WASHINGTON -- As support for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals grows in the GOP, the official stance of the Republican Party remains rooted in opposition to those rights. The party's national platform, written in 2012, comes out strongly against LGBT equality and even calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
For the most part, the same remains true at the state level. According to a count by The Huffington Post, only seven states plus the District of Columbia have no mention of opposition to same-sex marriage or other rights for LGBT individuals in their party platforms. Fourteen states appear to go by the national platform, leaving 29 other states with their own platforms that oppose gay rights.
Oklahoma's platform, for example, opposes "the elimination of laws against sodomy" and asserts that being gay is a "chosen lifestyle," not a "genetic trait" -- a claim that is disputed by top medical organizations. Texas' platform states that "the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit."
But in many states, there is a significant internal push-and-pull going on as parties get ready to write new platforms, just as the national GOP will do in 2016. With the Republican Party now divided on support for same-sex marriage, it often comes down to which faction is the most organized and gains control of the platform-writing process.
In Nevada this month, the anti-gay forces lost out. Amid what the Las Vegas Review-Journal called "raucus debate," conventioneers voted to strip opposition to same-sex marriage out of the party platform. Indiana did the same in 2012, even as some Republican officials in the state continue to push for a constitutional ban on marriage equality.
The Illinois GOP platform, adopted in 2012, still supports a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman, but that position appears to be losing favor. In 2013, then-Illinois GOP Chair Pat Brady resigned after receiving criticism from some party officials for speaking out in support of LGBT equality, in direct contradiction to the language in the platform. But this year, those same Republican officials who wanted to oust Brady have been replaced.
Massachusetts, on the other hand, took a step the other way. Although the state was the first to legalize marriage equality in 2004, this February Republicans wrote opposition to same-sex marriage into their platform.
Tyler Deaton has made it his mission to get anti-gay language out of the national Republican platform in 2016. He's the campaign manager for the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, an offshoot of the pro-LGBT group Freedom to Marry that is spending $1 million to "reform the platform." Deaton blamed Massachusetts' "regression" on a lack of organization in the state.
"The Republican Party in Massachusetts is a pro-freedom-to-marry party, except for a small group of activists who managed to organize themselves and influence the outcome of the convention," he said. "It's symptomatic of a lack of organization by all of the pro-freedom-to-marry Republicans who are the majority in Massachusetts and know that the Republican Party in Massachusetts has to move forward on this issue to be viable."
Freedom to Marry undertook a similar effort in 2012, when it successfully pushed the national Democratic Party to enshrine support for marriage equality in its platform.
Marc Solomon, Freedom to Marry's national campaign director, doesn't expect the GOP to go that far in 2016, but he would like to see the anti-gay language gone.
"We're not doing what we did with the Democratic platform," he said. "In that, we called for freedom-to-marry language, because that's where the party was. And it was still a heavy lift and a push because the president wasn't there yet. In this platform, what we're saying is, 'Look, we recognize there is a mix of opinions on this issue and that people's opinions are changing quickly on it.'"
A focus of Deaton's mobilization effort will be young Republicans, who are more supportive of LGBT rights than their older counterparts.
"I think mechanically the biggest part of what we're doing is educating supporters about an opportunity that already exists to become more involved in the party, to try to become a delegate to the national convention in 2016, and to really stand up and be counted, to have their voice be heard and to be a participant in the process," he said.
"I think a lot of activists have struggled to find the right way to channel their beliefs," he added. "And that makes sense, right? Because especially if you live in one of the 17 states or you live in D.C., and you're a Republican and so those are the states that have the freedom to marry, I think you ask yourself, 'What can you do to be contributing to this bigger national fight for freedom for same-sex couples?'"
Already, some young Republicans have been taking a stand. The Washington state College Republicans recently passed a resolution at their convention calling on officials to change the national platform to remove anti-gay language. It also pressed House Republicans to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act up for a vote. The legislation, which would bar workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals, passed the Senate, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has indicated no interest in bringing it up for a vote.
In January, the New Mexico College Republicans dropped anti-gay language from their platform as well.
The marriage plank in the current Republican platform was crafted by Tony Perkins, head of the socially conservative Family Research Council, who did not return a request for comment for this article. The Republican platform states that the "redefinition of marriage" is "an assault on the foundations of our society."
"Republican voters are in a much different place from where the platform is," said Solomon. "The language in the platform is truly vicious and anti-gay. Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council claims to have written the language in the platform, and they're classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. [...] I think that if Republican voters and even increasingly active Republican elected [officials] and others realize that this section of the platform is being written by really extreme, anti-gay forces, I think that they would be ... pretty appalled."
