I kinda feel like it’s the first day of school and I am reporting on what I did this summer when I visited a popular theme park over Labor Day Weekend, but my trip to Orlando last week was all work. I went to Florida to attend Americans for Prosperity’s conferences, Right Online and Defending the American Dream Summit. They were great conferences, and it was so nice to see many good friends and meet new ones from across the country.
A lot of folks there were curious to hear about what I’ve been up to since leaving my full-time job with GOProud a couple of months ago. I told them about some of the writing, commentary, and consulting work I have been doing. Of course I also told them about my work with the ACLU’s Out for Freedom campaign – working to legalize civil marriage for gay couples across the country.
Some were a little surprised to learn that I have signed on as a consultant with the ACLU, but as I told them, everyone can find something to agree on with the ACLU. I’m helping the ACLU because they are leading the flagship effort to legalize civil marriage for gay couples in the states. It makes sense for them to take the lead because they have offices and infrastructure in all 50 states – and they have the financial resources to be effective. I am working on their Out for Freedom campaign, which is a $10 million effort to grow support for the freedom to marry among conservatives.
I’ve been saying for a long time that conservatives are no different from anyone else in the country, and they are thinking about the issue of same-sex marriage differently now. This was again confirmed during my discussions with activists in Orlando. Almost every single person I spoke with, with only a couple of exceptions, supports the freedom to marry for gay Americans. You see, all politics is personal. Everyone has gay people in their lives now, so they are thinking about this issue in a very personal way.
Conservatives know that marriage is good for people and good for society. More and more of them want that for their gay family and friends. They want the gay people in their lives to settle down, be monogamous, get married and be happy. And lots conservative are starting to publicaly come out and voice their support for civil marriage for gay couples. I was so glad to see some old friends and meet some news ones at the conferences who have publicly come ‘Out for Freedom.’
Ginger Eisenrod is a Tea Party activist from South Florida. A 67 year-old lifelong Republican, Ginger talked about her evolution on the issue of same sex marriage in this newspaper interview earlier this summer. I first met Ginger a couple of years ago, and I’m so proud of her recent efforts to lead more conservatives to her new position on marriage. I ran into her and some of her freedom-loving (and marriage-supporting) friends at a conference party Friday night. It was a nice surprise to get to see her!
I also got to spend some time on Friday evening with my friend from Michigan, Ray Patnaude. Like most of the folks I re-connected with at the conference, Ray and I usually only communicate on Facebook or Twitter, so it was nice to get to visit with him in person. Ray, who is a professional political consultant & lobbyist, is very open about his support for civil marriage for gay couples. Marriage equality is very personal for him. His mother is gay.
I got to meet a new friend on Saturday morning, Brandon Kenig. Brandon chairs the Young Republicans in Kansas. He came up to me and introduced himself because he recognized me and knew of my work to grow the conservative movement. Brandon and I had a long discussion about the generational divide on the issue of marriage. He’s like most young conservatives – he supports same sex marriage. Brandon and I talked about the political damage that some of the older conservatives who oppose gay marriage are doing to the Republican Party.
A lot of young conservatives think that the very vocal opposition to homosexuality and gay marriage of some older conservatives makes all conservatives look out of touch with life in America in 2013. The truth is that voters don’t want to listen to anything a candidate has to say if they think that the candidate is out of touch – that’s especially true of younger voters.
Of course my weekend wasn’t spent only talking about gay marriage!! There was a really great program put together by AFP, and a couple of thousand patriots coming together to work to build our movement to ultimately make our country better. It was a really good time – totally worth spending my Labor Day Weekend ‘working.’