Third Way Launches Groundbreaking, Bipartisan “Commitment Campaign”

Commitment: The Answer to the Middle’s Questions on Marriage for Gay Couples

November 07, 2011

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Washington, DC – The “Commitment Campaign,” a groundbreaking, bipartisan national effort aimed at developing and deepening support among middle American voters—moderates and Independents—for allowing gay couples to marry, launches today.

Created by Third Way, the nation’s leading moderate think tank, the Commitment Campaign will work with policymakers and advocates to persuade the middle that gay couples want to marry so that they can make a lifetime commitment, not simply for rights and benefits. This first-of-its-kind campaign has already enlisted the bipartisan support of prominent political leaders and activists including Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D), former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee (I), and former New Jersey Governor and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman (R ), among others.

After three years of extensive research, Third Way is encouraging a major shift in the principal narrative and framework around marriage for gay couples: focusing on lifetime commitment instead of rights. The Commitment Campaign will work with policymakers in Washington and marriage advocates to build moderate support for marriage for gay couples using this framework and will have three core components: taking a lead in working with key Senators, Congressmen, and the Obama Administration in repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, helping pass state ballot and legislative measures, and shifting public opinion in advance of a potentially historic Supreme Court decision.

Support for marriage is increasing across the country, as 53% of Americans now support marriage for gay and lesbian couples according to Gallup. The recent passage of marriage in New York state potentially signifies a tipping point on the issue. But the next handful of years will put that support to the test in states, in Congress, and in the courts. The Commitment Campaign will help to win over soft supporters and skeptical voters in the middle, which Third Way believes will prove to be the key to victory.

Major launch endorsements of the Commitment Campaign indicate the urgency of this new approach.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who is pushing his state’s legislature to pass marriage in 2012, voiced his support for the effort, saying, “Americans of all walks of life want their children to live in a loving, stable, committed home—protected under the law. By focusing on these values, the Commitment Campaign will help broaden support for marriage across the country and help states like Maryland pass marriage legislation in the near term."

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, whose state may also have marriage legislation pending next year, concurred, “Third Way’s Commitment Campaign will play a vital role in helping to move the country towards allowing gay couples to enter into lasting relationships. It will also foster a shift in the way many Americans think about marriage for gay couples.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a leading voice on LGBT issues in the Senate, has also endorsed the campaign’s framework and goals, “Taking this message of commitment to the American people will help us broaden support for marriage nationwide and ensure that other states follow in New York’s footsteps.”

And former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman noted the importance of bringing the campaign’s message to Americans across the political spectrum, noting, “Third Way’s Commitment Campaign will be among the most strategic and effective national efforts to broaden support for marriage, with a unique focus on winning over moderates, Independents, conservatives, and Republicans.”

Third Way President Jon Cowan remarked, “The Commitment Campaign will be a signature project of Third Way over the coming years. We feel strongly that allowing all committed couples to make a promise of fidelity to each other for life is something that Americans should embrace, and we hope to play a significant role in moving our country in that direction.”

What the Commitment Campaign Champions had to say:

Dale Carpenter, Conservative Legal Scholar and Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School ( R)

“By focusing on conservative values like commitment and responsibility, the Commitment Campaign will help more Americans realize that gay couples want to make a promise to each other and join—not attack—the traditions that have made our country strong.”

Governor Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island (I)

“Gay and lesbian couples share the same aspirations as other Americans: to make a promise of lifetime commitment to each other and to create a stable and loving home. Third Way’s Commitment Campaign will play a vital role in helping to move the country towards allowing gay couples to enter into lasting relationships. It will also foster a shift in the way many Americans think about marriage for gay couples.”

Attorney General Doug Gansler, Maryland (D)

“As Maryland and other states look to pass legislation in the next handful of years allowing gay couples to marry, we must lead with messages that resonate with Americans in the middle. A lifetime commitment is the lens through which people view their own marriages, and the more they understand that it is what gay couples want, too, the faster we will be able to make their commitment a reality.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New York (D)

“New Yorkers know that gay couples want to marry to show their commitment and love, and we are thrilled they can now do so legally in our great state. Taking this message of commitment to the American people will help us broaden support for marriage nationwide and ensure that other states follow in New York’s footsteps.”

Governor Martin O’Malley, Maryland (D)

“Americans of all walks of life want their children to live in a loving, stable, committed home—protected under the law. By focusing on these values, the Commitment Campaign will help broaden support for marriage across the country and help states like Maryland pass marriage legislation in the near term."

Ken Mehlman, former chair of the Republican National Committee ( R)

“Commitment, responsibility, and fidelity are values that the Republican Party has long championed, and they are values that animate my personal support for allowing gay couples to marry. Third Way’s Commitment Campaign will be among the most strategic and effective national efforts to broaden support for marriage, with a unique focus on winning over moderates, Independents, conservatives, and Republicans. I am proud to team up with Third Way in our shared efforts to enable all Americans to commit to marriage.”

Charles T. Moran, Chairman of the California Log Cabin Republicans ( R)

“Committed, monogamous couples are the ingredients that help to build strong families, strong communities, and a strong nation. As a Republican, I believe we need to focus more on these conservative values to broaden support for allowing gay couples to marry. The Commitment Campaign will help bring a new voice to the debate and remind us that commitment and fidelity are the traditional principles to which gay couples are seeking to adhere by joining the tradition of marriage.”

Congressman Jared Polis, Colorado (D)

“Once people understand that gay couples want to marry to make a promise of commitment, not a political statement, they become much more accepting of the idea. By elevating this message through the Commitment Campaign, I believe we can speed our journey to equality.”

Christine Todd Whitman, former Governor of New Jersey ( R)

“I’ve long been an advocate for the Republican Party returning to its core conservative values, and I think commitment and responsibility are two of those principles. The Commitment Campaign can help to bring an important message to moderate and conservative Americans: allowing gay couples to promise lifetime commitment and fidelity to each other is something we should all embrace. By broadening support for the commitments of gay couples, we can help to refocus our political energies on the real problems of the day.”

Evan Wolfson, Founder and President of Freedom to Marry

“Freedom to Marry is pleased to work with Third Way on the Commitment Campaign. As each of us has the personal conversations that help more people to think anew about the freedom to marry, it’s clear that talking about love, commitment, and why marriage matters is the key.”

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