Several state GOP platforms -- in places like Colorado, Maine and New Hampshire, among others -- simply state that they believe marriage is between one man and one woman. But other platforms, like the national one, go much further.
Wyoming's platform calls for the reinstatement of the ban on gays serving openly in the military, which was repealed in 2010, two years before the most recent version of the state's platform. It argues that "a vigorous pro-homosexual agenda in the military is apt to incite violence and therefore weaken the military."
South Carolina's platform "considers homosexuality a lifestyle detrimental to the health and well-being of individuals." It also expresses concern about the spread of HIV/AIDS, seemingly because it "is no longer confined to the homosexual community and the 'drug-abuse sub-culture.'"
The new Rhode Island GOP platform, which was adopted this month, is not yet online, according to the party's executive director, Robert Paquin, III, but on the issue of marriage equality he said: "There is no specific verbiage in our platform regarding the issue, as it is currently a law on the books and we are not seeking to overturn it."
There are a handful of Republicans running for Congress this cycle who do back marriage equality, although for the most part, they have been slower than the base to evolve. But activists pushing for change argue that this year's GOP candidates are not running against same-sex marriage like they did in the past, and that -- like staying neutral on the issue in a party platform -- is progress.
Even the Republican National Committee has admitted that the party needs to be less anti-gay if it wants to stay viable. After the 2012 elections, the RNC put out a report looking at the opportunities and vulnerabilities of the current GOP, concluding that when it comes to LGBT issues, "if our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out."
"There are a lot of young Republicans who just love the Republican Party, and they are die-hard conservatives. And they want to be excited about being Republicans, passionate about it," said Deaton. "But then you have this anti-gay language in there that can be demoralizing. It can undercut your enthusiasm. That's partially how I view it as a gay Republican. I just can't stand that there's language in there that's so demeaning."
"I think we'll have a new platform in 2016," he added. "I think we'll have the anti-gay language removed, and I don't know exactly what the new platform will say, but I think it will be unifying and it won't be anti-gay."
Map created by Aaron Bycoffe.
States with individual platforms that have anti-gay language:
A. We affirm the family, defined as people living together related by blood, marriage or adoption, as the foundational unit of society. We embrace the definition of marriage in our State constitution as the union of one man and one woman. We support reserving marriage benefits to this union alone, and reject the Alaska Supreme Court directive to do otherwise.
B. Recognizing that Alaska law already protects all Alaskans, we oppose the insertion of "sexual orientation" and "transgender identity" in the list of protected classes under anti-discrimination laws for the State and its political subdivisions.
Supports the definition of traditional marriage as only a union between one man and one woman.
We support federal and state tax codes that promote marriage and the family. Believing that marriage is a divinely ordained union between one man and one woman, we do not believe that the state or federal tax code should allow individuals in a same sex union to file a tax return using the filing status of "Married filing Joint." [...]
The Republican Party of Arkansas supports the traditional definition of marriage as a God-ordained, legal and moral commitment between a man and a woman, and we believe that marriage is the foundational unit of a healthy society.
The Republican Party is the party of equal opportunity. It is the Republican Party that abolished slavery and stands for the right of all persons to succeed based on merit rather than non-merit based considerations. We oppose quotas, set asides, or guaranteed equality of results. We support laws prohibiting discrimination in employment and housing based on race, ethnicity, nationality, sex, or religion. We oppose any special rights based on sexual or behavioral preferences. [...]
We support the two-parent family as the best environment for raising children, and therefore believe that it is important to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. We believe public policy and education should not be exploited to present or teach homosexuality as an acceptable "alternative" lifestyle. We oppose same-sex partner benefits, child custody, and adoption.
It is resolved by Colorado Republicans to support and defend "marriage" as the union of one man and one woman.
We call upon government officials and legislators to protect the traditional family and use all means possible to prevent expansion of the definition of marriage beyond that of a bond between one man and one woman.
[Though] not universally achievable, the ideal, best environment for children is within a two‐parent family based on the principle of marriage between one man and one woman. The Republican Party endorses a constitutional amendment protecting our Defense of Marriage Act and enshrining in constitutional law marriage as it is defined in our "DOMA."
6.28 We oppose the teaching of homosexual behavior as a normal or acceptable lifestyle in our government schools.
6.29 We believe that sexual orientation should not be allowed to be a basis for school clubs, such as the Gay Straight Alliance, at any level of the government school system. [...]
10.10 We oppose adoption by homosexual individuals and couples. [...]
13.1 We believe Iowa and federal legislators should uphold their legislative duties to impeach and remove judges who are not upholding their respective Constitutions. We demand that the Iowa Legislature take action to impeach, and to remove from office, judges for legislating from the bench bypassing the Iowa Constitution as in the recent creation of a "so-called right to homosexual marriage." [...]
