STEVE SCHMIDT HAS SOME ADVICE FOR HIS PARTY…. Steve Schmidt, the top strategist for the McCain/Palin presidential campaign, will appear before the Log Cabin Republicans and urge his party to embrace marriage equality.

“I’m confident American public opinion will continue to move on the question toward majority support, and sooner or later the Republican Party will catch up to it,” Schmidt plans to say according to excerpts provided to ABC News. […]

In his Friday noontime speech, Schmidt is planning to argue that same-sex marriage is in step with principles that conservatives hold dear.

“There is a sound conservative argument to be made for same-sex marriage,” Schmidt plans to say. “I believe conservatives, more than liberals, insist that rights come with responsibilities. No other exercise of one’s liberty comes with greater responsibilities than marriage.”

“It cannot be argued that marriage between people of the same sex is un American or threatens the rights of others,” he will say.

“On the contrary,” he will say, “it seems to me that denying two consenting adults of the same sex the right to form a lawful union that is protected and respected by the state denies them two of the most basic natural rights affirmed in the preamble of our Declaration of Independence — liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, I believe, gives the argument of same sex marriage proponents its moral force.”

While the argument seems to be primarily about principle, Schmidt will also reportedly explain that the GOP alienates young people when it rejects equal rights.

Perhaps even more provocatively, Schmidt also apparently believes his Republican Party is “at risk of becoming a religious party. In a free country a political party cannot remain viable in the long term if it is seen as a sectarian party.”

So, here’s the question: how fierce will the blowback against Schmidt be for this? Just a few weeks ago, RNC Chairman Michael Steele said the idea of the party embracing civil unions — endorsed by both Bush and Cheney — is “crazy.” The notion that the party will respond to Schmidt with anything but scorn is hard to imagine.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.