Craig Stowell always suspected his brother might be gay, and he made sure to let his brother know he would love him no matter what if his brother ever came out to the family. It was the right thing to do. But Stowell didn’t become involved in political fights for marriage equality until Republicans in the New Hampshire legislature introduced HB 437 in 2011 to repeal the Granite State’s 2010 law conferring the same state protections on same-sex marriages that traditional marriages enjoy. (The legislature had tried previously — and failed — to repeal New Hampshire’s 2006 law protecting civil unions between gay couples.) Gay Marriage proponents defeated HB 437 in 2012.
“When I look at my brother,” the New Hampshire Republican politico and Iraq War veteran told me over the phone, “I can’t help but want him to have the same rights I have.” As support for marriage equality continues to grow across the country, Republican lawmakers should embrace the opportunity to become leaders on the issue.
Since defeating HB 437 in New Hampshire, Stowell has become a young Republican leader in the fight to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 federal law that recognizes only marriages between one man and one woman in the U.S., codifies the denial of benefits to gay couples that many straight couples enjoy, and makes a mockery of the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause by allowing states to not recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Stowell and his wife appeared in a Respect for Marriage Coalition ad last week, just after the group released a pro-gay marriage ad featuring prominent Republicans like former First Lady Laura Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney (whose daughter is a lesbian), and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Today Stowell sits on the leadership committee of Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, one of the major partners of the Respect for Marriage Coalition.