By Will Hall, Baptist Message Editor
EDITOR’S NOTE: For this news report the Baptist Message researched only campaign staff – individuals each candidate chose for his respective inner circle of advisers — not contractors that provide some type of specialized or peripheral services for the campaign (like legal review of state ballot applications or phone fundraising or such). Campaign staff names were verified through professionally curated political information from non-partisan sources including Ballotpedia.
ALEXANDRIA – Rich Beeson, deputy campaign manager for presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, was one of more than 300 establishment Republicans to sign a controversial friend of the court brief last year asking the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage.
Although reported by Politico in an April 2015 article, “Republicans try to have it both ways on gay marriage,” it is an issue that largely has gone unnoticed during the campaign, even as Republican candidates seek to secure conservative support.
Cross checking the names of campaign staffers for billionaire Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Rubio against the names attached to the writ of certiorari [which described the signers as having “traditional conservative values” that are “consistent with—indeed, are advanced by—providing civil marriage rights to same-sex couples”] shows no other staff members from the three leading Republican campaigns were among those listed.
But Beeson was joined in signing the 2015 document by a who’s who crowd of political operatives with ties to the national Republican Party as well as the campaigns of Republican establishment favorites Dick Cheney, John McCain and Mitt Romney.
The document largely was the effort of Ken Mehlman— campaign manager for former President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection effort, and, chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2006-2008—who hid his own homosexuality until 2010 when he said he had finally arrived “at this conclusion about his identity.”
Beeson was not listed among the names on the original paperwork, but asked to be included in an amended writ which deleted some names and added others by request. In the updated material sent to the U.S. Supreme Court, Beeson identified himself as “Political Director, Romney for President, 2011-2012, Political Director, Republican National Committee, 2007-2008.”
Rubio’s selection of Beeson as his deputy campaign manager appears consistent with the practicing Catholic’s nuanced approach to the issue of homosexuality.
In an interview, April 19, 2015, on CBS’ Face the Nation, Rubio objected to Bob Schieffer’s contention the senator was “against” legalizing homosexual nuptials.
“It’s not that I’m against gay marriage, but I believe the definition of the institution of marriage should be between one man and one woman,” Rubio corrected. He also said courts should not be making such decisions, noting, “I don’t believe same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.”
As for the origins of homosexuality, Rubio said sexual preferences are not a choice, but “something that people are born with”—a notion out of sync with science and most Americans according to the Pew Research Center.
Moreover, Reuters reports Rubio’s U.S. Senate office has held quarterly meetings with Log Cabin Republicans (a homosexual activist group) “to discuss legislation, issues and opportunities to partner on.”
So far, Rubio’s appeal among conservatives is a mixed bag, and Beeson’s link to gay marriage has not been an issue—and neither has Rubio’s view on sexual preference or his consulting with gay activists:
— Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention reported Jan. 28 that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. had accepted Rubio’s invitation to serve on the Florida senator’s pro-life advisory board along with author and speaker Ravi Zacharias, former Evangelical Theological Society president Francis Beckwith and others. The article also noted Rubio had found a receptive Russell Moore to coauthor a Dec. 2015 Washington Post op-ed “calling readers to ‘remember slaughtered Christians in the Middle East.’ ” Moore is president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, a public policy group.
— Meanwhile, Phyllis Schafly, a fellow Catholic with Rubio and the 91-year-old founder of Eagle Forum, a conservative interest group, and also known as one of the architects of the modern conservative movement, especially pro-life causes, has written a scathing 15-page memo describing Rubio as “lying to conservative media” regarding his views on immigration issues.
— In a nationwide Public Religion Research Institute poll of white evangelicals, Rubio trails both Cruz (Southern Baptist) and Trump (Presbyterian) in popularity within this important voter bloc, but still scores respectably (51 percent to 57 percent and 53 percent, respectively).
While only one of the three leading GOP contenders has a known gay marriage advocate in a key position, two candidates in the remaining Republican field have also hired establishment political types with pro-homosexual views.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tapped David Kochel as chief strategist and Mike Murphy as Super PAC manager for his run for the White House:
— Kochel was an original signer of the Mehlman gay marriage initiative, identifying himself on the document as “Senior Iowa Advisor, Mitt Romney for President, 2007-2008 and 2011-2012.” But after going to work for Bush’s political action committee he withdrew his name, telling TIME, “I have decided not to sign advocacy petitions of any kind.”
— Murphy also was among the first to support Mehlman’s manifesto, as a “Republican Political Consultant,” and kept his name attached to it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Brian Jones, listed as a political advisor and senior communications consultant for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign staff, also signed the gay marriage endorsement, calling himself “Senior Advisor, Romney for President, 2012, and Communications Director, McCain for President, 2008.”
The fact the three establishment candidates have opened their inner circle of advisors to those with pro-gay views could point to a fundamental shift within the Grand Old Party itself.
For three consecutive presidential campaigns the GOP platform has reinforced the notion of marriage and family in traditional terms:
— In 2004, a key plank recognized “the importance of having in the home a father and a mother who are married” and extolled this model of the two-parent family as providing “the best environment of stability, discipline, responsibility, and character.”
— Four years later, the official Republican position, stated “our children’s future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage” and called for a constitutional amendment “that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it.”
— In the last contest for the White House, the Republican Party called an activist judiciary “perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance” and cited as a “blatant example” the “court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States.” This policy statement also reaffirmed “marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
Now, with the U.S. Supreme Court overturning 26 voter-approved state amendments defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, the signal sent by the three Republican establishment candidates’ hiring pro-gay marriage aides could mean a shift from traditional marriage as a key party conviction in a concession to a changing political context.