New Guide Helps Members Of Congress Change Public Position On Gay Marriage

WASHINGTON -- Things just got a little easier for members of Congress who may want to publicly endorse same-sex marriage but don't know how to explain their past positions against it.

Third Way, an influential centrist Democratic group, on Thursday provided a new memo to all House and Senate lawmakers' offices that gives advice on how to change positions on the issue without being called a dreaded "flip-flopper." It outlines three rules that will help ensure a smoother transition in support of marriage equality: share a personal story about the people in your life who have influenced your position, emphasize that marriage is about a commitment instead of rights, and allow that other people's views may be "changing at a slower pace" but that they, too, could come around soon.

"We hope this will be helpful as more and more politicians feel the urge to 'evolve' from supporting civil unions to allowing committed gay couples to marry," said Lanae Erickson, Deputy Director of Social Policy & Politics at Third Way.

The memo also encourages lawmakers not to use the terms "gay marriage" or "same-sex marriage," but instead, "marriage for gay couples" or “allowing gay couples to marry." Avoiding adjectives before the word "marriage" helps to reinforce that gay couples are seeking the same kind of marriage, the memo states.

Lawmakers should also "exercise caution" in comparing the push for same-sex marriage to the civil rights movement and the fight for interracial marriage, the memo says. "This direct comparison can hurt more than it helps, by causing people to think about the differences between the experiences of African Americans and LGBT people, not the similarities."

Erickson said Third Way sent one more copy of the memo to someone just down the street from Capitol Hill: President Barack Obama, who maintains that he is still "evolving" on the issue.