Conservative Republican billionaire, Paul E. Singer, is pouring millions of the dollars he made as a hedge-fund manager into the support of gay marriage. Plus, he’s convincing other conservatives to open their wallets for the same cause. Singer was the driving force behind the campaigns for same-sex marriage in New York, New Hampshire, and New Jersey; he has just started a new super PAC to provide financial support—and, thus, some protection from backlash—to Republican candidates who are willing to support the issue.
The most obvious motivation for Singer is his gay son and son-in-law, who married in Massachusetts. But beyond that personal fact is an idea espoused by other Republicans as well—the idea that true conservative principles are aimed at getting government out of the role of judging and controlling peoples’ private lives. A hard fact for the GOP comes out of a new CNN/ORC poll which shows that fully 73% of young Americans, ages 18-34, favor marriage equality. Ken Mehlman, a former Republican National Committee chairman and gay activist, puts it like this, “A political party that ignores demography or ignores broader cultural trends does so at its own peril.”
Marriage equality is a civil rights issue that has drawn other unlikely partners into the fold. The fact that both President Obama and the NAACP recently endorsed same-sex marriage is a culmination of the efforts of leaders in both the black and gay communities. This effort was undertaken in earnest after California passed Proposition 8 in 2008—banning gay marriage in the state—and the black population was blamed for its adoption. Julian Bond, a former chairman of the N.A.A.C.P., has long felt the need to recognize the actions of some gay rights leaders in backing the civil rights movement. “I knew these people, whom I just assumed to be gay, and I knew what they were doing on my behalf — and I hoped on their behalf, too,” he said. “I was grateful for it, and when the chance came, I wanted to pay them back.”
As a result of this newfound unity, gay rights groups are advocating for minority voting rights and opposing such tactics as the ‘stop-and-frisk’ policies of police departments that are aimed at minorities. Spanish-language media outlets are running ads that support gay marriage as a way to strengthen families. In one, a Latina woman who is trying to accept her son’s homosexuality says, “Marriage has brought so much happiness to my life, and I wouldn’t want any member of anyone’s family — gay or straight — to be denied that chance at happiness.”
The gay community is the link between these disparate, often contentious, factions of American society—a first step, perhaps, in a growing acknowledgement among true conservatives that the Republican Party must broaden its base, and among both blacks and gays that certain issues cannot succeed without bipartisan support. At its best, this single growing trend could open an examination of other areas where the government needs to stop judging and controlling citizens’ private lives. It gives hope for what can be achieved, one step at a time.