ACLU Hires Steve Schmidt to Bring Republicans Into Same-Sex Marriage Push

June 26, 2013 11:21 am

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Announces $10 Million War Chest for 50-State Initiative After Court Strikes Down DOMA

June 26, 2013

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NEW YORK – Within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in the landmark United States v. Windsor case, the American Civil Liberties Union announced a nationwide campaign to bring Republicans into its efforts to strike down barriers to the freedom to marry in states across the country.

“Today’s historic Supreme Court decision will pave the way for full equality for gay and lesbian couples across America,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “But for a full civil liberties victory, we need broad-based support from coast to coast. That’s why the ACLU is joining with Republican leaders to fight to end state-based limits on the freedom to marry.”

With the goal of working both with and within the Republican Party, the ACLU has hired Steve Schmidt, vice chairman of public affairs at Edelman. Schmidt has provided strategic counsel to Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and nonprofits. Previously, he has worked on Capitol Hill as the communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, served as one of the top strategists during President Bush’s 2004 re-election and as a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush. Schmidt also directed strategic communications for the nomination of Chief Justice Roberts and led the nomination of Justice Alito. In 2006, he was campaign manager for the re-election of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and served as the senior advisor to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Schmidt’s role will be to help spearhead the campaign to strike down state-based laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. The campaign will, over the next four years, challenge legislative and constitutional provisions in states such as Illinois, Oregon, Hawaii, New Mexico, and others. The ACLU aims to spend roughly $10 million through 2016 and will officially announce the initiative with an ad in tomorrow’s edition of The Wall Street Journal.

As part of the broad-based effort to involve conservatives in the movement to encourage the freedom to marry, the ACLU has hired conservative strategist Jimmy LaSalvia. LaSalvia is the founder and former executive director of GOProud and will work with the ACLU to do outreach to gay conservatives, particularly within the Tea Party.

“The Republican party stands for freedom, for limited government intrusion in our personal lives and for freedom,” said Schmidt. “The issue of marriage equality is the Republican Party’s best chance to stand on the right side of history, create a meaningful legacy of fairness, and maintain relevance with young voters. I am proud to help the ACLU make all couples equal in the eyes of the law in all 50 states.”

In February 2013, Schmidt, along with 74 other Republicans, submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of overturning California’s Proposition 8.

Romero believes that we now face the unprecedented opportunity to achieve the freedom to marry, not just in typically progressive states, but throughout the country. “The key to our success will be to partner across party lines, and to champion the non-partisan issue of fairness in all of the challenging states that remain,” Romero said. “We will transform our country’s landscape so that there is freedom to marry in every state.”

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