“You cannot be conservative without being an advocate for equality,” Mario Nicolais, a prominent conservative attorney and columnist from Colorado, says. “Supporting equality is not just a tenet of being a conservative – it’s a tenet of our entire constitutional framework.”
For years now, he has been vocal about the many ways that his conservative values intersect with his commitment to dignity for all people in the United States. He looks to landmark developments throughout history – such as the formation of the NAACP and the fight for women’s suffrage – as strong examples of where conservatives helped to push toward greater freedom and liberty for all.
Nicolais has long been a public advocate for policies specifically supporting the movement for LGBTQ equality. In the early 2010s, he was one of the leading voices in support of a law in Colorado to allow same-sex couples to join together in civil union, and when the Obergefell case seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples nationwide reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, he gladly joined with more than 300 fellow conservatives in signing onto a friend-of-the-court brief advocating for respect and dignity for all couples.
“Amici support traditional conservative values, including the belief in the importance of stable families, as well as the commitment to limited government and the protection of individual freedom,” the brief explained. “Amici have concluded that marriage is strengthened, and its value to society and to individual families and couples is promoted, by providing access to civil marriage for all American couples – heterosexual or gay or lesbian alike.”
Since the Supreme Court victory on the freedom to marry in 2015, Nicolais has continued to support LGBTQ inclusion in Colorado and beyond. This includes strong support for LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections – laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public spaces like businesses and hospitals.
Nicolais said he often quotes Les Miserables to sum up his philosophy around LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections: “If liberty is the summit, equality is the base.”
He is one of the many Americans eagerly awaiting a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in a series of cases focused on employment protections for LGBTQ people. The justices heard three cases in October filed by LGBTQ people fired from their jobs because of who they are and a ruling could affirm once and for all that no LGBTQ person should face workplace discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“You cannot be conservative without being an advocate for equality. Supporting equality is not just a tenet of being a conservative – it’s a tenet of our entire constitutional framework.” – Mario Nicolais
While Nicolais is outspoken about LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, he said that for him, his passion comes down to a principled philosophical commitment to equality for all – it’s not solely tied to the fact that he has friends, neighbors, and colleagues who are a part of the LGBTQ community. “I don’t need to have a gay friend to support gay people,” he said. “To me, it’s not about any one individual. It’s about the individual rights of every person. The most efficient and best use of government is to have this as a core principle.”
He has also found guidance in supporting LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections from his faith. He is a regular church-goer and feels strongly that all people should live their values of love, acceptance, and treating people with respect.
Again and again, Nicolais has shared this viewpoint – to lawmakers in Colorado, to fellow conservative leaders, to friends and family, and to readers of publications like The Colorado Sun, where he regularly publishes commentary, some focused on upholding basic freedoms for LGBTQ people.
In February 2019, he wrote in The Colorado Sun, “I’ve spent almost a decade working on behalf of equality for members of our LGBT community. My conservative belief in individual rights founded in the twin pillars of liberty and equality drove me to take a principled stand in contrast to the policy positions my political party adopted.”
Nicolais’ support for LGBTQ nondiscrimination is in line with the growing majority of conservatives who support nondiscrimination protections nationwide. Many of those conservatives are a part of Conservatives Against Discrimination, a program of Freedom for All Americans dedicated to elevating the voices of conservative Americans who support protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.
The truth is that conservatives and liberals alike strongly believe that every American should have the freedom to work hard, earn a decent living, and provide for their families. And now, during this critical time, against the backdrop of a potentially historic decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on LGBTQ protections, it’s more important than ever that Americans across the political spectrum stand together, committed and united in favor of ensuring that all people, including LGBTQ people, can live their lives from from discrimination.
Click here to learn more about Conservatives Against Discrimination.