Morning Joe
updated 3/4/2013 1:45:40 PM ET 2013-03-04T18:45:40

100 prominent Republicans signed a friend-of-the-court brief seeking to overturn California's Proposition 8 and stating that marriage is a constitutional right for gay couples in a sign the party is moving forward on the issue.

Last Thursday, in a sign that the GOP is recalibrating its image after 2012, 100 prominent Republicans (many of whom are no longer serving in office) signed a friend-of-the-court brief seeking to overturn California’s Proposition 8, which effectively banned same-sex marriage in the state shortly after it became legal. The brief states the opinion that marriage is a constitutional right for gay couples—a position that goes beyond even President Obama’s stance on marriage equality.

One of the signers, former communications chief for George W. Bush and senior advisor for the McCain–Palin campaign Nicolle Wallace, joined Morning Joe Monday morning to share why she supports the GOP’s effort for marriage equality.

President Obama also filed a similar brief on Thursday, marking the first time a president has asked the Supreme Court to allow gay couples to marry. Obama stopped short of calling marriage equality a constitutional right.

The moment is a historic one for gay rights and marriage equality, and it represents an interesting moment for Republicans as well. While top leaders seem to be signaling a willingness to be more inclusive, the GOP base appears to remain skeptical of supporting same-sex marriage.

NBC News’ Miranda Leitsinger points to the National Organization for Marriage’s dissent:

The legal brief was dismissed by the National Organization for Marriage, which on Monday pledged $500,000 to defeat Republican lawmakers supporting any law to allow same-sex marriage in Minnesota, a state considering such legislation.

“None of these people are actively in politics. They are not running for office because they know … supporting same-sex marriage will end your career if you’re a Republican,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president. “There’s overwhelming support for traditional marriage in the Republican party, that’s why it’s part of the party platform, and any attempt by the establishment to redefine marriage and redefine what it means to be a conservative will mean the death of the Republican party.”

The brief was filed by former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, who is also gay, and among the signers are former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, Jon Huntsman of Utah and former Mass. Gov. William Weld.

Wallace told Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski why she signed the brief.

“And I think some Republicans have felt for a long time—and maybe we’ve been too quiet about it—that if you really revere marriage and you really think marriage is this great institution that stabilizes society. That children should be raised in homes where their parents are married, then you should be the most zealous and outspoken advocate for gay marriage because you should believe that marriage is that great institution on which all families should be built,” Wallace said.

While Slate‘s Brian Palmer writes “[t]he opinion of many legal scholars is that the brief will have minimal impact,” Wallace calls the brief a “…historic move for 100 prominent Republicans to take.”

The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments for same-sex marriage on March 26 and 27, 2013.

Video: Fmr. GWB staffer on why she supports marriage equality

  1. Closed captioning of: Fmr. GWB staffer on why she supports marriage equality

    >> this beautiful shot of new york city .

    >> can we just say, willie, really quickly --

    >> and then i want to talk to nicolle about what she's been up to.

    >> we want to talk about rory.

    >> i don't. what have you been up to?

    >> well, last week i joined a group of 100 republicans who signed a friend of the court brief in support of the ted olsen / david boies side in front of the supreme court overturn prop 8 which was obviously an historic move for 100 prominent republicans to take. and i think represents --

    >> tell everybody about prop 8.

    >> prop 8 was the california law that banned gay marriage , and it's been struck down and deemed unconstitutional by the lower courts. and it will be in front of the supreme court this spring. we have some friends who -- ken mehlman has spearheaded the effort to bring republicans along. it really has done a real service to the party, because i think this is the direction that the country is heading. and i think some republicans have felt for a long time -- and maybe we've been too quiet about it -- but it felt if you really revere marriage and you really think marriage is this great constitution that stabilizes society, that children should be raised in homes where their parents are married, then you should be the most zealous and outspoken advocate for gay marriage because you should believe that marriage is that great institution in which -- on which all families should be built.

    >> who are some republicans who have signed this?

