Steve Schmidt to Log Cabin: GOP Must Embrace Gay Marriage


Thank you for that introduction, and for your invitation to join you
today.  I haven’t done much public speaking since the election.  I
haven’t done any, in fact.  But over five months have passed since the
election, and in gratitude for your contributions to our party and out
of concern for its future success, I appreciate this opportunity to
share a few thoughts with you about the direction I hope our party
takes as it seeks to recover the support and trust of the American

To state the obvious: the Republican Party needs to grow.  A review
of the exit polls and current demographic trends in the United States
should make it clear to all but the most determined optimist that our
coalition is shrinking, and losing ground with segments of the
population that are growing.  Whether it’s with suburban voters,
working class voters, college educated voters, Hispanics or left handed
Albanian psychics, the percentage voting Republican has declined. 
Perhaps, the most alarming of these various and generally worrying
results of the last election is the huge margin by which we lost voters
under 30. 

Having said that, it is not a foregone conclusion these are long
term trends or even trends at all.  They might just be the results of
two lost elections, although I doubt it.  And even if they do represent
movement toward a center left political realignment, unanticipated
events could arrest or begin to reverse them even in the near term. 

Political scientists and campaign consultants tend not to account
for contingency when they are busy predicting the future. The McCain
campaign, for instance, initially thought our most difficult problem
would be the war in Iraq, an assumption we made based on exit polls
from the 2006 mid term elections.  Obviously, we guessed wrong, thanks
in part, paradoxically, to Senator McCain’s statesmanship as an early
advocate of the surge.

We had many environmental challenges that made our campaign an
uphill struggle from start to finish.  In addition to the President’s
unpopularity and two wars the country had tired of, we had historic
wrong track numbers, record high gas prices, an unprecedented resource
disadvantage, and a disparity in press coverage.  While we worried
about these and many other challenges in 2007 and early 2008, we never
believed the election was unwinnable, and had by early September
managed to fight our way to a rough tie, and even a very small lead. 
None of us, however, expected a global financial crisis to be one of
them.  I’m pretty confident, President Obama’s campaign didn’t
anticipate one either.  It was the last obstacle imposed on a very
challenged campaign.  It proved to be insurmountable.  And no one had
really seen it coming.

Should the recession grow deeper or linger longer; should President
Obama’s hugely expensive domestic policies begin to worry swing voters
more than they are reassured by his skill at promoting them; should
some national security disaster happen or any number of other
contingencies occur, the advances made by Democrats in the last two
elections might be short-lived. 

But no one should take comfort from knowing our Party’s success
could come at the expense of the country or must rely on blunders by
the Administration and the Democratic Congress.  Moreover, while I
think projections of a political re-alignment are premature based on
the results of two elections, I would rather be in the Democrats’ shoes
than ours.  Their coalition is expanding.  Ours is shrinking.  Their
vote share is increasing among voter segments that are growing.  Ours
is not.  The rapid growth of the Hispanic-American population, for
instance, could soon cost Republicans the entire Southwest if we don’t
recover our previous share of their vote.  Had Senator McCain not been
the Republican nominee in 2008, I’m convinced we would have lost
Arizona.  It’s very hard to see how we put together 270 electoral votes
without the Southwest. 

As a percentage of the total vote, younger voters didn’t really
increase in the last election.  But the Democrats’ margin with those
voters certainly did.  In short, we were crushed by the Obama campaign
with voters under 30.  President Obama was a uniquely attractive
candidate to younger voters, in matters of style as much as substance. 
And maybe as those voters grow older and acquire greater
responsibilities they will develop a better appreciation for Republican
values of limited government, fiscal discipline, low taxes and a strong
defense.  That has happened in the past. 

But even if they do, I doubt they will abandon social attributes
that distinguish them from older voters; among them, a greater
acceptance of people who find happiness in relationships with members
of the same sex.  And I believe Republicans should re-examine the
extent to which we are being defined by positions on issues that I
don’t believe are among our core values, and that put us at odds with
what I expect will become over time, if not a consensus view, then the
view of a substantial majority of voters.

