President Obama and his lieutenants aren’t the only ones whose views on same-sex marriage are “evolving.”
Republicans — including prominent conservative office-holders, pundits and activists — are increasingly endorsing key parts of the gay-rights agenda.
What do former Vice President Dick Cheney, Governor Chris Christie, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, former Governor Sarah Palin, columnist Ann Coulter and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist have in common? They’re all prominent conservatives, and they’ve all made overtures to the gay community.
Cheney publicly endorsed gay marriage years ago. In January, Christie appointed New Jersey’s first openly gay Supreme Court justice. Priebus has done fundraisers with the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group. Palin hinted that she supported repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Coulter and Norquist sit on the advisory board of GOProud, a gay conservative advocacy group.
There have been noteworthy developments at the state and federal levels. In March, a majority of New Hampshire Republican legislators joined Democrats to reject a bill that would have repealed a gay marriage law and replaced it with civil unions. And in 2011, New York legalized same-sex marriage with the decisive support of four Republican senators, marking the first time in the nation that a legislative body controlled by Republicans approved either same-sex marriage or civil unions. According to a recent Politico story, House Republicans have “quietly worked behind the scenes to kill amendments that reaffirm opposition to same-sex unions.” Politico reporters interviewed House Republicans and found that gay issues “hardly register” with them.
Politico describes the change as “one of the swiftest shifts in ideology and strategy for Republicans, as they’ve come nearly full circle on same-sex politics. What was once a front-and-center issue for rank-and-file Republicans — the subject of many hotly worded House and Senate floor speeches — is virtually a dead issue.”
The easy explanation is that economic concerns have momentarily eclipsed social issues. But many conservatives are simply not interested in issues related to homosexuality. As Rep. Allen West told Politico, “I want my daughters to have the opportunities that I had, and that’s what concerns me. That’s what keeps me up awake at night, not worrying about who’s sleeping with who.”
I asked Jimmy LaSalvia, co-founder of GOProud, why Republican sentiment toward gay rights has changed so quickly. “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,” LaSalvia said. “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.”
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