The gay conservative group GOProud announced on Friday that has come out in favor civil marriage rights for gay couples — inspiring mixed reaction among other LGBT advocates — as the organization pledges to undertake greater engagement in state and local affairs.
In an organizational statement, GOProud announced it adopted during a board meeting on Jan. 12 a resolution that lays out the group’s position on relationship recognition for same-sex marriage. Among the nuances of the position is continued concern over the legalization of marriage equality by judicial fiat.
“GOProud believes that stable, loving, committed relationships are the cornerstone of our society and should be protected and encouraged for all couples — including gay and lesbian couples,” the resolution states. “We believe that the decision about how to best do this is one that should be made at the state level and that these decisions are best made by the people directly or through their elected representatives — not by unelected judges.”
The organization insists that it’s taking a federalist approach to the issue — supporting civil marriage where possible and domestic partnerships where possible — but doesn’t believe in a “one-size-fits-all approach” for relationship recognition for gay couples.
GOProud further says it understands religious objections to same-sex marriage and doesn’t believe in requiring religious institutions to honor or consecrate a same-sex marriage.
“We are firmly committed to winning hearts and minds, which is why we understand that not everyone who doesn’t support marriage for gay couples is automatically a bigot or homophobe,” the resolution states. “We understand that there are people of deep faith who may have religious objections to marriage. We respect those differences and believe that no church or religious institution should ever be forced to solemnize a marriage that is against its teachings.”
Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, later clarified for the Washington Blade that the resolution means “we support civil marriage for gay couples” when asked whether the resolution was an endorsement of marriage equality. LaSalvia also said the resolution was adopted unanimously.
The organization hasn’t opposed marriage equality before, although it has often minimized its importance in comparison to conservative principles. Additionally, the group has expressed opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act on the basis that it violates states rights under the Tenth Amendment.
Asked whether concerns about judicial rulings in favor of same-sex marriage mean the organization is opposed to the lawsuits challenging DOMA and California’s Proposition 8 at the Supreme Court, LaSalvia emphasized that GOProud believes the “best” way to achieve marriage equality is through the people or elected representatives — but doesn’t outright oppose judicial rulings on the matter.
The news follows an announcement earlier in the week that GOProud would undertake greater efforts in affairs involving state and local governments as states like Rhode Island, Delaware and Illinois are set to take up marriage legislation. But LaSalvia said those plans aren’t yet fully developed.
“We will be forming state and local affiliates,” LaSalvia said. “Our engagement on these issues will obviously vary from state to state and depend on the circumstances.”
Other LGBT organizations had mixed reactions to GOProud’s new position on marriage — with many expressing support and one gay Democratic group expressing consternation. GOProud has often been derided by other LGBT advocates because of its support for conservative policy — including support for conservative political leaders — and for endorsing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.
Gregory Angelo, interim executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, expressed satisfaction even though the two gay conservative groups sometimes come into conflict.
“Log Cabin Republicans welcomes GOProud to the ongoing effort to change the minds of conservatives and Republicans on the issue of marriage equality,” Angelo said “We’re thrilled they’ve added their voices to the growing chorus of Republicans and conservatives who support the rights of loving couples to build a life together through marriage.”
Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, was happy GOProud is adding its voice to the marriage equality effort, saying the group may be able to reach others who don’t normally listen to LGBT advocates.
“It is good to see GOProud explicitly supporting the freedom to marry,” Wolfson said. “America is one country, and precious constitutional freedoms such as the freedom to marry, should be respected fully no matter what state families are living, working, or traveling in. Judges (including Justices of the Supreme Court), members of Congress, the president, state lawmakers and governors, and each of us in conversation with the reachable but not reached, all have important roles to play in ending the denial of marriage and ensuring that loving and committed couples share in the freedom to marry — with the same rules, same responsibilities, and same respect under the law — nationwide.”
But Jerame Davis, the volunteer executive director of the now dormant National Stonewall Democrats, said the new position reflects GOProud’s willingness to say anything to receive media attention.
“This is just more proof that GOProud is nothing more than a performance troupe of gay conservatives who want to play at politics, but have nothing serious to offer to the discussion,” Davis said. “Just three short months ago, they were lavishing praise on Mitt Romney and claiming marriage equality was just a distraction by liberals looking for votes. Now that they don’t need to suck up to an anti-equality bigot, they’ve seen that the only way they can keep getting attention is to change positions.”
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT organization, declined to comment on the GOProud statement.
The complete resolution follows:
GOPROUD ON MARRIAGE AND RELATIONSHIP RECOGNITION
Since our founding, GOProud has worked exclusively on federal issues. Because marriage has been a state issue since the founding of our country, we have had no official position on marriage or relationship recognition. We have supported, and continue to support, the repeal of DOMA, and we oppose any effort to federalize marriage though a constitutional amendment.
Now that GOProud’s Board of Directors has voted to begin work on the state and local level, we believe it is important to lay out our principles when it comes to marriage and relationship recognition.
GOProud believes that stable, loving, committed relationships are the cornerstone of our society and should be protected and encouraged for all couples – including gay and lesbian couples. We believe that the decision about how to best do this is one that should be made at the state level and that these decisions are best made by the people directly or through their elected representatives – not by unelected judges.
Where civil marriage is possible, we support civil marriage. Where civil unions are possible, we support civil unions. Where domestic partner benefits are possible, we support domestic partner benefits. As federalists, we do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach on almost any issue and that includes relationship recognition for gay couples.
We are firmly committed to winning hearts and minds, which is why we understand that not everyone who doesn’t support marriage for gay couples is automatically a bigot or homophobe. We understand that there are people of deep faith who may have religious objections to marriage. We respect those differences and believe that no church or religious institution should ever be force to solemnize a marriage that is against its teachings.