No, Marilyn Musgrave Does NOT Now Support Gay Marriage

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 27 2013 12:04 PM

No, Marilyn Musgrave Does NOT Now Support Gay Marriage

Ellen Pontac (left) and her wife Shelly Bailes celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary and the one-year anniversary of a California Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex marriages, at a press conference June 17, 2009, in Sacramento, Calif.
Ellen Pontac (left) and her wife Shelly Bailes celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary and the one-year anniversary of a California Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex marriages, at a press conference June 17, 2009, in Sacramento, Calif.

Photo by Max Whittaker/Getty Images

UPDATE: It looks like we all got a little ahead of ourselves. The New York Times has since corrected its report this morning that long-time gay-marriage opponent Marilyn Musgrave is among a growing number of Republicans to sign an amicus brief backing gay marriage. Here's the correction, which went live shortly before noon today (and after my original post below):

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Correction: February 27, 2013 An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that former Representative Marilyn Musgrave, Republican of Colorado, had signed on to the brief. The brief was signed by her former district director, for himself.
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The former lawmaker, who was the main sponsor of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, spoke with a local FOX affiliate in Denver this morning after the original story broke and denied the report. "I wasn’t even aware of it. I have not changed my position," Musgrave told FOX31 Denver. "I’m trying to imagine where anyone would get that information and I can’t figure it out."

UPDATE #2 (Thursday 2/28): The NYT reporter who wrote the story, Sheryl Stolberg, emails with her explanation of how the mistake occurred:

Here's what happened: A former district director for Marilyn Musgrave signed the brief, but her title was so long that it actually took up two lines, pushing the congresswoman's name onto a line all by itself. So when you read down the list, it looked like Ms. Musgrave had signed -- when in fact she had not. Of course I was horrified at the mistake, but it was an honest one. I corrected immediately, called Ms. Musgrave and apologized, and she accepted. A good lesson in journalism: check everything twice, and we are only human.

***** *** ****

Original Post at 11:30 a.m.: The New York Times reports that another two dozen or so Republicans have added their names to the gay-marriage-backing amicus brief we told you about yesterday. Without a doubt the most noteworthy name among the new additions is Marilyn Musgrave, a former Colorado congresswoman who was once given the title of the most conservative House member by the American Conservative Union.

What makes Musgrave's addition so noteworthy is the fact that she had made making it illegal for gays and lesbians to walk down the aisle the signature issue of her political career, and was even the chief sponsor of a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriages. (The legislation in question was known as the Federal Marriage Amendment.) As the NYT reminds us, she once warned that if gay couples were allowed to wed, "the next step is polygamy or group marriage."

Here's how John Aravosis of AMERICAblog Gay reacted to the unexpected news:

I really can’t overstate how bizarre and shocking this news is. A lot of us (especially gay philanthropist Tim Gill) spent a lot of time and money trying to kick Musgrave out of office. And they finally did [in 2008]. She was horrible. The woman was evil incarnate on gay rights issues. She was the worst of the worst. She was the LEAD SPONSOR OF THE ANTI-GAY CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. It doesn’t get any worse than Marilyn Musgrave.
And now she’s pro- gay marriage and signing a brief in opposition to Prop 8, when our President isn’t quite sure if he wants to as well.

More on the letter—which was also signed by Beth Myers, who ran Mitt Romney's 2008 campaign and served as one of his top advisers last year—over at the New York Times.

The brief is still a work-in-progress and other Republicans could still sign on, but for now it has a few noticeable absences, including Laura Bush, Dick Cheney, and Colin Powell, who all publicly favor same-sex marriage. The high court is slated to hear back-to-back arguments in March on the legal challenge to Prop 8 and DOMA.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

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