The Changing Face of the GOP and Log Cabin Republicans
As the Supreme Court considers the future of the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, LGBT issues have become a major focus in politics. As the political landscape shifts, Republicans have increasingly become more involved in LGBT issues, both for and against.
When one thinks of supporters of issues relating to the LGBT community, the GOP is not an immediate selection. If anything, past experiences between the two groups have been lukewarm at best and outright hostile at worst.
The most recent example is news that at the Republican National Committee's meeting in Los Angeles, a resolution was passed to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman. "The Resolution for Marriage and Children 2013" also calls for the United States Supreme Court to "uphold the sanctity of marriage in its rulings on California's Proposition 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act."
"No one was expecting the GOP to change its platform position on marriage at this meeting, but clearly those in opposition to equality feel threatened by the growing numbers of Republicans who support the freedom to marry," said Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans in rebuttal to the announcement.
The news of this resolution comes in spite of the fact that Americans are setting near-record numbers for supporting same-sex marriage. Although the aforementioned resolution calls for a unified stance against same-sex marriage, some Republicans have broken away to support the LGBT community to varying degrees.
The reason seems to be a matter of debate among many, although personal experience seems to play a major factor. Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio’s recent change in opinion, for example, was heavily influenced by his own son coming out to him nearly two years ago.
"Just as many Americans have evolved, politicians have done so as well, based on their own experiences with someone who is LGBT," said Michael Cole-Schwartz, director of Communications of the Human Rights Campaign.
Angelo sees the shift as part of a greater movement.
"The momentum toward greater gay acceptance in the GOP is something that has been a long-time coming and remarkably organic, bolstered largely by the willingness of gay Americans to live their lives openly and to be bold in their assertions that they deserve equal rights," said Angelo.
Meanwhile, some Republicans are translating that momentum into action.
Republican Reps. Richard Hanna of New York and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania have endorsed "The Uniting American Families Act," which would allow U.S. citizens and permanent residents with partners of the same-sex the opportunity to obtain a visa based on their relationship, a right already afforded to heterosexual couples.
Prominent Republicans Support SCOTUS’ Marriage Cases
At the same time, a number of prominent Republicans have supported same-sex marriage through an amicus curie brief filed with SCOTUS. According to the New York Times, more than 100 Republicans and conservatives signed their names to the brief. Among those listed were former Proposition 8 supporter and former candidate for the governor of California Meg Whitman, Rep. Hanna, and Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah.
Huntsman has been particularly vocal in his support for marriage equality, going so far as to write an article in The American Conservative calling for conservatives to not stand against marriage equality.
"I’ve been married for 29 years. My marriage has been the greatest joy of my life. There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love," wrote Huntsman.
As time passes, an increasingly fascinating division becomes apparent in the GOP. While some remain dedicated to the old ways, some are calling for change, noting the November 2012 election as proof that the current stances of the GOP are costing them politically. Younger voters in particular are playing a more integral part of the political equation.
A report produced by the GOP points out the fact that younger voters are "increasingly put off by the GOP" and that a generational difference exists between conservatives on the treatment and rights of the LGBT community. Thus appeals are being made on the basis of conservatism as well as social equality.
The Young Conservatives for Freedom to Marry highlight this trend. The group is comprised of a number of influential conservative voices including Meghan McCain, Jon Huntsman’s daughters Liddy and Mary Anne Huntsman, and James Owens, President of the Log Cabin Republicans of Oregon.
In a letter sent to the Republican National Committee Chairman Governor Bob McDonnell, the Young Conservatives argued for marriage equality on the principles of conservatism quoting former Vice President Dick Cheney, former President Ronald Reagan and former First Lady Laura Bush.
While commenting on the DOMA case before SCOTUS, the Log Cabin Republicans took a similar approach in their explanation by framing the issue around federal overreach.
Speaking for the Log Cabin Republicans, Angelo also discussed the growing division between members of the GOP on the issue of same-sex marriage as positive progression toward what has the potential to be a more tolerant Republican Party.
"The fact that the GOP no longer walks in lockstep on issues such as marriage equality shows a sensitivity to gay issues that was not present before, while continuing the tradition of civility and respect for differing points of view that has always been a hallmark of the Republican Party," said Angelo.
On the issue of marriage equality, Cole-Schwartz notes that the GOP is experiencing a period of change, while tempering optimism with a bit of insight.
"The Republican Party is doing a lot soul-searching on this issue. However, there will always remain a number of the old guard Republicans who will not evolve on this issue," said Cole-Schwartz.
Will the GOP eventually come to support the LGBT community as a whole or will Republican support be relegated to the actions of the few who desire to break away from the party’s stances? This is a question whose answer will be revealed with time and patience. For now, what remains is a political party that must evolve appropriately if it wishes to remain relevant and competitive in a social climate that is increasingly supportive of the LGBT community.