22.1 We support federal and state constitutional amendments, voted on by the citizens, which define marriage as only between one natural man and one natural woman.
22.2 We the people of Iowa demand Terry Branstad use his executive power as the Governor of Iowa, to stay any and put on hold any same sex marriages already sanctioned until the Legislature acts.
22.3 We support a Concurrent Resolution of the U.S. Congress asserting its Constitutional authority to limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in the following manner: "Pursuant to Section 2 of Article III of the Constitution of the United States, Congress has the sole and exclusive power to make regulations and exceptions to the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Accordingly, effective immediately, the Congress of the United States denies the Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction over cases relating to marriage."
22.4 We call on citizens concerned with the cultural heritage of our state and nation to vote "NO" on retention of each of the four remaining Supreme Court Justices who voted against Iowa's Marriage Law.
22.5 We oppose civil unions and the legalization of "same-sex marriage" in Iowa and assert that Iowa should refuse to recognize "same-sex marriages" formed in other states.
22.6 We support the current Iowa code Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and strongly oppose the Iowa Supreme Court OPINION in the case of Varnum vs. Brien (2009) being taken as rule of law overriding the DOMA law currently on the books.
22.7 We believe Iowa and federal legislators should uphold their legislative duties to impeach and remove judges who are not upholding their respective Constitutions. We demand that the Iowa Legislature take action to impeach, and to remove from office, judges for legislating from the bench bypassing the Iowa Constitution as in the recent creation of a "so-called right to homosexual marriage."
As Republicans, we believe that strong societies rest on strong, stable families. Families provide important value in attainment of leadership skills, moral fiber, work ethic and other traits necessary to be successful in society. As defined by the Kansas Constitution, the benefits and privileges of marriage exist only between one man and one woman. Happy and healthy marriages are the foundation of our society, and we must support the institution of marriage if our society is to survive.
Because our children's future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage, we call for a federal constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges and legislatures cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it.
We believe homosexuality should not be established as an acceptable "alternative" lifestyle either in public education or in public policy. We do not believe public schools should be used to teach children that homosexuality is normal, and we do not believe that taxpayers should fund benefit plans for unmarried partners. We oppose special treatment by law based on nothing other than homosexual behavior or identity. We oppose actions, such as "marriage" or the adoption of children by same-sex couples. We support the Defense of Marriage Act and support constitutional amendments to both the U.S. and the Louisiana Constitutions to ensure that marriage is limited to the union of one man and one woman. We support limiting the jurisdiction of Federal courts over questions under the Defense of Marriage Act. We commend private organizations, such as the Boy Scouts, which defend moral decency and freedom according to their own well-established traditions and beliefs.
Marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman.
We believe the institution of traditional marriage strengthens our society. There should be no infringement on the rights of the people of Massachusetts to vote on ballot initiatives.
We believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that the U.S. Constitution and the Minnesota Constitution should be amended to this effect. We oppose civil unions or their legal equivalents between same-sex couples and, therefore, domestic partner benefits should not be publicly funded.
We believe in the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman.
Therefore, the Missouri Republican Party SUPPORTS:
Missouri's constitutional amendment, approved by more than 70 percent of Missourians, clearly stating that only marriages between one man and one woman will be valid and recognized, whether performed in Missouri or any other state or nation. [...]
The authority of parents as the primary educators of their children in all matters, including morality, sexual orientation and responsibility.
The people of Montana have voted to define marriage in our constitution as only between one man and one woman. We support the definition of marriage as only between one man and one woman.
We believe the institution of marriage is crucial to the American family and that marriage should be defined as the legal union of one man and one woman, and we support a Federal Constitutional amendment to that effect. [...]
We support a return to the policy of the United States military to exclude homosexuals as a matter of good order, morale, and discipline. [...]
We oppose efforts to extend protected class status or special rights to anyone based on sexual or behavioral preference.
[We r]ecognize marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman.
We believe that marriage is a religious institution, not merely a legal contract. As such, the term "Marriage" is not subject to governmental interpretation. We support Civil Rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, gender, handicap, religion and national origin; as well as the principle of individual value, respect and dignity.
The ideal environment for raising children is a two-parent family with a mother and father who are married and committed to that life-long relationship.
We oppose adoption by same-sex couples. [...]
We support the enforcement of federal and state Defense of Marriage Acts. [...]
We support federal and state constitutional amendments to limit marriage to one man and one woman.
[T]he North Dakota Republican Party supports the State definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman.
