinen’s decision to co-sponsor the DOMA repeal legislation, the Respect for Marriage Act, received significant media attention when she signed on in support in September. But supporting DOMA repeal isn’t the same as supporting marriage equality.
Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, commended Ros-Lehtinen for speaking out in favor of marriage equality and said it would help other Republicans do the same.
“Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a champion in the fight for full LGBT equality,” Cole-Schwartz said. “Her willingness to be a leader in the Republican Party on LGBT issues, including becoming the first Republican member of Congress to embrace marriage equality, is opening the way for other Republican officials to speak out.”
While holding pro-LGBT views, Ros-Lehtinen endorsed presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney early on. Romney has endorsed a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and has pledged to resume defense of DOMA in court.
Speaking to the Blade, Ros-Lehtinen said she backs Romney because of his positions on economic issues while acknowledging the two may hold differing positions on other issues.
“Well, I support him because of his views on the business issues and the economy,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “There are a lot of issues in which I disagree with Mitt Romney, but there are a lot of issues in which I disagree with members of my family. But I love them all the same.”
Ros-Lehtinen has suggested before that she favors marriage equality, although whether she personally identified as a supporter of same-sex marriage is less than clear.
In September 2011 remarks before Log Cabin Republicans political action committee prior to organization’s annual dinner, she commended New York lawmakers for passing marriage equality, saying, “As Republicans, we are committed to ensure that the federal government play its proper role. Defining marriage is not part of that role.”
At the time she announced her co-sponsorship of DOMA repeal, Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement, “I’m pleased to join the Log Cabin Republicans in our fight for marriage equality.”
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of National Log Cabin Republicans, offered remarks on Ros-Lehtinen’s support of marriage equality that were similar to what he said when she signed on as a co-sponsor of DOMA repeal.
“Marriage is a fundamental right of all Americans,” Cooper said. “The so-called Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) is an offense to the core conservative principles of liberty and federalism. It has been repudiated by its author, former Congressman Bob Barr, and is rejected by a growing majority of Americans, including conservative voters. It is time that our law respected all marriages. There is much work to be done to make that dream a reality, but with Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen’s leadership, the freedom to marry for all American is on the horizon.”
A transcript of the exchange between the Washington Blade and Ros-Lehtinen follows:
Washington Blade: Just to be clear, are you a supporter of same-sex marriage?
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: Well, I co-sponsored the repeal of DOMA.
Blade: But does that make you a supporter of same-sex marriage?
Ros-Lehtinen: I don’t know why you’re asking that. It’s such a weird way.
Blade: President Obama for a long time didn’t support same-sex marriage, but supported DOMA repeal.
Ros-Lehtinen: Oh, yeah. I am. I thought you were trying to get some tricky thing here. No I am.
Blade: We’re in the midst of a presidential election. You endorsed Mitt Romney early in the primary. Do you think he’ll be a friend to the LGBT community?
Ros-Lehtinen: Well I support him because of his views on the business issues and the economy. There are a lot of issues in which I disagree with Mitt Romney, but there are a lot of issues in which I disagree with members of my family. But I love them all the same.