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Opinion

Right on gays & principles

| Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010

Margaret Hoover is a conservative TV and radio commentator who advocates reforming the Republican Party through renewed emphasis on the conservative principles of individual freedom, fiscal responsibility and strong national defense.

She served as associate director in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in the Bush White House and is a veteran of two presidential campaigns -- President Bush's re-election campaign and Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid.

We spoke by phone Wednesday about the implications of a federal judge overturning California's gay marriage ban.

Q: You've been urging conservatives to support gay marriages. Why?

A: I encourage everyone to support gay marriage. But I'm coming at this as a conservative because I think it's consistent with conservative values. Especially the conservatism that emphasizes individual liberty and individual freedom.

I think this is frankly a constitutional issue of fundamental rights and (of) stopping discrimination that is institutionalized in our lives against gays and lesbians. And as a proponent of individual freedom to all individuals, to me it's a pretty easy argument -- that gays and lesbians are being discriminated against by the laws of our country, that Proposition 8 is discriminatory in its nature. ...

The reason I support conservatives to look at this is that if we're going to be a movement that represents individual freedom and champions individual initiative and government having less of a role and less interference in individual lives and choices, then it's hard to understand how this isn't consistent with our core values and our core principles.

Q: This really strikes a lot of people as a moral issue. Are you feeling any heat over this?

A: No, no, I'm really not. I understand there are a lot of people who feel very strongly about this and the majority of their views are based on their religion -- at least the people who are most motivated to speak out in disagreement with me.

I fully appreciate that and everybody is entitled to their opinions and to their morality.

I am also a religious person. And there are many, many religious people on both sides of this issue.

The reality is that especially with social conservatives who are strongly against this, the laws of our land are not derived from the Bible. We have a secular Constitution. ... We believe that our rights, yes, come from God and they're inalienable. But we've decided to build our country and to build our Constitution and to build our Bill of Rights around secular values that we all agreed upon 230 years ago.

People can have their own views and opinions about morality, but the laws of the land and the Constitution we have agreed will apply to everyone equally -- not based on one group's religion or moral views pitted against another group.

Q: You said that Republicans have found themselves on the wrong side of civil rights since about the 1960s and this is a chance to establish credibility on those issues again. What do you think the consequences are for the party if it gets this wrong?

A: I think there's a very good reason there are not many African-Americans who self-identify as Republicans. And ... I think that it would be irresponsible not to acknowledge our history in this sense.

Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act. William Rehnquist and Robert Bork wrote the opinions that advised him in that way. Bill Buckley also disagreed with the Civil Rights Act. The problem with conservatism and the problems with any ideology is that it doesn't hold up perfectly forever. The rubber hits the road at some place. And the consequence now for us, I think, is that the writing is on the wall. There's a whole new generation of people who feel very, very differently about this issue, about homosexuality as a morally acceptable phenomenon, than an older generation.

And it's very clearly -- if you look at every poll, every statistic -- it is very, very clearly a generational issue. If Republicans and conservatives dig in their heels against this, it will be yet another reason for youth, who, by the way, didn't really turn out in droves for the Republican candidate in 2008. The last numbers I checked out, roughly 30 percent of 30-and-unders voted for John McCain. That's 70 percent, plus or minus 2, (who) voted for Barack Obama.

This is an issue that young people understand very well because they have gay friends and they have gay sisters and brothers, and they're out and they realize that discriminating laws simply aren't advantageous. It is inconsistent with the American ideal.

Q: Has this case had an impact on you personally?

A: You know what• It's been an opportunity for me to speak out on something I feel very strongly about. I care a lot about conservatism and communicating conservatism to a new generation.

Somebody asked me why I got involved in this, and I didn't get involved because I have a gay sibling or gay relative or a gay best friend although I do have gay friends. It just to me seemed so obvious.

And there's nobody else -- it seems like there are very few people on the right saying this. And that's troublesome to me. I guess I ... spoke up because I felt like there was a need.

Q: You were born in Pittsburgh•

A: Yes, I was born at Magee-Womens Hospital and I was briefly a Steelers fan.

Q: Before you moved to Denver ...

A: I was still a Steelers fan before I became a Broncos fan.

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