“The way to be Biblical on homosexuality is to treat it like any other egregious sexual sin. We don’t go around calling someone who is against incest an ‘incestphobe’ right? So why do we keep talking about being a homophobe? Why do we use words that are not even real words, and are certainly not Biblical? Are we ‘pedaphobes’ because we oppose pedophilia? It’s ridiculous.” Peter LaBarbera, in Gregg Jackson & Steve Deace, We Won’t Get Fooled Again, p. 145
“LaBarbera said a galvanizing moment for him was Ken Mehlman’s public admission that he is a homosexual. The former top aide to President George W. Bush, and former head of the Republican National Committee, even disclosed that while he was a member of the GOP establishment he worked from the inside to sabotage people like LaBarbera. Those who were trying to use the Republican Party as a means to fight for righteousness in America were actually paying Mehlman to undermine their efforts from within.” Ibid., p. 141, 142
“I am happy for Ken. I respect him personally and professionally.” Michael Steele, former head of the Republican Party. Ibid., p. 142
“Why doesn’t Sean Hannity talk about this issue more? What about Bill O’Reilly? He’s supposed to be no-spin, but he has almost totally sold out on this issue. Glenn Beck says that homosexual marriage is not a national issue. Is he ignorant of what’s going on across the country? The writer Kathleen Parker is another one. Now she’s making fun of Christian Conservatives. Everyone is getting on the bus because they’re sensing that the Republican Party, and secular conservatives and libertarians, are giving up on the homosexual issue.” Peter LaBarbera, Ibid., p. 148
By: Frank Bruni; Published: June 9, 2012
OVER the past year, the main story line in the push for marriage equality has been the ardor and success with which leading Democratic politicians have taken up the fight. The Democratic governors of New York, Maryland and Washington all promoted and signed same-sex marriage laws, for which President Obama expressed his support last month.
But the progress within Republican ranks has also been pivotal, not to mention fascinating. And a compelling character in that subplot just added a new twist to the narrative, one that suggests the rapidly changing political dynamics of this issue and its potential import to a party dogged by an image of being culturally out of touch.
That character is Paul E. Singer, 67, a billionaire hedge fund manager who is among the most important Republican donors nationwide. In just one Manhattan fund-raiser last month, he helped to collect more than $5 million for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.
He steadfastly supports conservative candidates. He also steadfastly supports gay rights in general and marriage equality in particular. Along with a few other leading Wall Street financiers, he contributed and helped drum up the majority of the money — more than $1 million — that fueled the campaign for same-sex marriage in New York.
He has given nearly $10 million of his own money to gay-rights initiatives, including the same-sex marriage efforts not only in New York but also in New Hampshire and New Jersey. And that figure doesn’t include his assistance in tapping a broad network of donors for individual candidates. He was pivotal in rounding up about $250,000 apiece for the Republican state senators in New York whose votes for same-sex marriage provided its margin of victory in the Legislature.
Now, Singer says, he’s providing $1 million to start a new “super PAC” with several Republican compatriots. Named American Unity PAC, its sole mission will be to encourage Republican candidates to support same-sex marriage, in part by helping them to feel financially shielded from any blowback from well-funded groups that oppose it.
In an interview on Tuesday, he told me that he’s confident that in Congressional races, which would most likely be the super PAC’s initial focus, there are more than a few Republicans “who could be on the verge of support” or are “harboring and hiding their views.”
“And this kind of effort could be catalytic in generating some more movement,” he said.
Singer doesn’t court a high news-media profile. His willingness to meet at the Midtown Manhattan offices of his hedge fund, Elliott Management, and talk about marriage equality reflects the strength of his commitment to the cause. Although he is straight, he has a gay son and son-in-law who were married in Massachusetts, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2004.
Our conversation also reflected a growing awareness among prominent Republicans that embracing marriage equality could broaden the party’s base and soften the party’s image in crucial ways. Many swing voters who find elements of Republicans’ limited-government message appealing and have doubts about Obama’s economic stewardship are nonetheless given serious pause by the party’s stances on abortion, birth control, immigration and homosexuality.
“There’s a feeling among some people that the Republican party is harsh on some things,” acknowledged Singer, whose extended comments can be found in a blog postsupplementing this column. Referring to opposition to same-sex marriage, he added: “Atmospherically and tonally, it’s part of the landscape of so-called harshness.”
It also flies in the face of an irrefutable trajectory of increasing support for same-sex marriage among Americans, especially younger ones. In a CNN/ORC International pollreleased Wednesday, a whopping 73 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 said they favored marriage equality. That’s the clear future of this issue, and Republicans are keenly aware that while the party’s formal opposition to abortion rights, for example, doesn’t contradict the prevailing sentiments of a majority of Americans or buck voter trends, opposition to same-sex marriage does.
Ken Mehlman, the former Republican National Committee chairman who came out as gaytwo years ago and has since pressed the case for marriage equality, told me, “A political party that ignores demography or ignores broader cultural trends does so at its own peril.”
But even apart from that, Mehlman, Singer and many other Republicans say that marriage equality, which in fact gets the government out of the business of controlling and casting judgment on people’s private lives, is consistent with conservative principles.
Singer said that it “very well fits within my framework of freedom,” adding that it promotes “family stability” and is a tribute to an institution in need of one.
“Obviously, the institution of marriage in America has utterly collapsed,” he said. That gay and lesbian couples nonetheless want to wed “is kind of a lovely thing and a cool thing and a wonderful thing,” he added.
The shifting Republican reality was underscored when 119 Republicans joined 92 Democrats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives three months ago in a vote to keep same-sex marriage legal in the state. Just three years ago, when it was legalized, only nine Republicans supported it.
In Massachusetts, Richard Tisei, a gay Congressional candidate who supports marriage equality, was recently anointed one of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns,” signifying Republican leaders’ especially strong investment in his bid.
“I feel comfortable in the party,” he told me Friday.
Tisei is one type of candidate who might draw financial help from Singer’s super PAC, which, according to Singer, will soon have a budget “of a few million dollars,” factoring in expected support from collaborators and friends.
Singer said that more than a half-dozen Republicans who back same-sex marriage, who are contemplating it or who seem nudge-able have already attracted the super PAC’s attention.
I asked Chad H. Griffin, a progressive Democrat who heads the Human Rights Campaign, a leading advocacy group for gays and lesbians, what he made of Singer’s work on marriage equality.
“It’s absolutely necessary,” said Griffin. “We will never win marriage equality without bipartisan support.”
One Republican who unequivocally opposes marriage equality is the man Singer backs for president: Mitt Romney. Does that trouble Singer?
“I feel very strongly that Obama needs to be fired, and that the Republicans are right on most things,” he said, adding that with continued work on marriage equality, he expects to persuade more Republicans of its rightness, too.
“I think it would be naïve of me to take this issue and just upend everything else I believe,” he said. “Because I think we’re making progress.”