Young Conservatives Are Setting Out on a Crusade Against Homophobic Party Language

Millennials to the rescue?

Protesters call for marriage equality outside a Norfolk, Va. courthouse on Feb. 4. Like Virginia, Texas has seen a judge strike down its gay marriage ban.
National Journal
Emma Roller
June 4, 2014, 5:38 a.m.

Over the pi­ano chords of Macklemore’s “Same Love,” the daugh­ter of a former Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee says, “Hi, I’m Meghan Mc­Cain, and I sup­port the free­dom to marry.”

Mc­Cain, along with oth­er bold-face young Re­pub­lic­ans like Abby Hunts­man and Mar­garet Hoover, ap­peared in this video to de­clare their sup­port for mar­riage equal­ity. The video was cre­ated by Young Con­ser­vat­ives for the Free­dom to Marry — a group that is work­ing to strike an­ti­gay lan­guage from the Re­pub­lic­an Party plat­form, in in­di­vidu­al states and na­tion­ally.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 5005) }}

Start­ing Wed­nes­day, mem­bers of the group will tour New Hamp­shire to meet with state GOP lead­ers about strik­ing an­ti­gay lan­guage from its party plat­form. The cur­rent na­tion­al plat­form defines mar­riage as between a man and a wo­man, and calls it the “op­tim­um en­vir­on­ment in which to raise healthy chil­dren for the fu­ture of Amer­ica.”

New Hamp­shire is just the first in a string of swing states Young Con­ser­vat­ives plans to tour as part of its $1 mil­lion “Re­form the Plat­form” pro­ject. After meet­ing with state Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers there, the group of “polit­ic­al strategists, cam­paign vet­er­ans, and com­mu­nic­a­tions pro­fes­sion­als” will roam on­ward to Iowa, Nevada, and South Car­o­lina.

Start­ing in 2012, the group backed bal­lot meas­ures for mar­riage equal­ity in four dif­fer­ent states. Now, the group has more than 60 mem­bers with one task: con­vince state Re­pub­lic­ans — es­pe­cially na­tion­al del­eg­ates — that op­pos­ing gay mar­riage is a los­ing is­sue.

The move­ment against an­ti­gay lan­guage in state party plat­forms has already seen some suc­cess in Nevada, New Mex­ico, and In­di­ana — all states with Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernors — along with Cali­for­nia and Ore­gon. But the true coup d’etat for the group would be to strike an­ti­gay lan­guage from the na­tion­al party’s plat­form ahead of the 2016 Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Con­ven­tion.

“It just de­fies com­mon sense that the na­tion­al plat­form would be so mono­lith­ic.” Tyler Deaton, the cam­paign man­ager for Young Con­ser­vat­ives for the Free­dom to Marry, told Na­tion­al Journ­al.

Still, Deaton ad­mits his group doesn’t ex­pect to see a sea change be­fore the 2016 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion. “We don’t think that in 2016 the Re­pub­lic­an Party is go­ing to en­dorse the free­dom to marry,” he said. “We can get the Re­pub­lic­an Party to agree to dis­agree.”

Don’t write the pro­ject off — there’s a man­date for their work. Fully 61 per­cent of young Re­pub­lic­ans sup­port gay mar­riage, com­pared with 39 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans over­all. And even vehe­mently anti-gay-mar­riage politi­cians are com­ing around to the idea that it may be in­ev­it­able. “Let’s face it, any­body who does not be­lieve that gay mar­riage is go­ing to be the law of the land just hasn’t been ob­serving what’s go­ing on,” Sen. Or­rin Hatch told a Utah ra­dio show last week.

A few Re­pub­lic­ans in Con­gress have even re­versed their views en­tirely. Last week, Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania threw his sup­port be­hind same-sex mar­riage. “Life is too short to have the force of gov­ern­ment stand in the way of two adults whose pur­suit of hap­pi­ness in­cludes mar­riage,” he said in a state­ment. He joins five oth­er Re­pub­lic­an law­makers — Richard Hanna, Mark Kirk, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Port­man, and Ileana Ros-Le­htin­en — who have openly voiced sup­port for mar­riage equal­ity.

