Catalina Camia, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - Top Republicans, including veterans of the George W. Bush administration, former members of Congress and ex-governors, are calling on the Supreme Court to support same-sex marriage.
More than 80 prominent leaders will file a friend of the court brief this week in advance of the justices hearing oral arguments in two gay marriage cases. These Republicans are essentially saying gay couples have a constitutional right to marry and want the court to strike down California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.
The signers currently include former governors Jon Huntsman of Utah, Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey and William Weld of Massachusetts; former White House chief of staff Ken Mehlman and former national security adviser Stephen Hadley; and retired members of Congress, such as Mary Bono Mack of California and Deborah Pryce of Ohio.
Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman is also on record as backing the legal brief, which is a change of her previous position. When she ran unsuccessfully for California governor in 2010, Whitman supported Proposition 8. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., is the only active member of the House currently listed as supporting the brief.
The friend of the court brief is being organized by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the advocacy group that is challenging the California ballot measure, which has already been struck down by two lower courts.
The group helped put together the legal team that is challenging Proposition 8, which was headed by former Bush solicitor general Ted Olson and David Boies, best known as the lawyer who handled the 2000 Florida recount challenge for Al Gore.
"The conservative movement toward the freedom to marry is what we like to call the 'Ted Olson effect,'" said Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the organization. "We value the support of our conservative colleagues and welcome their voices to the growing majority of Americans who stand for marriage equality."
The Supreme Court will hear arguments March 26 and March 27 in a pair of same-sex marriage cases. Many briefs have been filed challenging Prop 8, in part because the high court's ruling could have far-reaching impact beyond California on the right of gay men and lesbians to marry.
The other case before the Supreme Court deals with the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The case applies to the benefits available to gay couples that are already married.