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GOP staunch on gay marriage

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | APRIL 28, 2015 5:00 AM

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At one time galvanizing support against same-sex marriage was a successful political ploy. 

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that, combined with the reversal in public opinion, could undermine the effect of any future efforts. 

After avoiding the question, the court will consider whether the U.S. Constitution includes the right to marry for same-sex couples.

Despite early talk that Obergefell v. Hodges could offer an out for GOP candidates looking to avoid any conversation, many are emphatically doubling down on their stance. Many hopefuls have invoked their views in context of religious liberties.

“This fight is bigger than marriage, but unlike like President Obama and Secretary Clinton, the governor of Louisiana’s views, my views, are not evolving with the times — they’re not based on poll numbers,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said to applause from 1,000 gathered for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s kickoff in Waukee, Iowa, last weekend.

Make no mistake, said the leader of one of Iowas social conservative organizations, the topic will be up for discussion — even if the court sides against their wishes.

“… These issues will be exponentially highlighted in the race,” Family Leader CEO Bob Vander Plaats. “Did the court’s opinion in Dred Scott take the issue of slavery off the table, or did Abraham Lincoln put it on the table in a big way?” he asked. “In 1973, Roe v. Wade, did the issue of abortion go off the table because the court ruled?”

During the weekend in Waukee, three announced Republican candidates and six hopefuls addressed a gathering of Iowa social conservatives. Touching on foreign policy, their equal disdain for President Obama and sometimes Hillary Clinton, the speakers covered a lot of ground. 

Most of the aspirants tailored their message to the more than 1,000 gathered at the Point of Grace mega church, and the feeling for a majority of the speakers was clear: We’re not changing.

“I have to tell you to do one thing between now and then, and especially on Tuesday, we need to fall to our knees and pray,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Cruz later said, “We need leaders who will stand unapologetically in defense of marriage and life.”

The Republican Party has a complicated history with the subject. 

Many, such as strategist Karl Rove, pushed for anti-marriage ballot initiatives to help shore up turnout on Election Day. 

Duke University Associate Professor of political-science D. Sunshine Hillygus cowrote a book examining the effectiveness of such tactics. All the hubbub, though, she said, could be gone by the time the general election approaches.

“In the primary [process], when the first stop is Iowa, [candidates] are going to try to find support with social conservatives,” she said. “The things try to make salient the issue at stake not their views … are going to be different in the general election.”

After Obama’s re-election, a party review said the GOP needs be “inclusive and welcoming” on social issues. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who spearheaded the autopsy, told Politico that the party had room for people such as Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who publically supported same-sex marriage, but the party of Lincoln and Reagan could not “compromise our principles.”

Even Rove told ABC’s “This Week” in 2013 he could see a Republican 2016 embrace same-sex marriage.

Last summer, Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry traveled to Des Moines as a component to the group’s $1 million effort to change the GOP’s platform that supports marriage between one man and one woman. The group is about to wrap up its early outreach efforts and then refocus on the 2016 debate.

“If the Supreme Court rules for [couples], that will be the law, and we will be able to move on,” said Jerri Ann Henry, the group’s campaign manager. “The Republican Party has already changed; candidates need to get themselves right when they talk about it.” 

The court’s ruling is expected sometime before its session ends in June. Placing it right on the calendar when the Iowa caucuses and primaries will be even greater. A decision could also provide an opportunity for the other side to engage, Hillygus said.

“It could very well be the case that Democrats see the issue as advantageous to them,” she said.


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