Former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman stressed on Monday that the fight to defend Maryland’s same-sex marriage law is personal.
“Having grown up in Baltimore and with family still living there and in Bethesda, I am pleased to support the effort to permit civil marriage in Maryland,” he told the Blade. “This proposal enhances freedom and encourages fairness, while also safeguarding religious freedom.”
Mehlman, who managed then-President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, spoke to the Blade three days before he will co-host a Marylanders for Marriage Equality fundraiser in New York City alongside gay director John Waters, who is also from Baltimore. Actor Josh Charles, supermodel Hilary Rhoda and other Marylanders will also co-host the event alongside actresses Julianne Moore and Sarah Jessica Parker, comedian Sandra Bernhard, former New York Rangers forward Sean Avery and others.
Governor Martin O’Malley is also scheduled to speak at the event where tickets range from $250 – $25,000.
Same-sex marriage activists have credited Mehlman, who came out as gay in 2010, with successfully lobbying Republican lawmakers to support nuptials for gays and lesbians – four GOP New York state Senators voted for the same-sex marriage bill that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law in June 2011.
Mehlman also urged New Hampshire lawmakers in an op-ed that the Union Leader, the state’s largest newspaper, published in January to vote against a bill that would have repealed the Granite State’s same-sex marriage law. Lawmakers defeated the measure in the state House by a 211-116 margin in March, with 100 Republicans voting against it.
Mehlman also reached out to Maryland GOP lawmakers – including state Sen. Allen Kittleman (R-Howard County) and state Del. Wade Kach (R-Baltimore County) – before Annapolis lawmakers ultimately approved a same-sex marriage bill in February. O’Malley signed it into law on March 1, less than two weeks after Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a measure that would have allowed gays and lesbians to tie the knot in the Garden State.
The GOP adopted party platform during last month’s Republican National Convention in Tampa that endorses a proposed federal constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman — the D.C. Republican Committee in late June became the first state GOP party to add LGB-inclusive language to its platform. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said during his RNC acceptance speech that he would “honor the institution of marriage” if elected.
Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; David Koch; Meghan and Cindy McCain and James C. DiPaula, Jr., former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s campaign manager and chief of staff, are among the Republicans who have endorsed marriage rights for gays and lesbians.
“Republicans and conservatives should support this because it is consistent with our principles: more freedom, less government interference, family values like commitment and love, all while safeguarding religious freedom,” Mehlman told the Blade. “If you want to stand up for freedom and family values, then you should support allowing adults the freedom to marry the person they love.”