Just three years ago, gay marriage was considered such a winning issue for conservatives that Karl Rove could write, in his 2010 book, that it “revealed the nuttiness of the Left, which never saw how persistent America’s traditionalism really was.”
Well, not that persistent. Legal gay marriage moved so fast in 2013 it startled even its supporters: In June, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, creating federal marriage benefits for the first time. Eight new states legalized gay marriage, New Mexico and Utah as recently as this month. In November, two male former cadets were married in the first gay wedding at West Point.
There are still many parts of the country that are staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage—places where gay people face not only discrimination but physical danger. But in 2013 it became clear that supporting gay marriage isn’t a deal-killer even for conservatives—and it might even have turned into a smart career move. Dozens of prominent Republicans, including former top Bush advisers as well as William Weld, Jon Huntsman, and Christie Todd Whitman, responded to the Supreme Court case by filing an amicus brief in support of gay marriage. If support for it once looked like nuttiness, it’s now undeniably mainstream.
As for Rove himself, in March the ABC talk show host and former Bill Clinton staffer George Stephanopoulos asked him if he could envision the next GOP candidate fully supporting gay marriage.
“I could,” Rove said.