Here’s the RNC’s cur­rent lan­guage op­pos­ing gay mar­riage:


Where­as, the in­sti­tu­tion of mar­riage is the sol­id found­a­tion upon which our so­ci­ety is built and in which chil­dren thrive; it is based on the re­la­tion­ship that only a man and a wo­man can form; and

Where­as, sup­port for mar­riage has been re­peatedly af­firmed na­tion­ally in the 2012 Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Plat­form, through the en­act­ment of the De­fense of Mar­riage Act in 1996, (signed in­to law by Pres­id­ent Bill Clin­ton), and passed by the voters of 41 States in­clud­ing Cali­for­nia via Pro­pos­i­tion 8 in 2008; and

Where­as, no Act of hu­man gov­ern­ment can change the real­ity that mar­riage is a nat­ur­al and most de­sir­able uni­on; es­pe­cially when pro­cre­ation is a goal; and

Where­as, the fu­ture of our coun­try is chil­dren; it has been proven re­peatedly that the most se­cure and nur­tur­ing en­vir­on­ment in which to raise healthy well ad­jus­ted chil­dren is in a home where both moth­er and fath­er are bound to­geth­er in a lov­ing mar­riage; and

Where­as, The U.S. Su­preme Court is con­sid­er­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of laws ad­op­ted to pro­tect mar­riage from the un­foun­ded ac­cus­a­tion that sup­port for mar­riage is based only on ir­ra­tion­al pre­ju­dice against ho­mo­sexu­als; there­fore be it

Re­solved, the Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee af­firms its sup­port for mar­riage as the uni­on of one man and one wo­man, and as the op­tim­um en­vir­on­ment in which to raise healthy chil­dren for the fu­ture of Amer­ica; and be it fur­ther

Re­solved, the Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee im­plores the U.S. Su­preme Court to up­hold the sanc­tity of mar­riage in its rul­ings on Cali­for­nia’s Pro­pos­i­tion 8 and the Fed­er­al De­fense of Mar­riage Act.

And here’s the lan­guage Deaton’s group wants to use to re­place the cur­rent RNC lan­guage:

We be­lieve that mar­riage mat­ters both as a re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tion and as a fun­da­ment­al, per­son­al free­dom. Be­cause mar­riage — rooted in love and lifelong com­mit­ment — is one of the found­a­tions of civil so­ci­ety, as mar­riage thrives, so our na­tion thrives.

We be­lieve that the health of mar­riage na­tion­wide dir­ectly af­fects the so­cial and eco­nom­ic well-be­ing of in­di­vidu­als and fam­il­ies, and that un­der­min­ing fam­il­ies leads to more gov­ern­ment costs and more gov­ern­ment con­trol over the lives of its cit­izens. There­fore, we be­lieve in en­cour­aging the strength and sta­bil­ity of all fam­il­ies.

We re­cog­nize that there are di­verse and sin­cerely held views on civil mar­riage with­in the Party, and that sup­port for al­low­ing same-sex couples the free­dom to marry has grown sub­stan­tially in our own Party. Giv­en this jour­ney that so many Amer­ic­ans, in­clud­ing Re­pub­lic­ans, are on, we en­cour­age and wel­come a thought­ful con­ver­sa­tion among Re­pub­lic­ans about the mean­ing and im­port­ance of mar­riage, and com­mit our Party to re­spect for all fam­il­ies and fair­ness and free­dom for all Amer­ic­ans.

Deaton says hard-core so­cial con­ser­vat­ives are los­ing con­trol over the soul of Amer­ica, and over their own party. “They’re los­ing in the courts. They’re los­ing in the states. They’re los­ing at the fed­er­al level. They’re los­ing in the court of pub­lic opin­ion,” Deaton said. “All they have left are these five angry sec­tions in the na­tion­al party plat­form.”

Is Deaton en­cour­aged by gay-mar­riage op­pon­ents like Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz openly walk­ing back their stances? “Def­in­itely,” he said. Then, after a pause, “We’ll take it.”

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