Republican lobbyists are working to persuade GOP lawmakers to change their position on same-sex marriage and revise the party's official position that "traditional marriage" is between a man and a woman.
Gay marriage advocates say their efforts are paying off as an increasing number of members of the congressional delegation are diverging from the party line, The Hill
"The issue is losing its toxicity, from a Republican perspective," Kathryn Lehman, a top GOP lobbyist and partner at Holland & Knight, who helped write the Defense of Marriage Act, told The Hill.
She has been visiting dozens of Republican offices in the House and Senate on behalf of Freedom to Marry, a group that backs same-sex marriage, and said that she has seen a significant increase in support since 2011.
Other lobbyists and organizations are also leveraging their conservative credentials to try to influence GOP lawmakers on gay marriage, transgender rights, and the creation of a federal nondiscrimination policy, according to The Hill.
The list of lobbyists includes Carol Thorsen and Rob Epplin of the Human Rights Campaign, and Torrey Shearer, director at Allegiance Strategies who represents American Unity Fund.
Meanwhile, groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans and Project Right Side are also trying to influence Republican lawmakers, in some cases using polling data to show shifting public support for the issue.
"My sense is there are plenty of members who would like to do the right thing, but it's not because lobbyists are pushing them to do so," Thorsen told The Hill. "These are human beings who view these issues on a deeply personal level, but at the same time, they're elected officials, and articulating those views may be — understandably — complicated by their political situation."
Some Republicans who have become more sympathetic to the issue have faced criticism from religious organizations who tend to form part of their political base. Nevertheless, advocates remain optimistic that the tide is turning in their favor, but acknowledge they still have far to go.
"I believe that this is the civil rights movement of our generation," Thorsen, whose sister recently married her longtime partner, told The Hill. "And I'm proud that I'm on the right side of this, and I'm proud that I can tell my grandchildren that I was there when it mattered."
There are currently eight Republicans in Congress who are on the record for supporting same-sex marriage. Twenty states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized gay marriage or have had a ban overturned in court, most recently on Monday in Virginia.
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