Of course, a party cannot grow if it subtracts while it tries to
add.  Social conservatives remain an indispensable part of the
Republican coalition.  I don’t subscribe to the notion that social
conservatives are a monolithic bloc of close minded people who would
tread on the rights of Americans who disagree with them. Nor do I think
conservatism will or should abandon its reluctance to change or abandon
social conventions that are important to the strength and stability of
our society. 

The institution of marriage is the foundation of society and
alterations to its definitions shouldn’t be lightly undertaken.  It has
always been defined as the legal union of a man and a woman, and it’s
understandable that many Americans are apprehensive about making a
definitional change to so profoundly an important institution.  But it
is a tradition, not a creed, or, at least, not a national creed.  It is
not how we define ourselves as Americans.  And while we shouldn’t
carelessly dismiss the importance of enduring traditions, we should
understand that traditions do change over time in every society.  And
as long as those changes do not conflict with the tenets of our
national creed then they can, and inevitably will, be modified by a
society that has come to view them as inequitable. 

Our national creed is a declaration of natural rights not a compact
for the preservation of social customs, as important as many of those
customs are.  It was precisely and elegantly defined 233 years ago as
adherence to certain self-evident truths.  All are created equal and
endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, including life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Americans’ fidelity to that
creed ended the tradition of slavery because it was understood that
slavery denied to the slave the universal rights America was founded in
blood to protect.  Women were constitutionally disenfranchised.  But in
time that injustice was rectified because the nation realized such
discrimination violated our national creed. 

The argument of the pro-life community acquires its moral force
because it holds that the life of the unborn is not distinct in its
dignity from the life of the born, and, thus, possesses a God-given
right to be protected.  The same protection cannot be argued to extend
to the institutional definition of marriage as exclusively the union of
persons of the opposite sex. 

It can be argued, although I disagree, that marriage should remain
the legal union of a man and a woman because changing it to admit same
sex unions would undermine the most basic institution of a well ordered
society.  It can be argued according to the creeds and convictions of
religious belief, which I respect.  But it cannot be argued that
marriage between people of the same sex is un-American or threatens the
rights of others.  On the contrary, it seems to me that denying two
consenting adults of the same sex the right to form a lawful union that
is protected and respected by the state denies them two of the most
basic natural rights affirmed in the preamble of our Declaration of
Independence – liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  That, I believe,
gives the argument of same sex marriage proponents its moral force. 

I know mine is a minority view among Republicans, and I don’t
honestly expect our party will reverse in the very near term its
opposition to same sex marriage.  Nor do I yet see support for it from
a strong majority of the general public.  And, I do believe that such a
highly charged political question such as this should be settled by the
freely expressed will of the people, and not by the courts.  That
doesn’t relieve advocates of the responsibility to make their case
urgently.  I understand how tired many Americans are of being
admonished to be patient to right what they believe is an injustice. 
But I’m confident American public opinion will continue to move on the
question toward majority support, and sooner or later the Republican
Party will catch up to it.  And I believe the nation’s acceptance of
same sex unions as lawful marriage would provide a far more secure
guarantee that the change made to this profoundly important social
institution will be permanent than would judicial fiat.

we cannot achieve a consensus today on recognizing the marriages of gay
couples, surely, in simple justice, we can respect their human dignity
by protecting their rights to assign unique privileges and
responsibilities to another person.  Whether you are for or against
same sex marriages, every Republican ought to value the right of people
to make such personal decisions for themselves.  As former Vice
President Cheney observed, freedom means freedom for everybody.  And I
think Republicans should always be on the side of freedom and equal

I, and I believe most people, believe you are born with your
sexuality.  It is not a choice.  It should offend us as Republicans and
Americans when gays are denigrated as degenerates or un-American or
undeserving of the government’s protection of their rights.  And the
Republican Party should give voice to genuine outrage when anyone
belittles the humanity of another person.  It is offensive in the
extreme to the values of this nation, and we should be in the forefront
of rejecting such truly un-American prejudice.  Moreover, if you
believe we are born with our sexual orientation, it is hard to deny the
inequality under the law that exists when people of one sexual
orientation are allowed to marry and people of another are not.

