He endorsed same-sex marriage last month, in an interview with the Washington Blade.
Today, Mr. Schmidt, who also served as a top Bush aide, discusses the subject with the Log Cabin Republicans, a group that supports gay rights. According to CNN, he will call on conservative Republicans to drop their opposition at a lunchtime speech in Washington.
Mr. Schmidt, who has a sister who is a lesbian, plans to say that there is nothing about gay marriage that is un-American or that threatens the rights of others and that in fact it is in line with conservative principles.
“There is a sound conservative argument to be made for same-sex
marriage,” Mr. Schmidt plans to say, according to speech excerpts obtained
by CNN. “I believe conservatives, more than liberals, insist that rights
come with responsibilities. No other exercise of one’s liberty comes with
greater responsibilities than marriage.’”
His remarks come in the midst of a flurry of legislative and judicial activity advancing gay marriage in various states. In the last two weeks, Iowa and Vermont have approved same-sex marriage, joining Connecticut and Massachusetts. The movement appears to be picking up steam in other states too, including New York, where Gov. David Paterson introduced a bill on Thursday to legalize gay marriage.
In his interview with The Blade, Mr. Schmidt said he voted against California’s Proposition 8, which ended same-sex marriage in that state. Mr. McCain supported the measure and has opposed gay marriage.
But Mr. Schmidt, who said he has never agreed “100 percent” with any candidate for whom he has worked, is undeterred.
“I’m personally supportive of equality for gay couples and I believe that it will happen over time,” he told The Blade. “I think that more and more Americans are insistent that, at a minimum, gay couples should be treated with respect and when they see a political party trying to stigmatize a group of people who are hard-working, who play by the rules, who raise decent families, they’re troubled by it.”
He said that his views had been shaped by the presence of a gay person in his family. He did not disclose his sister’s identity but said she accepted her sexual orientation.
“I think one of the most tragic things in the world [is] when people are closeted and are denied their sexuality and this incredibly important part of their lives and the destructive potential of that action,” Mr. Schmidt told The Blade. “And I’ve come to believe over time that, as Dick Cheney said, freedom for everybody means freedom for everybody.”
Mr. Cheney has a lesbian daughter.
It would be a watershed moment in American politics if other Republicans began supporting gay marriage, just as it would be if President Obama joined some of his fellow Democrats and got on board.
In last year’s presidential campaign, Mr. Obama said he believed marriage should be between a man and a woman, but he also said he opposed a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage.
“Historically we have not defined marriage in our constitution,” Mr. Obama said in August at a forum at the Saddleback Church with Mr. McCain. “It has been a matter of state law. That’s been our tradition.”
He did say he supported civil unions. “I don’t think in any way this affects my core beliefs about what marriage is,” Mr. Obama said. “My faith is strong enough and my marriage is strong enough that I can afford those civil rights to others.”