Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry is a new organization that was launched at a reception on July 10 at the Capitol Hill Club, the social club for Republican party members and activists mere blocks from the U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court Building, and Library of Congress.
The featured speaker at the reception was Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), who as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is one of the highest-ranking women and Hispanics in Congress. (Ros-Lehtinen immigrated to the United States from Cuba.)
Calling the gathering of just over 100 people a “great celebration,” Ros-Lehtinen used her brief remarks to outline the shared values of Republicans and conservatives.
“This new initiative,” she said, “helps highlight the role of young conservatives and Republicans from around the country who agree on this issue and many others. We are all here because we believe in the same core principles.”
Those principles, she continued, include limited government.
“We believe that the best way that the federal government can help in spurring economic growth, which we so badly need in this country, is to get out of the way and let the small and medium businesses thrive.”
Another shared principle is, she said, “the equality of opportunity that’s available for each and every one of us, no matter where we come from, no matter our circumstances.”
She emphasized a third principle, “that the individual and the family are the central engines in our society. The right of individuals to lead their lives without government intrusion is a bedrock Republican, conservative value.”
More than sex
That central principle, Ros-Lehtinen said, “is more than just about sexual orientation.”
It is, she explained, “about the fundamental rights that we all share as Americans. It’s bad enough that we have to deal with the overregulation of our economy. No one should have to deal with government red tape when it comes to committing themselves to those whom they love.”
After her remarks, in an informal press gaggle that included the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner, the twelve-term congresswoman pointed out that an organization like Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry represents “a generational shift.”
The question of whether to expand marriage equality in the United States, she predicted, is “a problem that many years down the road, we’ll look back upon this time and say, ‘This was a problem? This was an issue? This was a ballot initiative?’”
‘New image for Republicans’
Ros-Lehtinen, who is seeking re-election this year in Florida’s 18th congressional district, said that “things are moving in the right direction thanks to the young people who are making a difference. To harness this energy on this issue,” she said, “is very important” because it presents “a whole new image for Republicans and we’ve got to win the minds and hearts of the next generation.”
From her perspective, she explained, “things are changing slowly — too slowly for me, but you’ve got to be working the issues at the local level in order to get to the very top.”
She pointed out that the reception was being held in the Capitol Hill Club, a traditional Republican gathering place, yet “everybody’s here and there’s no problem. Maybe even only 20 years ago, this would have created a ruckus.” (Indeed, the room where the reception was held had a portrait of the late Senator Jesse Helms, an ardent opponent of gay rights, hanging on the wall.)
Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, she said, “is organic. It’s from the bottom up. It’s going to change attitudes.”
Pressed by a reporter as to whether she is a supporter of gay marriage, Ros-Lehtinen said firmly, “I am” and then repeated, as if for more emphasis, “No, I am.”