Our conversation also reflected a growing awareness among prominent Republicans that embracing marriage equality could broaden the party’s base and soften the party’s image in crucial ways. Many swing voters who find elements of Republicans’ limited-government message appealing and have doubts about Obama’s economic stewardship are nonetheless given serious pause by the party’s stances on abortion, birth control, immigration and homosexuality…

But even apart from that, Mehlman, Singer and many other Republicans say that marriage equality, which in fact gets the government out of the business of controlling and casting judgment on people’s private lives, is consistent with conservative principles.

Singer said that it “very well fits within my framework of freedom,” adding that it promotes “family stability” and is a tribute to an institution in need of one.

“Obviously, the institution of marriage in America has utterly collapsed,” he said. That gay and lesbian couples nonetheless want to wed “is kind of a lovely thing and a cool thing and a wonderful thing,” he added.