CNN talked to campaign advisor Steve Schmidt, who spoke to the Log Cabin Republicans today and stated his support for marriage equality, saying the Republican party needs to embrace it.
Watch CNN's report and read the full text of Schmidt's speech, AFTER THE JUMP…
FULL TEXT OF STEVE SCHMIDT'S SPEECH
Thank you for that introduction, and for your invitation to join youtoday. I haven’t done much public speaking since the election. Ihaven’t done any, in fact. But over five months have passed since theelection, and in gratitude for your contributions to our party and outof concern for its future success, I appreciate this opportunity toshare a few thoughts with you about the direction I hope our partytakes as it seeks to recover the support and trust of the Americanpeople.
To state the obvious: the Republican Party needs to grow. A reviewof the exit polls and current demographic trends in the United Statesshould make it clear to all but the most determined optimist that ourcoalition is shrinking, and losing ground with segments of thepopulation that are growing. Whether it’s with suburban voters,working class voters, college educated voters, Hispanics or left handedAlbanian psychics, the percentage voting Republican has declined. Perhaps, the most alarming of these various and generally worryingresults of the last election is the huge margin by which we lost votersunder 30.
Having said that, it is not a foregone conclusion these are longterm trends or even trends at all. They might just be the results oftwo lost elections, although I doubt it. And even if they do representmovement toward a center left political realignment, unanticipatedevents could arrest or begin to reverse them even in the near term.
Political scientists and campaign consultants tend not to accountfor contingency when they are busy predicting the future. The McCaincampaign, for instance, initially thought our most difficult problemwould be the war in Iraq, an assumption we made based on exit pollsfrom the 2006 mid term elections. Obviously, we guessed wrong, thanksin part, paradoxically, to Senator McCain’s statesmanship as an earlyadvocate of the surge.
We had many environmental challenges that made our campaign anuphill struggle from start to finish. In addition to the President’sunpopularity and two wars the country had tired of, we had historicwrong track numbers, record high gas prices, an unprecedented resourcedisadvantage, and a disparity in press coverage. While we worriedabout these and many other challenges in 2007 and early 2008, we neverbelieved the election was unwinnable, and had by early Septembermanaged 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 ofthem. I’m pretty confident, President Obama’s campaign didn’tanticipate one either. It was the last obstacle imposed on a verychallenged campaign. It proved to be insurmountable. And no one hadreally seen it coming.
Should the recession grow deeper or linger longer; should PresidentObama’s hugely expensive domestic policies begin to worry swing votersmore than they are reassured by his skill at promoting them; shouldsome national security disaster happen or any number of othercontingencies occur, the advances made by Democrats in the last twoelections might be short-lived.
But no one should take comfort from knowing our Party’s successcould come at the expense of the country or must rely on blunders bythe Administration and the Democratic Congress. Moreover, while Ithink projections of a political re-alignment are premature based onthe results of two elections, I would rather be in the Democrats’ shoesthan ours. Their coalition is expanding. Ours is shrinking. Theirvote share is increasing among voter segments that are growing. Oursis not. The rapid growth of the Hispanic-American population, forinstance, could soon cost Republicans the entire Southwest if we don’trecover our previous share of their vote. Had Senator McCain not beenthe Republican nominee in 2008, I’m convinced we would have lostArizona. It’s very hard to see how we put together 270 electoral voteswithout the Southwest.
As a percentage of the total vote, younger voters didn’t reallyincrease in the last election. But the Democrats’ margin with thosevoters certainly did. In short, we were crushed by the Obama campaignwith voters under 30. President Obama was a uniquely attractivecandidate to younger voters, in matters of style as much as substance. And maybe as those voters grow older and acquire greaterresponsibilities they will develop a better appreciation for Republicanvalues of limited government, fiscal discipline, low taxes and a strongdefense. That has happened in the past.
But even if they do, I doubt they will abandon social attributesthat distinguish them from older voters; among them, a greateracceptance of people who find happiness in relationships with membersof the same sex. And I believe Republicans should re-examine theextent to which we are being defined by positions on issues that Idon’t believe are among our core values, and that put us at odds withwhat I expect will become over time, if not a consensus view, then theview of a substantial majority of voters.
