Tags: GOP2016 | gay marriage | religious freedom

Indiana Uproar Exposes GOP Divisions On Gay Marriage

Indiana Uproar Exposes GOP Divisions On Gay Marriage
(Nate Chute/Reuters/Landov)

By    |   Thursday, 02 April 2015 12:24 PM

When the Supreme Court agreed in January to address the question of whether the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection bars states from imposing bans on same-sex marriage, many thought it would nullify the issue heading into 2016, but the recent controversy over religious freedom laws has reignited the debate and exposed divisions inside the GOP.

"It is not going to be the kind of thing that 2016 candidates will put at the top of their agenda. The biggest issues among candidates will be the ones among voters, which are the economy, healthcare, education, ISIS, national security and so on," Republican political consultant Whit Ayres tells The New York Times.

One of the reasons the candidates would like to focus on other issues is because they recognize the shifting political and cultural attitudes towards gay marriage and the larger issue of gay rights, particularly among younger voters.

A 2014 Pew survey found 61 percent of self-identified Republicans under 30 favored allowing gay marriage, as did 77 percent of Democrats in the same age group.

Last May, Gallup reported that support for gay marriage had reached 55 percent, which was a historic high.

The poll found that 74 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of Independents backed allowing same-sex couples to marry. While Republican support only stood at 30 percent, Gallup noted the percentage was almost double the level in 1996 when the question was introduced into polls.

A September 2014 survey found that regardless of their views, 53 percent of Republicans were unhappy with how the party was representing its view on same-sex marriage.

Among the displeased voters, 28 percent said the GOP is not willing enough to accept gay marriage, while 22 percent said the party is too willing.

Thirty-four percent of Republicans said their party is doing a good job on gay marriage.
On both gay marriage and immigration reform, young Republicans are most likely to say their party is not willing to go far enough.

Divisions inside the Republican Party are most evident where gay marriage is concerned and demographics play an important role in determining where voters fall.

In counties that lie on the fringes of metro areas and are reliably Republican, 51 percent oppose it, but 49 percent favor gay marriage, according to Dante Chinni, director of the American Communities Project at American University.

"And running through the middle of the country, Rural Middle America counties are also divided – 48 percent in favor, 52 percent opposed. But in other, more socially conservative counties, the feelings run much stronger against allowing gay marriage. In Evangelical Hub counties, based around the southern Bible Belt, only 32 percent favor allowing gay marriage, while 68 percent oppose it," Chimni writes in The Wall Street Journal.

Considering the demographic differences, it was not surprising that last month Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito joined other Bay State Republicans in signing their names to an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court challenging individual states' bans on same-sex marriage, reports The Boston Globe.

The effort was led by Ken Mehlman, who previously served as chairman of the Republican National Committee chairman and also managed President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign. Mehlman told the Globe that he hoped the point people "appreciate when they read the brief is that supporting marriage equality is, in fact, the conservative position."

Whether they want to talk about it or not, the debate about religious freedom laws has drawn potential Republican presidential candidates into the debate.

"This is the first litmus test of the race. Everyone in the party is watching to see how the candidates respond. For evangelicals, this is the fundamental front of culture issues," said Iowa talk radio host Steve Deace, according to The Washington Post.

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The recent controversy over religious freedom laws has reignited the same-sex marriage debate and exposed divisions inside the GOP.
gay marriage, religious freedom
Thursday, 02 April 2015 12:24 PM
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