08/13/2013 03:57 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Winning Takes Addition


If you had been an adult in 1965, would you have marched in Selma? It's a question I have often asked myself.

Friends of my family, and a family member, Sister Mary Pius, joined and marched that day. To the best of my knowledge, no one in Selma asked about her political affiliation or how long she had believed in the cause. Those who were new to the cause were welcomed.

Civil rights for black Americans were not won by Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in black churches. Those audiences needed no education on the vitriol of racism, nor did they need to be convinced of the correctness of the cause. It was King's words moving those who were undecided or opposed that made for progress. Civil rights for black Americans were won through further acceptance and conversion, inviting others to join and place their names among those seeking tolerance and equality under the law.

Like many others, I have come to change my opinion on today's vexing civil rights question: equal marriage. This is hardly unique: The list of those who have recently changed their opinion on the matter includes individuals as diverse as President Barack Obama, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former President Bill Clinton, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

In 2004 I managed a state ballot measure in Utah to amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. I wanted to accomplish two things in that campaign: win as decisively as possible while ensuring that no individual was ever personally attacked or denigrated. There was to be no shouting or name calling in the campaign. We were successful on both counts, winning with 67 percent of the vote.

In the nine years since, I have come to know more gay people, including a family member, and have come to believe that the law should recognize same-sex unions while also protecting religious freedoms for those who are opposed to such unions. The law should not judge who should and should not be married. At the same time, the law should not judge what churches should and should not preach. As Pope Francis recently said on the specific matter of gay priests, "Who am I to judge?"

This is precisely what Arizona's equal marriage amendment would say and do: It would guarantee equal marriage, and it would guarantee religious freedoms.

As a Republican political consultant, after seeing the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decisions and looking at the polls, I believe that it is now solely a question of when and how the campaigns for equal marriage will be fought and won. An Arizona poll shows the equal marriage amendment winning by 11 percent, with 9 percent still undecided. Eighty-two percent of those undecided voters are registered Republicans and Independents; that's where additional votes can be won.

With the amendment garnering the support of 72 percent of Arizona voters under 30 years of age, as well as 65 percent of voters in U.S. Rep. David Schweikert's (R-Ariz.) district, the most effective strategy for the future of the GOP, and for winning this amendment, is to reject defining the campaign for equal marriage by party lines; we must avoid it becoming about Republicans being opposed to it and Democrats being for it.

This campaign can be won if it starts from the right and seeks inclusion rather than being run as a partisan effort that pushes away Republicans and Independents. That's why the campaign was kicked off with Libertarian and Republican leadership. This is true whether the effort is for the 2014 ballot, the 2016 ballot or any future ballot.

Some have questioned whether non-gay non-Democrats can run an equal marriage campaign. My response is who better to manage a campaign to persuade undecided voters, 82 percent of whom are registered Republicans or Independents, than a GOP consultant who has won on the other side of this issue and then changed his mind, not to mention having won on dozens of ballot measures in Arizona and elsewhere?

My goal in this campaign is the same as it was the last time: to win as decisively as possible while ensuring that no individual is ever personally attacked or denigrated.

It is important that a campaign about tolerance and inclusion show some by greeting new people to the cause with acceptance rather than derision. Long-term winning in politics is always about addition, not subtraction.

I don't say this for myself (this isn't my first political rodeo, and because the consultant should never be the voice of a campaign, I seldom speak with the press) but for others who need to know that it's OK to change your opinion on this issue and join the effort.

I'm glad Sister Mary Pius was welcomed generously in Selma some 48 years ago. And that movement's encouragement for others to join, even if they were previously against it, stands as an example for us all.

Tim Mooney is the Republican campaign consultant to Equal Marriage.