Margaret Hoover: Delaware Republicans should support the freedom to marry

Author: Margaret Hoover

Publication: Delaware Online

Publication Date: May 3, 2013

The time is right for Republicans in the First State to lead on the freedom to marry. With a growing majority of Americans supporting civil marriage for all, Republicans are re-examining their values and realizing that moving toward freedom for everyone isn't just popular - it's the right thing to do.

Democrats have an early lead in the push for marriage, but in many cases, they are now being outpaced by Republicans. Democratic Sen. Tom Carper and Congressman John Carney recently announced their support. The same week they did so, Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois made headlines for his change of opinion, and two weeks before that, Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio embraced the issue.

For all the changes at the national level, even more Republicans have stood up for the freedom to marry at the state and local levels. In Delaware, state Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley) co-sponsored the marriage equality bill that passed the House. Republicans have stepped up to the plate in New Hampshire and New York as well, casting deciding votes to protect and promote the freedom to marry in their states. In Rhode Island, the entire Senate GOP Conference backed the issue. More than 200 Republicans throughout 13 states, including Maryland and New Jersey, have voted for freedom for their friends and neighbors. With this powerful trend continuing, it's clear that the freedom to marry is no longer a partisan issue.

What's behind Republicans' change? For many, they're going back to the basics and re-assessing how their values should apply to politics.

The official "Guiding Principles" of the Delaware GOP espouse individual freedom and personal responsibility. They say the people of Delaware should be free to make their own decisions, even if some people feel that those decisions are mistakes. They state that families, not government, are the best way tocare for people. They resolve the GOP must "be committed to working always in the interest of Delaware's families." This principle resonates with people who know and appreciate the dangers of big government and people of faith who live by the Golden Rule.

Many faith leaders support Delaware's freedom to marry legislation, including Wayne Wright, the state's Episcopal Bishop. Dr. Donald Morton, pastor of Perfected Life Church in Wilmington, recently explained his support for the freedom to marry as "making sure that everybody has equal protection under the law, whether they are black, white, gay or straight, everyone has equal protection under the law." Delaware's freedom to marry bill strikes the right balance - respecting the freedom of churches to define marriage as they see fit andensuring all couples are treated equally regardless of their orientation.

The love and commitment contained within the bonds of marriage are a common need forevery couple, gay or straight. For gay and lesbian couples, the freedom to marry means stability, security and equal treatment under the law. For their children, it means their parents are able to care for them best with the legal rights and protections they need. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy summed it up during the court's hearings: "They want their parents to have full recognition and status."

 Conservatives have long argued society is better off when couples settle down and make lifelong commitments to each other. A civil society reaps the same benefitswhen same-sex couples marry. They join their families and assets, meaning they're less likely to depend on government. For pro-freedom Republicans, we see this as a way to reinvigorate the institution of marriage and reinforce its importance.

Delaware's freedom to marry bill is consistent with conservative values. As the bill advances to the Senate, First State Republicans have a tremendous opportunity to honor their fundamental principles and advocate freedom for everyone.

Margaret Hoover is a CNN political contributor and the best-selling author of the book "American Individualism: How A New Generation of Conservatives Can Save the Republican Party." She serves as president of American Unity Fund.