Gay marriage opponents warn of consequences if Republicans retreat from championing traditional marriage.
“I don’t think that’s a constructive attitude to take because Republican officials cannot win without social conservatives,” said Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council. “They are the core base of the Republican Party and the most active volunteers, and it would make no sense to turn their backs on them.”
Opponents of gay marriage are planning a “March for Marriage” in Washington, D.C., on March 26. The speaker’s lineup has not yet been released. “The fight for marriage is absolutely not over. It’s going strong,” said Thomas Peters, a spokesman for the National Organization for Marriage. “The idea that there’s a consensus on overthrowing marriage is absurd.”
Still, the momentum appears to be on the side of gay right supporters, who won four ballot initiatives in 2012 and are eying marriage equality laws in Illinois, Rhode Island, Delaware and Hawaii. Efforts to repeal gay marriage bans are underway in Oregon, New Jersey and Ohio. Barack Obama became the first president to invoke gay rights in an inaugural speech last month.
In an effort to capitalize on these headwinds, a collecting of gay rights groups called the Respect for Marriage Coalition is running $1 million in television and print ads, though it had to replace the one with Laura Bush with a spot featuring a Republican Marine. Former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Colin Powell are also included in the campaign. “We really want to show there’s a majority of Americans behind gay marriage and it’s a bi-partisan majority,” said Evan Wolfson, the president of Freedom to Marry.
Still, gay Republicans feel excluded from most conservative corners, including the high-profile CPAC conference last month that will showcase likely presidential contenders and other rising stars in the party. Angelo said the Log Cabin Republicans have asked to participate in the past but didn’t this year because it prefers to “choose its battles.” Another gay group, GOProud, was barred from last year’s event after some social conservatives boycotted.
“If people are concerned about the future of the conservative movement, they know we need to broaden our appeal,” said the group’s executive director Jimmy LaSalvia. “They need to deal with the political reality of this issue, and beating the drum against gay marriage is a political loser.”