Republicans of conviction, like Branden Petersen of Minnesota, lead the way.
The GOP is returning to its core values — and that’s good for our party and good for America. Republicans increasingly recognize that the freedom to marry is consistent with our belief in limited government and individual freedom.
To date, 206 Republican state legislators across the nation have stood up for the freedom to marry; just last week, 130 Republican leaders signed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to follow precedent and recognize the constitutional guarantee that freedom really means freedom for everyone.
Across the country, thoughtful Republicans are adding their voices to the call for freedom, and courageous Minnesota State Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, is the latest example.
Petersen is a true conservative leader. His priorities are balancing the state budget, cutting and simplifying taxes, and reforming education to put the needs of kids ahead of the unions. Petersen was one of only six members of the Minnesota House of Representatives to earn a 100 percent rating from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce in 2011, and was selected as one of 2012’s “Best Friends of the Taxpayer” by the Taxpayers League of Minnesota.
In addition to these impressive accolades, Petersen has been described as one of the most conservative legislators to ever represent his district.
He also made headlines recently for cosponsoring a bill to extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples in the North Star State.
Despite his conservative record, Petersen has come under fire from the so-called National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which inappropriately threatened to spend $500,000 to end his career — or that of any other disobedient Republican. But Petersen is standing on his conservative principles and not backing down.
“Regardless of the amount,” he told reporters, “whether it’s $500,000 or $50 million, my vote is not going to be bought either way. I’m going to do what’s right.”
The tide has turned, and conservative Republicans are no longer being intimidated by the single-issue crowd whose narrow agenda has made it harder for our party to appeal to the next generation.
NOM would have people believe they are successful at punishing Republicans who support freedom. But the results suggest otherwise.
When New York Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward voted for marriage freedom in 2007, she was told by fellow Republicans that she would never be elected again. Representing one of the most conservative districts in New York, Sayward returned home proud of her vote and ready to defend her principles, and the voters respected her for it. She was re-elected two more times before choosing to retire last year.
Stories like Sayward’s are seen nationwide. Marriage was debated last year in New Hampshire. Incredibly, the Republican-dominated House voted 211-116 to uphold the state’s marriage law, with a clear majority of Republicans, 119 in total, voting in favor of the freedom to marry. Once again, NOM came out with threats. And what happened? Of the profreedom Republicans, 86 percent won their primaries and half went unopposed.
Why did the good guys win? For starters, Republican primary voters, like their neighbors, are becoming increasingly supportive of their gay friends and family members — that’s the reason the freedom to marry recently went 4 for 4 at the ballot box.
Second, Republicans no longer respond positively to the nasty, divisive rhetoric on which NOM relies, and they appreciate public servants who are willing to stand on principle, even when they might disagree. And third, Republicans care most about fixing our economy, shrinking government, creating jobs and empowering individuals, the very priorities that Sen. Petersen is focused on.
Republicans win elections when they offer positive and practical solutions that benefit all Americans. Instead of looking for new enemies, thoughtful Republican leaders are creating new allies by focusing on individual freedom and economic prosperity.
Sen. Petersen is part of the growing wave of Republicans who not only have the courage to stand up for their convictions, but have the potential to lead us back to being the party of Lincoln.
Margaret Hoover is a political commentator and former Bush administration official.