Of course, a party cannot grow if it subtracts while it tries toadd. Social conservatives remain an indispensable part of theRepublican coalition. I don’t subscribe to the notion that socialconservatives are a monolithic bloc of close minded people who wouldtread on the rights of Americans who disagree with them. Nor do I thinkconservatism will or should abandon its reluctance to change or abandonsocial conventions that are important to the strength and stability ofour society.
The institution of marriage is the foundation of society andalterations to its definitions shouldn’t be lightly undertaken. It hasalways been defined as the legal union of a man and a woman, and it’sunderstandable that many Americans are apprehensive about making adefinitional change to so profoundly an important institution. But itis a tradition, not a creed, or, at least, not a national creed. It isnot how we define ourselves as Americans. And while we shouldn’tcarelessly dismiss the importance of enduring traditions, we shouldunderstand that traditions do change over time in every society. Andas long as those changes do not conflict with the tenets of ournational creed then they can, and inevitably will, be modified by asociety that has come to view them as inequitable.
Our national creed is a declaration of natural rights not a compactfor the preservation of social customs, as important as many of thosecustoms are. It was precisely and elegantly defined 233 years ago asadherence to certain self-evident truths. All are created equal andendowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, including life,liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Americans’ fidelity to thatcreed ended the tradition of slavery because it was understood thatslavery denied to the slave the universal rights America was founded inblood to protect. Women were constitutionally disenfranchised. But intime that injustice was rectified because the nation realized suchdiscrimination violated our national creed.
The argument of the pro-life community acquires its moral forcebecause it holds that the life of the unborn is not distinct in itsdignity from the life of the born, and, thus, possesses a God-givenright to be protected. The same protection cannot be argued to extendto the institutional definition of marriage as exclusively the union ofpersons of the opposite sex.
It can be argued, although I disagree, that marriage should remainthe legal union of a man and a woman because changing it to admit samesex unions would undermine the most basic institution of a well orderedsociety. It can be argued according to the creeds and convictions ofreligious belief, which I respect. But it cannot be argued thatmarriage between people of the same sex is un-American or threatens therights of others. On the contrary, it seems to me that denying twoconsenting adults of the same sex the right to form a lawful union thatis protected and respected by the state denies them two of the mostbasic natural rights affirmed in the preamble of our Declaration ofIndependence – 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’thonestly expect our party will reverse in the very near term itsopposition to same sex marriage. Nor do I yet see support for it froma strong majority of the general public. And, I do believe that such ahighly charged political question such as this should be settled by thefreely expressed will of the people, and not by the courts. Thatdoesn’t relieve advocates of the responsibility to make their caseurgently. I understand how tired many Americans are of beingadmonished to be patient to right what they believe is an injustice. But I’m confident American public opinion will continue to move on thequestion toward majority support, and sooner or later the RepublicanParty will catch up to it. And I believe the nation’s acceptance ofsame sex unions as lawful marriage would provide a far more secureguarantee that the change made to this profoundly important socialinstitution will be permanent than would judicial fiat.
Ifwe cannot achieve a consensus today on recognizing the marriages of gaycouples, surely, in simple justice, we can respect their human dignityby protecting their rights to assign unique privileges andresponsibilities to another person. Whether you are for or againstsame sex marriages, every Republican ought to value the right of peopleto make such personal decisions for themselves. As former VicePresident Cheney observed, freedom means freedom for everybody. And Ithink Republicans should always be on the side of freedom and equalrights.
I, and I believe most people, believe you are born with yoursexuality. It is not a choice. It should offend us as Republicans andAmericans when gays are denigrated as degenerates or un-American orundeserving of the government’s protection of their rights. And theRepublican Party should give voice to genuine outrage when anyonebelittles the humanity of another person. It is offensive in theextreme to the values of this nation, and we should be in the forefrontof rejecting such truly un-American prejudice. Moreover, if youbelieve we are born with our sexual orientation, it is hard to deny theinequality under the law that exists when people of one sexualorientation are allowed to marry and people of another are not.
