Wealthy gay Republicans using their political influence to nudge GOP lawmakers to support workplace protections were also involved in convincing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to drop his court challenge to gay marriage.
The lobbying efforts are led by former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who did not publicly acknowledge his sexuality until after his term expired, and Paul Singer, a wealthy contributor to Republican campaigns whose son is gay, The Washington Post reports.
Singer is close to Christie, the Post reported, but he declined to comment on Christie's stand on gay marriage.
The American Unity Fund founded by Singer has two lobbyists on the payroll: former Republican lawmakers Tom Reynolds of New York and Norm Coleman of Minnesota, who, despite their new jobs, maintain they still oppose gay marriage.
Singer's group and Mehlman are working to gain support from conservative lawmakers one issue at a time. Until the New Jersey gay marriage initiative, they had invested most of their time lobbying for a Senate bill to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual preference.
"But we're telling Republicans, 'If you think you can't get there on marriage, here is a safe list of things you can support,'" said Jeff Cook-McCormac, senior adviser to Singer's advocacy group.
By taking a softer approach, the activists are hoping to draw younger voters, women, and more independents to the party.
"Because it’s so personal, we are helping them through the process and helping guide them, and showing them that Republican support is there in the electorate, that they're not going to be punished," said Dan Meyers, president of Project Right Side, which was created by Mehlman last year.
Republicans who support gay rights are hopeful that the example set by Christie, who is expected to easily win re-election next month, will convince GOP lawmakers they can support pro-gay issues without suffering a backlash from their constituents, the Post said.
Meanwhile, gay marriage is moving forward in New Jersey where numerous couples are scheduled to have their nuptials performed Monday by Democratic Senator-elect Cory Booker and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Booker, who had refused to officiate the marriages of traditional couples until the state legalized gay marriage, planned to lead seven ceremonies Monday, including two for straight couples.
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