    >> steve hadley , former national security adviser to president bush , james comey . meg whitman . former gubernatorial candidate. so it's a large group . and i think more important than -- much more important than people like me, probably all 99 names are more important than people like me --

    >> oh, i doubt that. she's so humble, willie, after all these years.

    >> the conservative legal establishment has accepted this argument that equal protection under the law means access to marriage. means that everyone -- that no one can be denied the right to marry. that no class of people can be treated differently and be granted different rights is pretty significant.

    >> tell them who ted olsen is.

    >> so ted olsen was president bush 's solicitor general. he was the top legal mind in the bush administration . and he has partnered with david boies who is, i'm sure, famous for many reasons, one of which defending al gore in the 2000 recount. so there is this legal dream team that came together. and ted olsen has been an incredibly persuasive and effective voice on the right, making this legal argument and laying out a conservative legal framework for why marriage equality should be the law of the land .

    >> did sarah palin sign?

    >> probably not.

    >> is she on this list? do you want to double check on that?

    >> i'll double check on that.

    >> what about herman cain ?

    >> i don't think he's there yet either. don't cross her when she's on 'roids.

    >> singing the sequester soap opera , joe's piece in "the new york times," if i can get to it.

    >> okay.

    >> it would be nice. "does president obama really expect americans to believe -- after four years, the banking and auto bailouts, several stimulus bills and a run of record deficits -- that our $16 trillion economy cannot absorb $42 billion of spending reductions? even if the white house believes that such posturing is good politics, it's a strategy that adds up to a fiscal russian roulette and cheapens the debate, and neither side can afford to do that. democrats and republicans need to retarget these cuts in a smarter way and confront the debt ceiling debate which has been push add head by a few months. if they fail to do so, americans might not remember where they were when the sequester happened, but historians will record the dismal legacy that the president and congress are leaving behind." i would agree with that. i think they could have done it. i don't know why it didn't happen.

    >> i just don't know why they can't make a deal. they can't --

    >> they can't do it.

    >> they can't get together. you have both sides pulling each other apart. and mike, you know, in this case, this first year, it is a penny on the dollar. it's $42 billion out of $3.553 billion. the bad news is that it's the stupidest way to cut. don't go to discretionary domestic spending. that's the last place you want to cut. that's investments. they still haven't touch eed entitlements, with all of the cuts that we've seen over the past couple of years. and they now have a chance starting in march for the appropriators to get in there. you almost feel like telling barack obama and john boehner , you guys go to france for a couple of weeks, and let the appropriators that haven't worked in regular order for the past three years, let the appropriators in the senate and the house, republicans and democrats alike, to reorder these cuts, and they'll do it right.

    >> the sequester cuts are dumber than dirt. i mean, the way it's being employed. but to your point, how about just getting the head of any american household to come in and take a look at the budget? because they could cut it more effectively than the sequester cuts. they've been doing it for a decade. people have been doing it at home for a decade. taking one penny out of their dollar.

    >> all right. you can get all of our --

    >> and again, i keep saying a penny out of a dollar. it's important for people to know, that's this year.

    >> over seven months.

    >> over the next seven months. it then doubles.

    >> that's right.

    >> and then it gets worse after that.

    >> that's right.

    >> so we have breathing room. planes around going to fall out of the sky.

    >> but we had this mechanism in place to avoid -- i don't know.

    >> i know.

    >> i don't know. you can get all of our must-read op-eds on our website. and while you're there, check out my latest blog on this incredible woman, danielle crutchfield called the president's gatekeeper. you'd better get to know her. part of my "women of value" series. my instinct is no.

    >> probably not.

    >> you can see that at mojo --

    >> if he calls and wants to come to mojo --

    >> her life is incredible. talk about a witness to history. she is there as every decision is made and every change in the schedule is made and why.

    >> that's amazing. you know who else is amazing? chuck todd .

    >> he's still ahead on " morning joe " along with best-selling author wes moore. more " morning joe " when we come back.

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