This story has been updated.

As the gay marriage debate continues to heat up, prominent Republicans — and some surprising names at that — are emerging to voice their support for same-sex unions. Following a blistering loss in the 2012 presidential election, discussion about social issues, particularly gay rights, has emerged as a potentially-problematic area for right-of-center politicians. And in an era colored by increasing support for homosexual marriage, the pressure is mounting.

This week, more than 80  prominent Republicans, including top advisers to President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress signed a legal brief that proclaims gay people have the right to marry under the U.S. Constitution. The document will be submitted to the Supreme Court this week, where it is purportedly intended to add to the voices that will be heard during two upcoming gay rights cases, The New York Times reports.

80 Prominent Republicans Sign Legal Brief Proclaiming Gay Marriage Is a Constitutional Right | Supreme Court

Photo Credit: AP 

Next month, the High Court will hear a battle over Proposition 8, California’s controversial law banning same-sex unions. Additionally, a separate case concerning the Defense of Marriage Act will be argued. The legal brief could have an impact on conservative justices who support traditional marriage, but who are also sympathetic to gay marriage arguments surrounding equal rights.

Many of the names on the document argue that legalizing same-sex unions advances conservative values by expanding personal freedom and supporting family structures. The Times has more about some of the surprising names who are accepting this view:

Among them are Meg Whitman, who supported Proposition 8 when she ran for California governor; Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Richard Hanna of New York; Stephen J. Hadley, a Bush national security adviser; Carlos Gutierrez, a commerce secretary to Mr. Bush; James B. Comey, a top Bush Justice Department official; David A. Stockman, President Ronald Reagan’s first budget director; and Deborah Pryce, a former member of the House Republican leadership from Ohio who is retired from Congress.

Ms. Pryce said Monday: “Like a lot of the country, my views have evolved on this from the first day I set foot in Congress. I think it’s just the right thing, and I think it’s on solid legal footing, too.”

Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor, who favored civil unions but opposed same-sex marriage during his 2012 presidential bid, also signed. Last week, Mr. Huntsman announced his new position in an article titled “Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause,” a sign that the 2016 Republican presidential candidates could be divided on the issue for the first time.

80 Prominent Republicans Sign Legal Brief Proclaiming Gay Marriage Is a Constitutional Right | Supreme Court

Photo Credit: AP

Here’s a portion of how Huntsman framed his new-found views on the matter:

Today we have an opportunity to do more: conservatives should start to lead again and push their states to join the nine others that allow all their citizens to marry. I’ve been married for 29 years. My marriage has been the greatest joy of my life. There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love.

All Americans should be treated equally by the law, whether they marry in a church, another religious institution, or a town hall. This does not mean that any religious group would be forced by the state to recognize relationships that run counter to their conscience. Civil equality is compatible with, and indeed promotes, freedom of conscience.

Last week, former First Lady Laura Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Sec. of State Colin Powell made headlines after past interviews they gave on the subject of gay marriage were used in an ad for  The Respect for Marriage Coalition, a group favoring same-sex nuptials. As of Monday, the Times reports that these individuals were not yet signed onto the brief (you can see more of the names who did sign on board here).

Interestingly, in making the argument that gay marriage should be legal and that Proposition 8 deserves to be overturned, past Supreme Court cases that are near and dear to conservatives’ hearts are cited. The Times claims that the document notes the Citizens United case, which focused upon campaign finance restrictions, and a Second Amendment case in which the Washington D.C. handgun ban was overturned.

80 Prominent Republicans Sign Legal Brief Proclaiming Gay Marriage Is a Constitutional Right | Supreme Court

Photo Credit: AP

This brief brings the stark divide within the Republican Party over gay marriage out into the open. With House of Representatives leadership continuing the tout the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as existing only between one man and one woman, it’s evident that the split is only growing.

With the American public increasingly becoming supportive of gay marriage, questions over how this dynamic will impact the Republican Party’s future are ongoing. Recent trends are certainly showcasing increased support for same-sex unions — and even homosexuality more generally.

LifeWay Research conducted a survey back in November — the results of which were released last month. The organization asked respondents, “Do you believe homosexual behavior is a sin?” Forty-five percent of the American public said that it is not, with 37 percent answering affirmatively, and an additional 17 percent saying that it did not know which side to select.

For better or for worse (and that depends on whom you’re talking to), it’s clear that the tides are turning.

UPDATE: The current list of Republicans, as presented by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, is below:

