Should the GOP Reconsider Gay Marriage?

A top Republican pollster sure thinks so

Illustration by G Philly

Jan van Lohuizen is well respected within the Republican party as a top pollster. He’s worked for many GOP candidates over the years – including George W. Bush six years ago. Recently, he surprised many in the party after suggesting that maybe the GOP should change its course on same-sex marriage in a memo that has many people talking. He’s of the opinion that since so many Americans are actually in favor of gay marriage, Republicans should reconsider the anti-gay stance they’ve been defending. He says if conservatives continue taking a hard line on the issue, they could become “irrelevant.”

In a memo being circulated among leaders in the party, van Lohuizen says that the number don’t lie and that support is growing for same-sex marriage. “The most recent public polling shows supporters of gay marriage outnumber opponents by a margin of roughly 10 percent,” he says. “While more Democrats support gay marriage than Republicans, support levels among Republicans are increasing over time. The same is true of age: younger people support same-sex marriage more often than older people, but the trends show that all age groups are rethinking their position.”

In polling among Republicans, van Lohuizen made some surprising revelations, as well. “Majorities of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters support extending basic legal protections to gays and lesbians,” he says. These issues include everything from workplace protections and protections against bullying to the repeal of DADT, the right to hospital visitations and partnership recognition. “Only 29 percent of Republicans oppose legal recognition in any form,” he explains.

And yet, many of the GOP candidates we hear from are adamant about appealing to very right-wing conservatives and religious groups, something van Lohuizen says could damage the party for many years to come – rendering it the party for fringe operatives rather than a majority of moderates that actually make up its base around the country.

His suggestion to GOP leadership – evolve and evolve now. “People who believe in equality under the law as a fundamental principle, as I do, will agree that this principle extends to gay and lesbian couples,” he says. “Gay and lesbian couples should not face discrimination and their relationship should be protected under the law. People who disagree on the fundamental nature of marriage can agree, at the same time, that gays and lesbians should receive essential rights and protections, such as hospital visitation, adoption rights and health and death benefits.”

And yet, the latest reactions from Republicans about President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage last week are anything but equitable. Mitt Romney, considered to be the frontrunner in the election for president, reiterated that “marriage is between one man and one woman.” And others, like Rush Limbaugh – who has an enormous influence over the culture of conservativism in this country – blasted the president for suggesting that LGBT people deserve the same rights as guys like himself. He said that gay marriage undermines marriage. He should know. How many divorces does he have under his belt now? Three? Four?

Bristol Palin, while hardly a serious political spokesperson (but interesting since she’s a younger, more visible Republican), also felt obligated to speak out against gay marriage, saying that children should be raised by a mother and a father. It’s interesting if you consider that she’s a single, unwed mother.

And while many of these conservatives are towing the line that’s typically in opposition of LGBT rights, van Lohuizen actually suggests that something like gay marriage should be embraced as a conservative value since it encourages a family dynamic, something the GOP can’t seem to get enough of with so many groups popping up with “family” in their name – and yet none seem to truly embody family at all.

“As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government,” says van Lohuizen, “we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone. This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government.”

He said a mouthful.

What do you think? Should the GOP rethink its stance on gay marriage?