Former Republic National Chairman Launches Gay Rights Project

Ken Mehlman Announces Launch of Project Right Side

On Tuesday, November 20, 2012, Ken Mehlman announced the launch of Project Right Side in a  Wall Street Journal op-ed. Campaign manager for the Bush-Cheney Campaign in 2004, New York businessman Mehlman came out as gay in 2010., at age forty-three. See http://Making the Same-Sex Case, Wall Street Journal, 11/20/12 .

Project Right Side: Its Purpose

This new nonprofit with a James Bond-type title Project Right Side was founded by Mehlman to build conservative support for marriage equality. Mehlman was considered to be the most powerful Republican in history to identify as gay and was the target of gay rights activist Mike Rogers’s outing campaign when he was Bush’s campaign manager.

With Project Right Side, Mehlman aims to educate that Democrats are not the only advocates for gay rights. He hopes to convince more conservatives, traditionally thought of as opposing gay rights, to support marriage equality as the Log Cabin Republicans, GOProud and the newer Younger Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry have done.

As Mehlman, who has fundraised for marriage equality initiatives and publicly spoken out for them, points out in his op-ed, points out it behooves Conservatives to embrace some of America’s fastest-growing constituencies: LGBT persons whose issues the Republican party failed to take into account during this past election.

Core Convictions Can Remain the Same For Republicans Who Align Themselves

Mehlman argues that “what could be more conservative than support for more freedom and less government? And what freedom is more basic than the right to marry the person you love?  Smaller, less government?  Smaller, less intrusive government surely includes an individual deciding whom to marry. Allowing civil marriage for same-sex couples will cultivate community stability, encourage fidelity and commitment, and foster family values. … “

“In 29 states, individuals can be fired based on their sexual orientation. Conservatives believe that individuals should be judged at work based on performance, so shouldn’t we fix this?”

Some Findings from Project Right Side

The GOP polling firm Target Point for Project Right Side surveyed 16,000 voters over the past year; over-sampling Republican and swing voters in battleground states, including 2,000 Election Night voters. Their findings:

  • American majority favor civil marriage for same-sex couples, 49% to 46%. Maine (53%-47%), Maryland (52%-48%), Washington (52%-48%) legalized same-sex marriage at the polls, and Minnesota (51%-49%) voted down a ban on same-sex marriage.
  • In Maryland, there was majority support for marriage equality in strong GOP precincts that voted for Mitt Romney.
  • These trends are growing quickly and across all demographics. Other polls over past year show majority support for civil marriage among African-Americans (51%), Hispanics (52%), and voters between the ages of 18 and 39 (66%).  41% increase (31% from 22%) in support among Republicans over the past three years, to 31% from 22%.
  • The marriage-equality issue is more important to supporters than to opponents. Only 35% of Romney’s supporters said that his opposition made them “much more” likely to support him as opposed to 45% of Obama’s supporters who were “much more likely” to support the President.
  • A majority of independents favor marriage equality. Eighty percent of independents agree that “the government should stay out of the private lives of adults, including gays and lesbians.” 58% of independents in target states support allowing gay couples to marry.
  • Republicans are increasingly supportive of legal protections for gay Americans: 73% support employment nondiscrimination protections for gays and lesbians, 61% support safe-schools protection, and 46% support allowing same-sex couples to jointly file tax returns.
  • Voters under 45 strongly favor marriage equality. 60% of such voters said the law should the marriage of gay and lesbian couples as valid, with same rights as traditional marriage.