In a speech to the Log Cabin Republicans last week, Steve Schmidt, Senator John McCain’s former campaign manager, advocated his support for gay marriage.

This is in direct contrast to the views McCain espoused during his presidential election campaign. And it is one of the most vocal departures from the kind of conservatism the majority of Americans rejected last year.

Schmidt remains a staunch conservative, but he articulated a number of reasons why he believes conservatism does not have to be associated with divisiveness and exclusion.

Schmidt said, Denying two consenting adults the right to form a beautiful commitment to one another denies them two of our most natural rights: liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He would like to see more and more Republicans come out and respect that gay couples in committed relationships need to be treated with fairness, equality and respect.

Focusing on the future direction of the Republican party, Schmidt said, Republicans should re-examine the issues not among our core values-¦ Religious views should not inform the public policy positions of political parties -” then it becomes a religious party.

Schmidt’s is not a lone voice. The past few years have seen growing numbers of conservatives practice a kind of conservatism not based upon an obsessive focus on moral or religious values.

As the GLRL is about to embark on our campaign for marriage, we are doing so not to get religious institutions or leaders to change their stance on homosexuality. What we are espousing is that the government has no role in excluding one group of people from the secular institution of marriage.

Indeed, some conservatives might argue that by denying gays and lesbians access to secular marriage, the ALP and Coalition alike are supporting big government, and over-governance. It is a governance that allows itself to espouse discrimination, ostensibly on the basis of tradition, but really on the basis of religion.

I call on those members of the Liberal party in Australia, who believe being a conservative and being inclusive are not mutually exclusive, to have the courage communicate to the Australian people a brand of conservatism that includes, rather than excludes, our community.

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