  • Ken Mehlman, Chairman, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007
  • Tim Adams, Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, 2005-2007
  • David D. Aufhauser, General Counsel, Department of Treasury, 2001-2003
  • Cliff S. Asness, Businessman, Philanthropist, and Author
  • John B. Bellinger III, Legal Adviser to the Department of State, 2005-2009
  • Katie Biber, General Counsel, Romney for President, 2007-2008 and 2011-2012
  • Mary Bono Mack, Member of Congress, 1998-2013
  • William A. Burck, Deputy Staff Secretary, Special Counsel and Deputy Counsel to the President, 2005-2009
  • Alex Castellanos, Republican Media Advisor
  • Paul Cellucci, Governor of Massachusetts, 1997-2001, and Ambassador to Canada, 2001-2005
  • Mary Cheney, Director of Vice Presidential Operations, Bush-Cheney 2004
  • Jim Cicconi, Assistant to the President & Deputy to the Chief of Staff, 1989-1990
  • James B. Comey, United States Deputy Attorney General, 2003-2005
  • R. Clarke Cooper, U.S. Alternative Representative, United Nations Security Council, 2007-2009
  • Julie Cram, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director White House Office of Public Liaison, 2007-2009
  • Michele Davis, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Director of Policy Planning, Department of the Treasury, 2006-2009
  • Kenneth M. Duberstein, White House Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President, 1981-1984 and 1987-1989
  • Lew Eisenberg, Finance Chairman, Republican National Committee, 2002-2004
  • Elizabeth Noyer Feld, Public Affairs Specialist, White House Office of Management and Budget, 1984-1987
  • David Frum, Special Assistant to the President, 2001-2002
  • Richard Galen, Communications Director, Speaker’s Political Office, 1996-1997
  • Mark Gerson, Chairman, Gerson Lehrman Group and Author of The Neoconservative Vision: From the Cold War to the Culture Wars and In the Classroom: Dispatches from an Inner-City School that Works
  • Benjamin Ginsberg, General Counsel, Bush-Cheney 2000 & 2004
  • Adrian Gray, Director of Strategy, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007
  • Richard Grenell, Spokesman, U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations, 2001-2008
  • Patrick Guerriero, Mayor, Melrose Massachusetts and member of Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1993-2001
  • Carlos Gutierrez, Secretary of Commerce, 2005-2009
  • Stephen Hadley, Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor, 2005-2009
  • Richard Hanna, Member of Congress, 2011-Present
  • Israel Hernandez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, 2005-2009
  • Margaret Hoover, Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, 2005-2006
  • Michael Huffington, Member of Congress, 1993-1995
  • Jon Huntsman, Governor of Utah, 2005-2009
  • David A. Javdan, General Counsel, United States Small Business Administration, 2002-2006
  • Reuben Jeffery, Undersecretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs, 2007-2009
  • Greg Jenkins, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Advance, 2003-2004
  • Coddy Johnson, National Field Director, Bush-Cheney 2004
  • Gary Johnson, Governor of New Mexico, 1995-2003
  • Robert Kabel, Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, 1982-1985
  • Theodore W. Kassinger, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, 2004-2005
  • Jonathan Kislak, Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture for Small Community and Rural Development, 1989-1991
  • David Kochel, Senior Advisor to Mitt Romney’s Iowa Campaign, 2007-2008 and 2011-2012
  • James Kolbe, Member of Congress, 1985-2007
  • Jeffrey Kupfer, Acting Deputy Secretary of Energy, 2008-2009
  • Kathryn Lehman, Chief of Staff, House Republican Conference, 2003-2005
  • Daniel Loeb, Businessman and Philanthropist
  • Alex Lundry, Director of Data Science, Romney for President, 2012
  • Greg Mankiw, Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers, 2003-2005
  • Catherine Martin, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Communications Director for Policy & Planning, 2005-2007
  • Kevin Martin, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, 2005-2009
  • David McCormick, Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, 2007-2009
  • Mark McKinnon, Republican Media Advisor
  • Bruce P. Mehlman, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, 2001-2003
  • Connie Morella, Member of Congress, 1987-2003 and U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2003-2007
  • Michael E. Murphy, Republican Political Consultant
  • Michael Napolitano, White House Office of Political Affairs, 2001-2003
  • Ana Navarro, National Hispanic Co-Chair for Senator John McCain’s Presidential Campaign, 2008
  • Noam Neusner, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Speechwriting, 2002-2005
  • Nancy Pfotenhauer, Economist, Presidential Transition Team, 1988 and President’s Council on Competitiveness, 1990
  • J. Stanley Pottinger, Assistant U.S. Attorney General (Civil Rights Division), 1973-1977
  • Michael Powell, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, 2001-2005
  • Deborah Pryce, Member of Congress, 1993-2009
  • John Reagan, New Hampshire State Senator, 2012-Present
  • Kelley Robertson, Chief of Staff, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007
  • Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Member of Congress, 1989-Present
  • Harvey S. Rosen, Member and Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers, 2003-2005
  • Lee Rudofsky, Deputy General Counsel, Romney for President, 2012
  • Patrick Ruffini, eCampaign Director, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007
  • Steve Schmidt, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor to the Vice President, 2004-2006
  • Ken Spain, Communications Director, National Republican Congressional Committee, 2009-2010
  • Robert Steel, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, 2006-2008
  • David Stockman, Director, Office of Management and Budget, 1981-1985
  • Jane Swift, Governor of Massachusetts, 2001-2003
  • Michael E. Toner, Chairman and Commissioner, Federal Election Commission, 2002-2007
  • Michael Turk, eCampaign Director for Bush-Cheney 2004
  • Mark Wallace, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Representative for UN Management and Reform, 2006-2008
  • Nicolle Wallace, Assistant to the President and White House Communications Director, 2005-2008
  • William F. Weld, Governor of Massachusetts, 1991-1997, and Assistant U.S. Attorney General (Criminal Division), 1986-1988
  • Christine Todd Whitman, Governor of New Jersey, 1994-2001, and Administrator of the EPA, 2001-2003
  • Meg Whitman, Republican Nominee for Governor of California, 2010
  • Robert Wickers, Republican Political Consultant
  • Dan Zwonitzer, Wyoming State Representative, 2005-present

(H/T: New York Times)

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