David Kochel, Mitt Romney's Iowa strategist, on Monday publicly endorsed gay marriage.

Speaking at an event hosted by Iowa Republicans for Freedom, a group which supports marriage equality, Kochel argued that marriage equality was a conservative value.

“Support for the freedom to marry is emerging as a mainstream position in the Republican Party,” he said, according to a press release. “If we are to be the party of principles and values, isn't our first obligation to the principle of freedom, and the value of individual liberty?”

In comments to The Huffington Post, Kochel recalled being asked his position on the issue by a student at his son's high school graduation during the presidential campaign.

“I answered the question very honestly,” he said. “'Well, for me personally,' I said, 'I think that rights need to be extended to all people regardless of orientation.' And several of the students started nodding their heads, and began to question why so many in my party don't have this position.”

In a Monday tweet, Kochel said he has supported such unions for “at least 12 years.”

Also joining Kochel at Monday's Des Moines event was former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman. Mehlman came out gay in 2010, saying he wanted to become an equality advocate.

In a blog post, Bob Vander Plaats, president of THE FAMiLY LEADER, Iowa's leading Christian conservative organization, dismissed the event's message.

“[I]s this really what politics is about? Are we really supposed to abandon the core values and principles that have served us well throughout civilization so we can win elections?”

Vander Plaats argued that marriage equality foes are on the right side of history.

“Leaders need to do what is right because it is right. This is how [President] Lincoln led in freeing the slaves. This is how M.L. King led in marching for equality. This is how Billy Graham led in urging Americans to stand for God's design for marriage,” he wrote.