Meghan McCain voiced her support for marriage equality in a speech at the Jack Morton Auditorium Thursday night, calling the gay rights movement "this generation's civil rights movement" and urging like-minded "progressive Republicans" to start speaking out.
McCain - the daughter of former Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain - was met with a protest by GW's Young America's Foundation before the event for her stance on gay marriage, but McCain fired back during her speech, telling the audience that she is outspoken on provocative issues because she believes in them.
"I am not Ann Coulter. I am not Glenn Beck. I am not trying to be a pundit. I am not trying to have a show on FOX," McCain said. "My intention is to promote dialogue in this country."
"I do [support marriage equality], got that George Washington Young Republicans?" McCain said in reference to the GW College Republicans' January withdrawal of financial support for her speech. The CRs removed their support from the event after saying that they had been misinformed of the purpose of McCain's talk.
"I had to get that little jab in," she added to some laughs.
McCain said the LGBT community is the only one that completely supports her, adding that during the presidential campaign, she went to the Log Cabin Republicans, a national Republican organization that supports gay marriage, and told them that regardless of her father's position, they had an ally in McCain and her mother, Cindy. Both have been photographed with duct tape covering their mouths as part of the "NOH8" campaign - a campaign in support of repealing Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that repealed gay marriage in the state.
McCain said she has become "a favorite target of the far-right" because she has "the temerity" not to agree with all the facets of the party line. She asked, "Where the hell did the notion of free speech go?"
"I am not saying let's just abandon the core ideals that the Republican Party was built on," McCain said, repeating it for emphasis. "I am saying make room for all of the Republicans, and let's start evolving with the times. We must evolve or we'll die."
After urging the Republican Party to stop being "so stubborn and closed-minded," McCain added that Democrats are capable of intolerance as well. She accused MSNBC's Keith Olberman of doing just as much damage as conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, worrying that the tenor of their political discussions will result in a whole generation that will have no desire to get involved with politics.
"Please, Keiths and Rushes of the world, pipe down," McCain said.
McCain said she has been criticized for more than supporting marriage equality and LGBT rights, bringing up comments that conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham has made about her weight and blonde hair.
"All of the sudden I was too fat to be a Republican - yeah, that makes me feel good. Too fat to be an elephant," McCain quipped.
"It's hard enough [for women] to speak out for what we believe in, rather than having our physical appearance attacked in return," McCain said.
When an audience member asked McCain for her opinion of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, her father's running mate, McCain said although they disagree on social issues, she does not "hate her in the way many people assume."
"I respect any woman who can go out there and kick ass in politics," McCain said, adding that she never discusses Palin with her father.
Outside, about 20 members of GW YAF held a protest in Kogan Plaza, passing out wedding cake during their "Defending Marriage" event. They were met by a larger counterprotest, in which students in favor of same-sex marriage chanted and held up signs that read, "God Bless Our Gays," "Love," and "D.C. liked it so they put a ring on it."
YAF members held signs that said, "Support the family" and "Where does it stop?" One sign had the words "I love my dads" crossed out, and "I love my mom and dad" written underneath. The student carrying it declined to speak to The Hatchet.
Junior Emily Moore held the "Where does it stop" sign and said marriage was "a religious contract" that should not be institutionalized by the government. She said she worries that same-sex marriage could lead to "other forms of marriage."
About 75 students held the counterprotest against YAF's message. Sophomore Jane Henderson, a student who took offense to YAF's message, held a "Hags for Life" sign, and said she was there to fight for equality.
"My sister's a lesbian, my brother's gay, so coming here I'm saying that [marriage] should be a basic right for all human beings," Henderson said.
Rev. John Boyles from the National Organization for Marriage stood behind the YAF table and distributed literature. Boyles said he had been having a few conversations about why he believed marriage is just between a man and a woman, but said he was surprised by the shouting taking place on both sides, calling it "very loud" and full of "animosity."
Travis Korson, president of GW YAF, said the event was started to protest McCain's speech.
"We want to protest McCain's version of 'Redefining Republicanism,' " Korson said in reference to the title of McCain's talk. "If you're not toeing the party line then you're not really that party affiliation."
Back in the auditorium, McCain disagreed on what makes a "pure Republican."
"You can support gay marriage and our troops in Afghanistan," McCain said. "Some here on your campus don't think so."