The recent landmark legislation to mandate federal recognition for same-sex marriage in the Senate was not a spontaneous thing, but rather the result of a group of influential Republican donors and operatives, including some of the party’s most prominent gay leaders with long experience prodding their party to embrace L.G.B.T.Q. rights, who banded together with the bill’s proponents in Congress for a coordinated, $1.7 million campaign to persuade G.O.P. senators that backing it would give them a political edge.
According to the New York Times, that push was led by Ken Mehlman, President George W. Bush’s campaign manager in 2004 and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who came out as gay in 2010, and Centerline Action, a centrist nonprofit funded by him and Reginald Brown, a lawyer in Mr. Bush’s White House, among others.
Mr. Mehlman, working with Centerline, helped commission the polling in nine states where they identified Republican senators who could be persuaded to support the Respect for Marriage Act but who were publicly undecided: Alaska, Missouri, West Virginia, Iowa, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana, Utah and Wyoming.
In Indiana, the data showed that one in four voters were much more likely to support a senator in support. In Iowa, the polling found, 76 percent of voters “are more likely to support a senator who votes for the R.M.A. or report no negative impact on their vote.”
The results were shared with the senators from those states and coordinated with a field campaign in which activists mobilized constituents to call their senators and express support for the measure. In total, the group patched through 30,000 advocacy calls from Republican constituents, hitting 16 Senate offices.
“In my experience, most important political decisions don’t get made just in Washington,” Mr. Mehlman said. “If you can take the pulse of the voters and congressional districts and mobilize activists and others, you’re going to be very persuasive.”
In the end, at least one senator from each of the states polled voted for the bill.
Susan Collins of Maine, who was the lead Republican negotiator in the Senate, credited Mr. Mehlman and the outside group’s efforts with helping to get her party over the finish line.
“It all helped shore up our supporters, and it certainly helped get us over the magic number of 10,” Ms. Collins said in an interview. “It made our supporters feel less alone, but it also played a critical role in getting us the margin. It gave Republicans who were on the bubble a sense of comfort.”
Read the full article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/08/us/politics/marriage-bill-gay-republicans.html