By Catalina Camia
February 27, 2013

WASHINGTON — Top Republicans — including veterans of the George W. Bush administration, former members of Congress and ex-governors — are calling on the Supreme Court to support same-sex marriage.

More than 80 prominent leaders will file a friend-of-the-court brief this week before the justices hear oral arguments in two gay-marriage cases. These Republicans are essentially saying gay couples have a constitutional right to marry and want the court to strike down California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.

The signers include former Govs. Jon Huntsman of Utah, Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey and William Weld of Massachusetts; former White House chief of staff Ken Mehlman and former national security adviser Stephen Hadley, and retired members of Congress, such as Mary Bono Mack of California and Deborah Pryce of Ohio.

Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman is also on record as backing the legal brief, which is a change from her previous position. When she ran unsuccessfully for California governor in 2010, Whitman supported Proposition 8. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., is the only active member of the House currently listed as supporting the brief.

The brief is being organized by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the advocacy group challenging the California ballot measure, which has been struck down by two lower courts.

The group helped put together the legal team challenging Proposition 8, which was headed by former Bush solicitor general Ted Olson and David Boies, best known as the lawyer who handled the 2000 Florida recount challenge for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore.

“The conservative movement toward the freedom to marry is what we like to call the ‘Ted Olson effect,’ ” said Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the organization. “We value the support of our conservative colleagues and welcome their voices to the growing majority of Americans who stand for marriage equality.”

The Supreme Court will hear arguments March 26-27 in a pair of same-sex marriage cases. Many briefs have been filed challenging Proposition 8, in part because the high court’s ruling could have far-reaching impact beyond California on the right of gay men and lesbians to marry.

The other case before the Supreme Court deals with the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. The case applies to the benefits available to gay couples who are already married.