Has the Conservative Base Given Up on Gay Marriage?

What the scant mention of gay marriage at CPAC means.

Pro-traditional marriage supporters protest next to gay marriage supporters in front of the U.S. Federal Courthouse March 3, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan.
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
See more stories about...
Elahe Izadi
March 7, 2014, 3:05 a.m.

It’s barely been a week since Ari­zona Gov. Jan Brew­er ve­toed a bill al­low­ing busi­nesses to re­fuse ser­vice to gay cus­tom­ers due to re­li­gious be­liefs.

You will not find a fired-up, con­ser­vat­ive back­lash at CPAC, the massive gath­er­ing of con­ser­vat­ive act­iv­ists. And, in par­tic­u­lar, you won’t en­counter people cheer­ing over how to fight the latest state ac­tions ex­pand­ing gay mar­riage.

Mar­quee speak­ers dur­ing the first day of the Con­ser­vat­ive Polit­ic­al Ac­tion Con­fer­ence avoided the top­ic of gay rights, or al­luded to it by men­tion­ing things like Duck Dyn­asty, Chick-fil-A, and re­li­gious free­dom. That’s a con­trast from 2013, when a num­ber of speak­ers men­tioned their be­liefs in more ex­pli­cit terms. Marco Ru­bio of 2013 said, “Just be­cause I be­lieve that states should have the right to define mar­riage in a tra­di­tion­al way does not make me a big­ot.” Marco Ru­bio in 2014 spoke largely of for­eign policy and the Amer­ic­an Dream.

Gay mar­riage could still come up at CPAC, but its not tak­ing cen­ter stage thus far doesn’t mean that con­ser­vat­ives don’t largely op­pose same-sex mar­riage. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Wash­ing­ton Post/ABC News poll, 67 per­cent of self-identi­fy­ing con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­ans op­pose gay mar­riage; 53 per­cent strongly op­pose it.

But it’s hard to say how that “strong op­pos­i­tion” trans­lates in­to ac­tion. You can speak with CPAC at­tendees to get an idea of how act­iv­ists feel about their party’s dis­course on gay mar­riage, but even that is an im­per­fect meas­ure. A num­ber said they per­son­ally do not en­dorse same-sex mar­riage, but don’t want the GOP to fo­cus on the is­sue, call­ing it a dis­trac­tion. Oth­ers, par­tic­u­larly young­er voters, voiced sup­port for gay mar­riage while say­ing it’s a states-rights is­sue.

And 65 per­cent of CPAC at­tendees are un­der 25, which can help ex­plain why the is­sue hasn’t come to the fore. “I think the gap is not so much polit­ic­al; it’s be­com­ing more of a gen­er­a­tion­al gap,” says Daniel Berg­man, a 20-year-old at­tendee from New York who sup­ports gay mar­riage.

“There are is­sues that af­fect the en­tire coun­try, and gay mar­riage right now is used as a wedge is­sue for the youth vote,” says Mi­chael Christ, a 20-year-old from Flor­ida.

One sign of chan­ging at­ti­tudes is the semi-in­clu­sion in CPAC of gay-rights group GO­Proud. After years of be­ing of­fi­cially ex­cluded, mem­bers of the group have of­fi­cially been in­vited as guests. But they aren’t spon­sors with a booth, nor are they host­ing a pan­el. The agree­ment between the two parties is de­lib­er­ately low-key.

Con­versely, the Na­tion­al Or­gan­iz­a­tion for Mar­riage does have a booth at CPAC, and a num­ber of at­tendees per­used its ma­ter­i­als on the first day of the con­fer­ence, and helped them­selves to the swag they offered. But the group isn’t in­volved with a tra­di­tion­al-mar­riage pan­el be­cause, well, there isn’t one. And that has in­spired an out­cry from some con­ser­vat­ive act­iv­ists, up­set that CPAC hasn’t ded­ic­ated ses­sions to abor­tion and mar­riage is­sues. Maybe the big back­lash isn’t at CPAC be­cause those who would or­gan­ize it just aren’t there.

What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
2 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

AKNOWLEDGING THE INEVITABLE
UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Source:
AP KEEPING COUNT
Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Source:
TRUMP FLOATED IDEA ON JIMMY KIMMEL’S SHOW
Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
3 days ago
THE LATEST
CAMPAIGNS INJECTED NEW AD MONEY
California: It’s Not Over Yet
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.

Source:
×