(Weekly Column)

The Republican Party has a gay marriage problem that seems intractable, at least in the short term.marriage Gay Marriage Might Cause the GOP To Divorce the Religious Right

On one side of the party divide is the Religious Right, which provides money and manpower to help get candidates elected. They effectively use primaries to position themselves as gatekeepers, using fear and sometimes meting out punishment to those who buck the socially conservative Party Line.

Standing on the other side is a growing chorus of Republicans who see a conservative case for marriage equality. Ted Olsen, who is suing to overturn Proposition 8, a California constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, represents this group. This week, dozens of key Republicans — including top advisers to former President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress — have lent their name to a legal brief supporting a constitutional right to marry for gay couples. As the New York Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg points out, this is an extraordinary move because it is a “direct challenge to Speaker John A. Boehner and reflects the civil war in the party since the November election.”

An ultimately fatal problem for anti-gay marriage activists is that conversions appear to be a one-way street. For example, in 2011, Louis Marinelli, a former organizer for the National Organization for Marriage reversed his opposition, explaining: “Too many see support for gay rights as strictly a liberal issue. That’s a mistake. Supporting the constitutional rights of all citizens is a conservative issue, too.”

Similarly, David Blankenhorn, the lead expert witnesses defending California’s Proposition 8, rethought his opposition and spoke out in favor of gay marriage in a New York Times editorial.

(Video from Faith in America)

There are virtually no defections on the pro-same-sex-marriage side. Once people see the light on this issue, they have no desire to return to darkness. As former Congresswoman Deborah Pryce (R-OH) explains: “Like a lot of the country, my views have evolved on this from the first day I set foot in Congress. I think it’s just the right thing, and I think it’s on solid legal footing, too.”

Former Utah Gov. and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman added: “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.”

The conservative conundrum is that all of this new support comes from former GOP representatives. Those currently in office are walking on eggshells not to upset their extremist masters. The polls reveal the tricky dance faced by Republican candidates and officials. To be a majority party they must appeal to mainstream Americans who back same-sex marriage. However, a substantial portion of the Party’s base is still in opposition, though it is shrinking. According to the today’s New York Times:

A majority of Americans now favor same-sex marriage, up from roughly one third in 2003. While Republicans lag behind the general population — the latest New York Times survey found a third of Republicans favor letting gay people marry — that, too, is changing quickly as more young people reach voting age. Several recent polls show that about 70 percent of voters under 30 back same-sex marriage.

The demographic changes must terrify Republican operatives. For example, 1.25 million more young people supported Obama in 2012 over 2008. The gay marriage position of the GOP is largely responsible for turning off these young voters. It NOM Gay Marriage Might Cause the GOP To Divorce the Religious Rightis even making it difficult to recruit smart young college graduates to help with the GOP’s high tech voting outreach efforts.

“I know a lot of people who do technology for a living,” said Michael Turk, who the New York Times magazine described as a Republican digital guru. “Almost universally there’s a libertarian streak that runs through them…And almost to a person that I’ve talked to, they say, ‘Yeah, I would probably vote for Republicans, but I can’t get past the gay marriage ban, the abortion stance, all of these social causes’…So questions about whether you can be married to the person you want to just flies in the face of the future. They don’t want to be part of an organization that puts them squarely on the wrong side of history.”

Smarter Republicans are realizing that opposition to marriage equality is based on the fundamental lie that marriage will be “redefined.” In reality, it will only expand the institution, but not alter it, because heterosexuals will be still be marrying opposite sex partners. Absolutely nothing changes for straight couples already married or those wishing to marry.

The social conservatives controlling the GOP won’t change their backward views overnight, which leaves two options:

1) Dig-in and drag down the entire Republican Party.
2) Deemphasize the issue by letting Republicans vote their consciences without repercussions.

I’m placing my bet on option one. Wouldn’t it be sweet irony if gay marriage finally caused the Republican Party to divorce the Religious Right?

 

UPDATED: List of Republicans who signed onto the Amicus Brief:

Ken Mehlman, Chairman, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007

Tim Adams, Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, 2005-2007

David D. Aufhauser, General Counsel, Department of Treasury, 2001-2003

Cliff S. Asness, Businessman, Philanthropist, and Author

John B. Bellinger III, Legal Adviser to the Department of State, 2005-2009

Katie Biber, General Counsel, Romney for President, 2007-2008 and 2011-2012

Mary Bono Mack, Member of Congress, 1998-2013

William A. Burck, Deputy Staff Secretary, Special Counsel and Deputy Counsel to the President, 2005-2009

Alex Castellanos, Republican Media Advisor

Paul Cellucci, Governor of Massachusetts, 1997-2001, and Ambassador to Canada, 2001-2005

Mary Cheney, Director of Vice Presidential Operations, Bush-Cheney 2004

Jim Cicconi, Assistant to the President & Deputy to the Chief of Staff, 1989-1990

