“Making the case from a conservative values perspective is an imperative, not an option” Ken Mehlman stated in his recent OUT Magazine article. Mehlman sat down with Aaron Hicklin for a question and answer interview on DOMA, marriage equality, and more.
When asked if he was surprised by the results in California, he responded no. “Based on the conversations I’d had with Ted Olsen and David Boies from AFER, which is a board I serve on, and also I’d gotten to know Robbie [Roberta] Kaplan [the lawyer for Edie Windsor]. Although no one can predict the court, it was possible to imagine this result based on the hearings earlier this year. If you read Justin Kennedy’s opinion, and I take him at his word, he looked at that law [DOMA], read the legislative history of the law, and concluded that the law should be overturned.”
Ken Mehlman doesn’t think there will be any Republican backlash. “If you look at the history of marriage from the beginning, what you see is that after states pass civil marriage, support invariably grows across party lines.” He gives Massachusetts and New Hampshire as examples. Both of these states passed marriage equality laws. Although there were fewer Republicans, “…ultimately Republicans and Democrats came around to embrace gay marriage.”
Is the battle for gay marriage won? He doesn’t think so, but there has been progress. He shares the alarming statistic that 29 states still allow people to be fired due to their sexual orientation. 73 percent of Republican voters believe someone should not be able to be fired for this reason, and about 55 percent of Americans favor marriage equality. 30 percent of America live somewhere with marriage equality, but there are still 37 states that don’t allow it.
What role does Ken Mehlman plan to play in the fight to have marriage equality for all? “What I will do, and keep doing, is to listen to the experts and professionals, from people like Chad Griffin to Evan Wolfson and Matt Coles, and others. I do think when you look at these places where there are no legal protections, making the case from a conservative values perspective is an imperative, not an option, so I hope to be helpful from that perspective.“
He also shares the role that the media has played. He finds the single most important role to be that of ordinary people coming out and sharing their stories. “The role everyone has in simply coming out and telling their story to their family and their friends and their colleagues. There are so many examples, every day. What was so compelling about these cases was Edie’s story and Edie’s example. We all have the power to tell stories, and the media can magnify that. It’s also important for kids who are growing up—who want to grow up in a nation where they have equal rights under the law.”
What’s next for marriage equality? “There’s obviously a lot of clean-up that will happen now that DOMA has been repealed, from tax equity issues to immigration, and those are things that need to be reviewed. There’s been a lot of progress in the past on safe schools and making sure that bullying is addressed. Governor Christie in New Jersey, and in Maine, Governor LePage, have signed very robust laws making sure that every child is safe in school. Those can be a model for other states.”
Ken ends the interview with these words, “Everyone comes from a different ideological perspective, and we should use our way of thinking and our particular relationships to make the case for equality.”