A Conservative Who Supports Gay Marriage Is Still a Conservative? Imagine That!

The strongest conservative voice in favor of gay marriage has the ears of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.


As GOP Rep. Paul Ryan prepares for his debate against incumbent Vice President Joe Biden (sneak preview: the answer to every question is "Osama is dead, and GM is alive!"), he is receiving some coaching from conservative/libertarian lawyer Ted Olson. Olson is "playing" Biden in the preparations.

BuzzFeed reported the news over the weekend and it spread around a bit on the gay blogosphere, prompting even more reporting from gay newspaper Washington Blade. The burst of gay interest is because Olson is notably one of the attorneys who argued the case to have California's Proposition 8 – the ballot initiative blocking recognition of gay marriages – struck down.

So there's a bit of a surprise for a few folks that Olson's position in support of gay marriage was not an indicator that he was moving to the left. It was clear, though, from the start that his intent was the opposite – to try to move gay marriage recognition to the right as a conservative argument in favor of rewarding stable families.

The outrage for Olson's assistance to Ryan, little that there is, seems a bit on the "faux" side. The Blade contacted Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, for a response:

"After he has spent as much time, money, and reputation on overturning Prop 8 as he has, it's shocking to learn that Ted Olson would lift a finger to help the Romney-Ryan ticket during debate prep," Davis said. "The Romney-Ryan ticket stands completely counter to the goals of [The American Foundation for Equal Rights] and Ted Olson's stated belief that Prop 8 should be overturned. I have always been concerned that the architect of Bush v. Gore was one of the lead attorney's in the fight to overturn Prop 8, but I honestly never expected Olson to so blatantly contradict his own argument by supporting a ticket that would stand squarely in opposition to what he calls one of the most important cases of his career."

So here's a thought exercise: Imagine that somebody from the antigay National Organization for Marriage was serving as Ryan's debate buddy. Do you think there would be any less outrage from Davis in response? Of course not. It is the job for partisan functionaries to be outraged by every act on the other team. Davis would likely object to any debate partner except a random Kardashian or perhaps a friendly sea lion. Davis probably objects to Ryan even showing up for the debate in the first place.

That such a prominent conservative supporter of gay marriage has the direct ear of Ryan and Mitt Romney is a win for the gay community, which even Rick Jacobs of the progressive Courage Campaign begrudgingly noted:

"I hope he spends some of the hours he will spend with Congressman Ryan educating him that this is the civil rights issue of our time and that he and his running mate stand squarely on the wrong side of history."

Olson engaging these two is exactly what the gay movement needs, unless, of course, you're terribly worried about who in your party is only in it for the civil liberties and aren't really progressives at all. What would happen to the Democratic Party if and when the Republicans finally embraced gay marriage as policy?