A coalition of young conservatives has launched a new $1 million initiative in an attempt to keep anti-gay marriage language out the 2016 Republican Party platform.
On Wednesday, Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry announced the campaign to reform the party platform in a way that would remove the anti-gay language found in five sections of the 2012 document and replace it with language that embraces differing views within the party on same-sex marriage.
Tyler Deaton, campaign manager for the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, said in a statement the new language is an attempt to “modernize the party.”
“Our aim is to make the national platform less divisive toward gay people and their families — and more focused on unifying all conservatives around our core beliefs of freedom, family and limited government,” Deaton said. “The future of the party is clear on the marriage issue — a seismic shift is already underway in support of the freedom to marry.”
Instead of an endorsement of a U.S. constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage throughout the country — which is included in the 2012 platform — the proposed language acknowledges “diverse and sincerely held views” on marriage, emphasizes its importance and endorses thoughtful consideration of the issue.
The campaign begins after members of the Republican Party in states around the country have expressed opposition to attacking same-sex marriage. Just last week, the Nevada Republican Party rejected a proposal at its convention that would have included an anti-gay marriage plank as part of the state platform. Earlier this year in Indiana, Republican lawmakers modified language in a proposed state constitutional amendment, ensuring it wouldn’t appear before voters on the 2014 ballot.
Moreover, the campaign emerges after a Pew poll earlier this year found 61 percent of Republicans under the age of 30 support marriage equality. Two Republican U.S. House members — Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) and Richard Hanna (N.Y.) — and three sitting Republican U.S. senators — Rob Portman (Ohio), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Lisa Murkoski (Alaska) — also support marriage equality.
The campaign, known as “Reform the Platform,” is set to begin touring the early primary states of New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina this spring and summer.
Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry is a project of Freedom to Marry. Angela Darra, a Freedom to Marry spokesperson, said Freedom to Marry is responsible for the $1 million financial allocation of the project.
Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, said the campaign will build off the successful effort leading to the Democratic Party’s first-ever endorsement of marriage equality in its 2012 platform.
“Similar to our successful 2012 effort to modify the DNC platform in favor of the freedom to marry, the GOP platform needs reform, though of a different kind: removing the harsh, anti-gay language,” Solomon said. “We will continue to make significant investments like these to change hearts and minds.”
But not all LGBT advocacy groups are fully behind the proposed campaign — even as most say they generally support the concept of eliminating anti-gay language in the 2016 platform.
Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said his organization supports the concept, but doesn’t think the proposed language will make it in the final document.
“We support striking opposition to marriage equality from the Republican Party platform in 2016,” Angelo said. “Replacing it with this proposed language seems overly ambitious and very unlikely.”
Jeff Cook-McCormac, senior adviser to the American Unity Fund, said his organization is “delighted” that Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry is starting the conversation on the change.
“We think it’s timely, and we think that it makes sense for Republicans who want to grow the party to find a way to communicate about these issues that reflect the generational shift that is happening not only among Americans generally, but among Republicans more specifically, and that also is welcoming of all people who have sincerely held beliefs on both sides,” Cook-McCormac said.
Matthew Bechstein, co-director of GOProud, said he thinks the only people behind the effort is Freedom to Marry and its Republican supporters like Margaret Hoover and Meghan McCain, but nonetheless said he hopes the campaign succeeds.
“I can say that we here at GOProud have always supported the idea of changing the GOP’s platform language to be more inclusive, and to promote freedom and individuality,” Bechstein said. “I can’t speak for LCR, but I know organizations with parallel causes, like GOProud, would serve their community well by joining forces and embracing this concept. We commend Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry and we look forward to seeing them succeed, hopefully with our help and the help of similar organizations.”
The Human Rights Campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it supports the proposed plank for the Republican platform. A spokesperson said a response should come shortly.
Rev. Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, said her organization welcomes Republicans who support marriage equality, but is skeptical the party will embrace the idea.
“We know that some conservatives get it about marriage equality, for example: U.S. Senator Mark Kirk and U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,” Nipper said. “We only have to look ‘across the pond’ to one of our closest allies — the United Kingdom — to see the way that this issue has been embraced by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. That said, it is extremely hard to imagine today’s Republican Party ever being in favor of freedom and justice for LGBTQ people and our families.”
The proposed language follows:
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.