Republican attitudes shifting on gay marriage

Journalist Ann Coulter arrives at the Time 100 gala celebrating the magazine's naming of the 100...

Journalist Ann Coulter arrives at the Time 100 gala celebrating the magazine's naming of the 100 most influential people in the world for the past year, in New York April 29, 2014. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

Jessica Murphy, Senior Washington Correspondent

, Last Updated: 8:11 PM ET

WASHINGTON - In the U.S., Democrats lay claim to being the party that backs same-sex marriage and fights for gay rights.

But a growing number of Republicans - gay and straight alike - are looking to change that.

And there are signs the Grand Old Party is changing with them.

"The party is - no question about it - shifting," said Marc Solomon, national campaign director with Republican group Freedom to Marry.

Court challenges have overturned gay marriage bans in a number of states this year, rulings that went unopposed in states including in New Jersey, New Mexico and Wisconsin - all states helmed by Republican governors eyeing a run for the White House in 2016.

A growing number of prominent Republican and conservative voices now openly support gay marriage - from commentator Ann Coulter to director Clint Eastwood.

And three openly gay Republicans are in the running for seats in Congress in November's midterm elections, including California candidate Carl DeMaio, who ran a campaign ad featuring clips of him holding his partner's hand.

But there's still a fault line within the party on the controversial issue, especially along generational lines.

Over 60% of GOP voter under 30 back gay marriage. That drops to 22% for party members over 65.

And social conservatives like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and ex-senator Rick Santorum are vocal opponents - the two headlined a Capitol Hill rally Thursday in support of traditional marriage.

There was also a dust-up this month at the Texas Republican convention between a national Republican LGBT group and what it dubbed the party's "anti-gay fringe."

It started with the Log Cabin Republicans being shut out of the convention exhibit hall, featured outgoing governor Rick Perry comparing homosexuality to alcoholism and ended with the state GOP officially supporting "gay therapy" as part of its policy platform.

The state party chairman has since distanced himself from the policy, and Perry apologized this week, saying he "stepped in it" with his remarks.

Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, laid the blame on "single-issue voters " who he said are candid about not wanting the gay community in the party.

But he said one of the most striking takeaways from the scuffle was the allies -- including some Tea Party representatives and Evangelical Christians - who stood with the group when they protested their exclusion.

Still, Angelo vowed a fight, saying that despite both sides claiming to be under the GOP tent, "that doesn't mean we can't leave some blood on the table."

Democrats are also relatively recent converts to the cause.

President Barack Obama only changed his tune on the issue in 2012. Hillary Clinton was pressed last week by a radio reporter over her stance on gay marriage when she was First Lady in the 1990s, and she admitted her opinions "evolved" on the matter.

Meanwhile, Solomon said some Republican heavyweights - infamous strategist Karl Rove among them - see a 2016 Republican presidential candidate who supports gay marriage as a real possibility, and he argued candidates would come to realize they would alienate more voters by opposing same-sex marriage than embracing it. According to the Pew Center, it is or will soon be legal for gays and lesbians to marry in 17 U.S. states.

 


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