Next GOP Generation Pushing Marriage-Equality Platform
Change was afoot in the Nevada desert April 12.
It was there, at the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas, that the Nevada Republican Party did what its counterparts in some of the most liberal states in the nation haven't even done: Adopted a statewide party platform that dropped opposition to same-sex marriage.
The adoption of the platform, which not only stripped opposition to same-sex marriage but also opposition to abortion, came after a debate over the future of the Republican Party and stood in contrast to GOP platforms in states across the country. Even in Massachusetts - the first state to legalize same-sex marriage - the party platform opposes same-sex marriage and abortion. Last month, gay Republican congressional candidate Richard Tisei boycotted his party's convention over the socially conservative party platform.
"I think it was about inclusion, not exclusion," said Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "This is where the party is going."
A challenge to Nevada's same-sex marriage ban is currently before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and, in February, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, and Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, agreed to drop their defense of the law. Sandoval cited the nation's changing legal landscape as making the arguments for the state's defense "no longer sustainable."
If the Republican Party is to have a future in the changing electorate, all signs indicate it must diversify not only on issues like same-sex marriage, but also immigration reform. A Pew Research Center poll released in March found that 61 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners under 30 support same-sex marriage, while just 35 percent are opposed. That's compared to 27 percent of Republicans 50 years old and older in favor.
"The Republican Party is at a crossroads," said Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, in a statement. "[I]n a year where the Massachusetts GOP rolled back the clock and added divisive social issues to its platform, the state Republican Party responsible for nominating Sharron Angle in 2010 seems to have finally learned to focus on the issues that truly matter to voters, which will lead to massive Republican wins at the ballot box this fall."
While the Republican Party as a whole might be pointed toward inclusion, the debate over whether that is the morally correct road to follow certainly isn't over. As Nevada Republicans debated the position of their party on same-sex marriage, Louisiana lawmakers debated whether to remove the state's unconstitutional ban on sodomy from the state's "crimes against nature" statute.
On Tuesday, the Louisiana House of Representatives voted down the proposal to amend the language 67 to 27, despite the fact that in 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas. Eleven Democrats joined 55 Republicans and one independent in voting against the bill.
The Republican Party has seen enormous gains in support for LGBT equality in recent years, although it has moved at a slower pace than the rest of the country. Three Senate Republicans - Rob Portman (Ohio), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) - have come out in support of marriage equality since March 2013 and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the Senate with the support of 10 Republicans - the most Senate Republican votes ever cast for a piece of gay-rights legislation. Although ENDA is being blocked by Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, it gained its seventh GOP cosponsor last week with the support of Rep. Mike Coffman (Colo.). There are also currently three gay Republican candidates running for the House vying to become the first openly gay Republican ever elected to Congress.
Advocates, however, are hoping to go a step further. Yesterday, Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, which is under the umbrella of the organization Freedom to Marry, launched a $1 million campaign aimed at reforming the Republican Party's national platform before the 2016 Republican National Convention.
"It's time to modernize the Republican Party," said Tyler Deaton, campaign manager for the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, in a statement. "Our aim is to make the national platform less divisive toward gay people and their families - and more focused on unifying all conservatives around our core beliefs of freedom, family, and limited government."
The announcement comes a little over a year after the Republican National Committee released an "autopsy report" of the GOP that recommended, among other things, that candidates campaign within the gay community and "communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case." The RNC report made no mention of marriage equality nor did it specifically argue for the adoption of a national position on LGBT rights.
Under the proposal from Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, anti-gay and anti-same-sex-marriage references would be struck from five different sections of the GOP's national platform and replaced with the following:
We believe that marriage matters both as a religious institution and as a fundamental, personal freedom. Because marriage-rooted in love and lifelong commitment-is one of the foundations of civil society, as marriage thrives, so our nation thrives.
We believe that the health of marriage nationwide directly affects the social and economic well-being of individuals and families, and that undermining families leads to more government costs and more government control over the lives of its citizens. Therefore, we believe in encouraging the strength and stability of all families.
We recognize that there are diverse and sincerely held views on civil marriage within the Party, and that support for allowing same-sex couples the freedom to marry has grown substantially in our own Party. Given this journey that so many Americans, including Republicans, are on, we encourage and welcome a thoughtful conversation among Republicans about the meaning and importance of marriage, and commit our Party to respect for all families and fairness and freedom for all Americans.
The group is expected to begin touring early primary states such as New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina beginning this spring to tout the proposal. Although such inclusive language may be a tough sell, with 2016 an overly ambitious target date, Deaton says it isn't difficult to figure out which way the winds blow: "The future of the Party is clear on the marriage issue - a seismic shift is already underway in support of the freedom to marry."