Even though a majority of Republicans remain opposed to it, we mustrespect dissent on the subject within the party and encourage debateover it, and should not reject out of hand and on specious grounds thequestion that the party might be in the wrong on the question. Weshould publicly affirm that gays are entitled to the same respect andprotections we accord heterosexuals to be secure from discrimination intheir employment and the places they choose to live; to enter intocontractual relationships with another person that grant them the samebenefits and privileges allowed married couples, such as tax advantagesaccorded married couples or the responsibilities to make end of lifedecisions for one another.
There’s nothing inherently objectionable about debating whether samesex marriage would undermine the institution and, by extension,society. Some people believe strongly that it would. I argue that itwouldn’t. But that debate should be conducted with respect for thedignity of all parties involved. Opponents to giving women the voteargued such a change would undermine marriage and other socialinstitutions. I think the institution would be strengthened by theinclusion of more couples who are genuinely committed to each other. But even if you believe marriage would be changed for the worse by samesex unions, I’m not sure it’s a compelling argument for theirexclusion. We don’t forbid divorce, a more proven and prevalent threatto the health of our society.
As I said, I respect the opinions of Americans who oppose marriagefor gay couples on religious grounds. I may disagree, but if yousincerely believe God’s revealed truth objects to it then it isperfectly honorable to oppose it. But those are not the grounds onwhich a political party should take or argue a position. If you putpublic policy issues to a religious test you risk becoming a religiousparty, and in a free country, a political party cannot remain viable inthe 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 acompromise that could serve the interests and values of both. Theywrote that Congress should grant federal civil union status to same sexmarriages and civil unions licensed at the state level as long as thosestates recognized religious conscience exceptions for religiousorganizations that do not want to recognize same sex unions.
I think that idea makes a lot sense. While it might not satisfy eitherside completely, it respects and values the rights of both, and wouldgo a long way to correct the existing inequality.
Some Republicans believe the period of self-examination within theparty necessitated by the loss of our majority status is mostly aquestion of whether the party should become more moderate orconservative. I think that’s a false choice. We need to grow ourcoalition, but as I said, that’s hard to do if we lose some votes whilegaining others.
There is a sound conservative argument to be made for same sexmarriage. I believe conservatives, more than liberals, insist thatrights come with responsibilities. No other exercise of one’s libertycomes with greater responsibilities than marriage. In a marriage, twopeople are completely responsible to and for each other. If you arenot willing to accept and faithfully discharge those responsibilities,you shouldn’t enter the state of matrimony, and it doesn’t make a damnbit of difference if you’re straight or gay. It is a responsibilitylike no other, which can and should make marriage an associationbetween two human beings more fulfilling than any other.
Many studies have shown that married people are generally happierthan unmarried people. Marriage gives greater purpose to life, and, toborrow from Pastor Warren, the more purpose driven your life is, thehappier it is. Marriage does not or should not depend on transitoryemotions. It is a partnership in all aspects of life that changes theway not just society, but the individual perceives him or herself, andgives greater incentive to an individual to live a good and virtuouslife because the happiness, not just momentary pleasure, but thelasting happiness, of others depends on it. Marriage can be aprofoundly gratifying state that strengthens the virtue of individualsand societies, and increases the measure and quality of the happinesswe enjoy. It seems to me a terrible inequity that any person should bedenied that responsibility, and the emotional enrichment it canprovide. And I cannot in good conscience exclude anyone who isprepared for such a commitment from the prospect of such happiness.
In closing, I’ll return to our national creed, what Lincoln calledthe inestimable jewel of American history, and offer my respect for andurge my fellow Republicans to respect every human being’s rights toliberty and the pursuit of happiness as much as they cherish theirown.
Customs change. Societies change. People change. But that creedmust never change. It is the foundation upon which the success of notjust of our party, but our country rests. If you do not impede mypursuit of happiness, I must not impede yours, but stand with you, asfellow Americans, lovers of liberty, to defend your natural right toseek happiness in life and love according to dictates of your heart andyour heart alone.
Thank you, again, for your welcome here and for your many, valuable contributions to our party and our country.