James B. Comey, United States Deputy Attorney General, 2003-2005

R. Clarke Cooper, U.S. Alternative Representative, United Nations Security Council, 2007-2009

Julie Cram, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director White House Office of Public Liaison, 2007-2009

Michele Davis, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Director of Policy Planning, Department of the Treasury, 2006-2009

Kenneth M. Duberstein, White House Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President, 1981-1984 and 1987-1989

Lew Eisenberg, Finance Chairman, Republican National Committee, 2002-2004

Elizabeth Noyer Feld, Public Affairs Specialist, White House Office of Management and Budget, 1984-1987

David Frum, Special Assistant to the President, 2001-2002

Richard Galen, Communications Director, Speaker’s Political Office, 1996-1997

Mark Gerson, Chairman, Gerson Lehrman Group and Author of The Neoconservative Vision: From the Cold War to the Culture Wars and In the Classroom: Dispatches from an Inner-City School that Works

Benjamin Ginsberg, General Counsel, Bush-Cheney 2000 & 2004

Adrian Gray, Director of Strategy, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007

Richard Grenell, Spokesman, U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations, 2001-2008

Patrick Guerriero, Mayor, Melrose Massachusetts and member of Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1993-2001

Carlos Gutierrez, Secretary of Commerce, 2005-2009

Stephen Hadley, Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor, 2005-2009

Richard Hanna, Member of Congress, 2011-Present

Israel Hernandez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, 2005-2009

Margaret Hoover, Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, 2005-2006

Michael Huffington, Member of Congress, 1993-1995

Jon Huntsman, Governor of Utah, 2005-2009

David A. Javdan, General Counsel, United States Small Business Administration, 2002-2006

Reuben Jeffery, Undersecretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs, 2007-2009

Greg Jenkins, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Advance, 2003-2004

Coddy Johnson, National Field Director, Bush-Cheney 2004

Gary Johnson, Governor of New Mexico, 1995-2003

Robert Kabel, Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, 1982-1985

Theodore W. Kassinger, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, 2004-2005

Jonathan Kislak, Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture for Small Community and Rural Development, 1989-1991

David Kochel, Senior Advisor to Mitt Romney’s Iowa Campaign, 2007-2008 and 2011-2012

James Kolbe, Member of Congress, 1985-2007

Jeffrey Kupfer, Acting Deputy Secretary of Energy, 2008-2009

Kathryn Lehman, Chief of Staff, House Republican Conference, 2003-2005

Daniel Loeb, Businessman and Philanthropist

Alex Lundry, Director of Data Science, Romney for President, 2012

Greg Mankiw, Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers, 2003-2005

Catherine Martin, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Communications Director for Policy & Planning, 2005-2007

Kevin Martin, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, 2005-2009

David McCormick, Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, 2007-2009

Mark McKinnon, Republican Media Advisor

Bruce P. Mehlman, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, 2001-2003

Connie Morella, Member of Congress, 1987-2003 and U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2003-2007

Michael E. Murphy, Republican Political Consultant

Michael Napolitano, White House Office of Political Affairs, 2001-2003

Ana Navarro, National Hispanic Co-Chair for Senator John McCain’s Presidential Campaign, 2008

Noam Neusner, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Speechwriting, 2002-2005

Nancy Pfotenhauer, Economist, Presidential Transition Team, 1988 and President’s Council on Competitiveness, 1990

J. Stanley Pottinger, Assistant U.S. Attorney General (Civil Rights Division), 1973-1977

Michael Powell, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, 2001-2005

Deborah Pryce, Member of Congress, 1993-2009

John Reagan, New Hampshire State Senator, 2012-Present

Kelley Robertson, Chief of Staff, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Member of Congress, 1989-Present

Harvey S. Rosen, Member and Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers, 2003-2005

Lee Rudofsky, Deputy General Counsel, Romney for President, 2012

Patrick Ruffini, eCampaign Director, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007

Steve Schmidt, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor to the Vice President, 2004-2006

Ken Spain, Communications Director, National Republican Congressional Committee, 2009-2010

Robert Steel, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, 2006-2008

David Stockman, Director, Office of Management and Budget, 1981-1985

Jane Swift, Governor of Massachusetts, 2001-2003

Michael E. Toner, Chairman and Commissioner, Federal Election Commission, 2002-2007

Michael Turk, eCampaign Director for Bush-Cheney 2004

Mark Wallace, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Representative for UN Management and Reform, 2006-2008

Nicolle Wallace, Assistant to the President and White House Communications Director, 2005-2008

William F. Weld, Governor of Massachusetts, 1991-1997, and Assistant U.S. Attorney General (Criminal Division), 1986-1988

Christine Todd Whitman, Governor of New Jersey, 1994-2001, and Administrator of the EPA, 2001-2003

Meg Whitman, Republican Nominee for Governor of California, 2010

Robert Wickers, Republican Political Consultant

Dan Zwonitzer, Wyoming State Representative, 2005-present