More Conservatives in GOP Support Marriage Equality Despite N.C. Setback

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Thursday May 10, 2012

Voters from the conservative state of North Carolina recently approved a constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage and defined marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman -- meaning same-sex couples cannot enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships as well. Despite the setback for the gay rights movement there still seem to be a growing number of conservatives in the GOP that back marriage equality.

CNN reported that people across the country are becoming more accepting of gay rights, especially young Americans. According to a Gallup poll 70 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34 support marriage equality.

But the news network also points out that there is an increase of support for gay marriage by Republicans as GOP leaders have been pivotal in legalizing same-marriage in New Hampshire and New York. The article also suggests that Republicans will have an important role in November at the ballot box as well: "Efforts to support gay rights by GOP state legislators in several states are real and indicative of an increasing realization that expanding equal opportunity and freedom to gay Americans shouldn't be a partisan issue," the article says.

CNN notes that the victory in New Hampshire came from conservatives. Many anti-gay marriage groups, including the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), tried to repeal the state's freedom to marry law and NOM's leaders even said they were "confident of victory." But the state's Republican-controlled House defeated the repeal bill by a 211-116 margin.

The article says that one fact that many people seem to overlook is that 109 Republican legislators voted for same-sex marriage.

Additionally, there have been 197 Republican state legislators in America that have supported marriage equality. Many GOP lawmakers put their careers at risk when backing gay marriage as they could easily lose support and be attacked by those who oppose the issue.

"A few years ago profiles in courage like these seemed to come in ones and twos. Today, they are occurring frequently," the article reads. "A growing number of Republican legislators are choosing to stand on the side of freedom because they have gay and lesbian people in their lives who they care about."

Several Republicans have supported gay rights because they see the shift in politics and believe that "marriage is the most powerful social institution on Earth." Even though North Carolina voted to ban same-sex marriage, the state's Republican House speaker, Thom Tillis, (who played a large role in putting the measure on the ballot) said the legislation would most likely be repealed within 20 years.

The American Spectator, one of the most right-wing publications in the U.S., also points out that there are more Republicans than ever before who support gay issues, including prominent GOP members, like former Vice President Dick Cheney, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter and more.

'Today everyone in America has gay people in their lives. America is changing its mind. It's happening very, very fast and conservatives are a part of that.'

Cheney came out for gay marriage support a few years ago while Palin hinted that she supported the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell Act, which prohibited gays from openly serving in the military. And the always-controversial Coulter is a member of the GOProud's advisory board.

"It used to be that the only gay people most people saw were once a year on TV at the San Francisco gay pride parade," GOProud's co-founder Jimmy LaSalvia said when asked why Republicans were changing their views on gay rights. "Today everyone in America has gay people in their lives. America is changing its mind. It's happening very, very fast and conservatives are a part of that."

"Whenever I'm at a conservative event like CPAC, my experience is overwhelmingly positive," he continued. "I always hear 'We're so glad you're here.' And I hear all the time from big names in the conservative movement, 'I can't say it publicly yet, but I support your right to marry.' I also hear 'it's not an issue for me.'"

The article does point out, however, that even though Republican lawmakers are starting to come around to accepting gay marriage, the majority of conservative voters are not. According to a recent Gallup poll, Republican support has dropped to 22 percent, from 28 percent in 2011. In addition, a recent Pew poll says that support has dropped from 27 percent to 23 percent over the last year.

Kevin D. Williamson, the deputy-managing editor of the National Review, another ultra-conservative publication, wrote about his views on gay marriage, "I might be more interested in the politics of marriage if the legal standing of the institution were not already degraded to the point of triviality."

He goes on in the same frame, to emphasize that gay men and lesbians aren't ruining marriage; heterosexuals did that a long time ago: "Our present-day defenders of the sanctity of marriage aren't exactly Thomas More standing up to Henry VIII; they are huddled around the husk of an institution long debased. Marriage has been shot through the head, and they are calling the dentist. What we call 'marriage' today is certainly not the marriage of the New Testament, the Christian tradition, or our Anglo-European heritage. When you go to political institutions to define your social norms, this is what you get."

And in a final poke at his right-wing readers, he points out that it was none other than their hero, Ronald Reagan (himself divorced), who, as governor of California, instituted no-fault divorce in this country.

He ends with a sarcasm many on the right and the left have made: that gay men and lesbians seem to be in the rear guard of looking at marriage in awe as a magical bonding of two loving people: "The thing that puzzles me about the gay-marriage debate is that gays would much care about access to such an anemic legal institution, but then again the mysteries of romance often are lost on me."

And finally, the house organ of the GOP right wing, Fox News, is definitely trying to sway its viewers. Several on-air newsreaders and commentators recently have been moving toward acceptance. Shep Smith laid is bare: "What I'm most curious about is whether it's your belief that in this time of rising debts and medical issues and all the rest if Republicans would go out on the limb and try to make this a campaign issue while sitting very firmly, without much question, on the wrong side of history on it."