Even though a majority of Republicans remain opposed to it, we must
respect dissent on the subject within the party and encourage debate
over it, and should not reject out of hand and on specious grounds the
question that the party might be in the wrong on the question.  We
should publicly affirm that gays are entitled to the same respect and
protections we accord heterosexuals to be secure from discrimination in
their employment and the places they choose to live; to enter into
contractual relationships with another person that grant them the same
benefits and privileges allowed married couples, such as tax advantages
accorded married couples or the responsibilities to make end of life
decisions for one another.

There’s nothing inherently objectionable about debating whether same
sex marriage would undermine the institution and, by extension,
society.  Some people believe strongly that it would.  I argue that it
wouldn’t.  But that debate should be conducted with respect for the
dignity of all parties involved.  Opponents to giving women the vote
argued such a change would undermine marriage and other social
institutions.  I think the institution would be strengthened by the
inclusion of more couples who are genuinely committed to each other. 
But even if you believe marriage would be changed for the worse by same
sex unions, I’m not sure it’s a compelling argument for their
exclusion.  We don’t forbid divorce, a more proven and prevalent threat
to the health of our society.

As I said, I respect the opinions of Americans who oppose marriage
for gay couples on religious grounds.  I may disagree, but if you
sincerely believe God’s revealed truth objects to it then it is
perfectly honorable to oppose it.  But those are not the grounds on
which a political party should take or argue a position.  If you put
public policy issues to a religious test you risk becoming a religious
party, and in a free country, a political party cannot remain viable in
the long term if it is seen as sectarian. 

Last February, an opponent of same sex marriage, David Blankenhorn,
and an advocate, Jonathan Rauch, suggested in a New York Times op-ed a
compromise that could serve the interests and values of both.  They
wrote that Congress should grant federal civil union status to same sex
marriages and civil unions licensed at the state level as long as those
states recognized religious conscience exceptions for religious
organizations that do not want to recognize same sex unions.

I think that idea makes a lot sense.  While it might not satisfy either
side completely, it respects and values the rights of both, and would
go a long way to correct the existing inequality. 

Some Republicans believe the period of self-examination within the
party necessitated by the loss of our majority status is mostly a
question of whether the party should become more moderate or
conservative.  I think that’s a false choice.  We need to grow our
coalition, but as I said, that’s hard to do if we lose some votes while
gaining others. 

There is a sound conservative argument to be made for same sex
marriage. I believe conservatives, more than liberals, insist that
rights come with responsibilities.  No other exercise of one’s liberty
comes with greater responsibilities than marriage.  In a marriage, two
people are completely responsible to and for each other.  If you are
not willing to accept and faithfully discharge those responsibilities,
you shouldn’t enter the state of matrimony, and it doesn’t make a damn
bit of difference if you’re straight or gay.  It is a responsibility
like no other, which can and should make marriage an association
between two human beings more fulfilling than any other.

Many studies have shown that married people are generally happier
than unmarried people.  Marriage gives greater purpose to life, and, to
borrow from Pastor Warren, the more purpose driven your life is, the
happier it is.  Marriage does not or should not depend on transitory
emotions.  It is a partnership in all aspects of life that changes the
way not just society, but the individual perceives him or herself, and
gives greater incentive to an individual to live a good and virtuous
life because the happiness, not just momentary pleasure, but the
lasting happiness, of others depends on it.  Marriage can be a
profoundly gratifying state that strengthens the virtue of individuals
and societies, and increases the measure and quality of the happiness
we enjoy.  It seems to me a terrible inequity that any person should be
denied that responsibility, and the emotional enrichment it can
provide.  And I cannot in good conscience exclude anyone who is
prepared for such a commitment from the prospect of such happiness.

In closing, I’ll return to our national creed, what Lincoln called
the inestimable jewel of American history, and offer my respect for and
urge my fellow Republicans to respect every human being’s rights to
liberty and the pursuit of happiness as much as they cherish their

Customs change.  Societies change.  People change.  But that creed
must never change.  It is the foundation upon which the success of not
just of our party, but our country rests.  If you do not impede my
pursuit of happiness, I must not impede yours, but stand with you, as
fellow Americans, lovers of liberty, to defend your natural right to
seek happiness in life and love according to dictates of your heart and
your heart alone. 

Thank you, again, for your welcome here and for your many, valuable contributions to our party and our country.