The Republican Party’s Shift on Gay Marriage

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Two weeks ago, Rob Portman, a republican senator from Ohio, made headlines in newspapers all over the United States when he made an official statement declaring that he is in favor of gay marriage, and in doing so, he became the only sitting republican senator to openly support gay marriage[1]. Inspired by his gay son, Portman said, “I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married.[2]” His declaration is even more significant due to his high standing in the GOP; he was a strong contender to be Mitt Romney’s running mate in the previous presidential election[3]. While it is unlikely that Portman’s declaration will inspire a chain reaction among his fellow republican congressmen to affirm gay marriage, both the public’s and the GOP’s reactions to his announcement signify a shift in public opinion.

Although it is likely that just a few years ago, a republican congressman coming out in support of gay marriage would be condemned and criticized by his own party, the GOP barely reacted to Portman’s editorial in The Columbus Dispatch at all[4]. While the GOP’s lack of reaction does not mean that the GOP will become a strong advocate for gay marriage overall, it does signify a shift in perception. What used to be a priority and a major point of contention between Republicans and Democrats has become less important. Additionally, the Republican National Committee recently issued a report on party renewal, which did not mention gay marriage in any way[5].

Part of the reason for this apparent shift within the Republican Party could be the American public’s shift in opinion. A recent study done by The Washington Post and ABC News found support for gay marriage to be at an all-time high, particularly among younger generations. Overall, 58 percent of Americans support gay marriage, compared to a mere 36 percent in 2006. Furthermore, a whopping 81 percent of Americans ages 18-29 are in support of gay marriage[6]. Although the Republican Party overall does not support gay marriage, younger republicans do and even the older members are less opposed than they have been in previous years. For this reason, gay marriage has moved out of the spotlight of the GOP’s agenda.

Furthermore, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, the same Bill O’Reilly who once compared gay marriage to bestiality, admitted that the stronger argument is in favor of gay marriage and stated that he does not “feel that strongly” about gay marriage “one way or another”[7]. Even though most have not come out in support of gay marriage in the same way that Senator Portman (R-OH) did, the general consensus within the GOP seems to be mostly one of apathy. Nobody is expecting support for same-sex marriage to become a pillar of the Republican Party’s platform in the near future, but the shift that seems to be happening currently could lead to major reforms in years to come.

[1] http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20130314/NEWS010801/303140173&Ref=AR?gcheck=1&nclick_check=1

[2] http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/editorials/2013/03/15/gay-couples-also-deserve-chance-to-get-married.html

[3] http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/03/15/174390242/sons-coming-out-leads-sen-portman-to-reverse-on-same-sex-marriagehttp:/www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/03/15/174390242/sons-coming-out-leads-sen-portman-to-reverse-on-same-sex-marriage

[4] http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2013/03/16/republican_reaction_to_portman_gay_marriage_switch.html?wpisrc=obnetwork

[5] http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2013/03/the_republican_party_and_gay_marriage_will_more_republicans_follow_rob_portman.single.html

[6] http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/support-for-same-sex-marriage-reaches-all-time-high-poll-finds/2013/03/18/86ad3382-8ff7-11e2-9abd-e4c5c9dc5e90_story.html

[7] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/27/bill-oreilly-gay-marriage-thump-bible_n_2962110.html

[Image Credit] http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/files/2013/03/RTR3A38I.jpg

About author

Kate Harsh

Originally from Cincinnati, OH, Kate Harsh is a sophomore in the Vanderbilt School of Engineering. She is an Engineering Science major, an Engineering Management minor, and is Pre-Med. Despite the fact that much of her coursework focuses on science and engineering, she has been interested in politics since her freshman year of high school and is particularly interested in the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. In addition to VPR, Kate is involved in starting up a Vanderbilt chapter of Advocates for World Health, is a mentor in The Afterschool Program (TAP), and is a member of the Society of Women Engineers and of Pi Beta Phi sorority. This is Kate's second year on the Editorial Board and Layout Team of Vanderbilt Political Review.

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