1. We believe that marriage between one man and one woman is a covenant relationship, instituted by God, and is fundamental to our very existence and survival as a nation. Therefore, we strongly support a U.S. Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. [...]
4. We support Federal and State legislation which prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships.
5. We oppose efforts to redefine marriage. Employers and taxpayers should not be forced to violate their convictions or to bear the cost of granting "same-sex marriages" the benefits that are due traditional marriages.
6. We believe that in order to encourage and protect family values, those promoting homosexuality or other aberrant lifestyles should not be allowed to hold responsible positions over children, which are not their own, or other vulnerable persons. [...]
1. We oppose the promotion of homosexuality, the elimination of laws against sodomy, and the granting of minority protection or special status to any person based upon sexual preference or lifestyle choices.
2. We believe that homosexuality is not a genetic trait, but a chosen lifestyle. No adoption privileges therefore, will be afforded homosexuals. [...]
4. Parents must maintain the right and responsibility to educate their children regarding sexuality and sexual conduct. Neither classroom instruction nor school-based health services shall usurp parental rights, in order to direct sex counseling, to dispense contraceptives, or promote homosexual or promiscuous behavior.
Marriage is between one man and one woman.
We oppose efforts to redefine the marriage unit to accommodate proponents of homosexual "marriages" and oppose any legislation that legally recognizes same-sex marriage, civil unions, or allows such couples to adopt children or provide foster care. Morally and pragmatically, the Party considers homosexuality a lifestyle detrimental to the health and well-being of individuals and therefore opposes its promotion as simply "an alternate lifestyle." We applaud the state for prohibiting same sex marriage and adoptions, and consider such as detrimental to the peace and tranquility or our state. [...]
We oppose any governmental actions which tend to weaken the family, the family being the social unit of wedded man and woman with their natural-born or adopted children. We affirm the wonderful differences with which each gender is created and oppose efforts to blur or disregard the uniqueness of male and female genders. Furthermore, we affirm that one's gender is fixed at birth and that no citizen should be entitled to special treatment or accorded any special benefits not accorded to others of the same birth gender regardless of how they have altered their anatomy or appearance. We oppose federal, state, county, or municipal laws, regulations or ordinances that require a person to be granted special rights or protections based on his or her "perceived" gender identity. [...]
We are alarmed by the growing incidence of sexually transmitted disease in the teen community, especially HIV/AIDS, which is no longer confined to the homosexual community and the "drug-abuse sub-culture." We oppose holding out the myth of "safe sex" to our teens as it is morally debasing and medically questionable.
The South Dakota Republican Party believes that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and must never be redefined to include civil unions of same-sex couples, or groups of individuals. To defend the sanctity of marriage, we support the passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment and appropriate South Dakota laws. We affirm that it is in the best interest of children to be raised by a mother and a father.
We believe in... Self-sufficient families, founded on the traditional marriage of a natural man and a natural woman. [...]
Family and Defense of Marriage -- We support the definition of marriage as a God-ordained, legal and moral commitment only between a natural man and a natural woman, which is the foundational unit of a healthy society, and we oppose the assault on marriage by judicial activists. We call on the President and Congress to take immediate action to defend the sanctity of marriage. We are resolute that Congress exercise authority under the United States Constitution, and pass legislation withholding jurisdiction from the Federal Courts in cases involving family law, especially any changes in the definition of marriage. We further call on Congress to pass and the state legislatures to ratify a marriage amendment declaring that marriage in the United States shall consist of and be recognized only as the union of a natural man and a natural woman. Neither the United States nor any state shall recognize or grant to any unmarried person the legal rights or status of a spouse. We oppose the recognition of and granting of benefits to people who represent themselves as domestic partners without being legally married. We advocate the repeal of laws that place an unfair tax burden on families. We call upon Congress to completely remove the marriage penalty in the tax code, whereby a married couple receives a smaller standard deduction than their unmarried counterparts living together. The primary family unit consists of those related by blood, heterosexual marriage, or adoption. The family is responsible for its own welfare, education, moral training, conduct, and property. [...]
Enforcement of the Defense of Marriage Act -- We support the enforcement of the State and Federal Defense of Marriage Act by state and federal officials respectively, and oppose creation, recognition and benefits for partnerships outside of marriage that are being provided by some political subdivisions. [...]
Homosexuality -- We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country's founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable "alternative" lifestyle, in public policy, nor should "family" be redefined to include homosexual "couples." We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction or belief in traditional values.
Government's responsibility is to uphold and respect traditional institutions, such as marriage between one man and one woman; to protect the elderly and children from the harmful elements of society; and to defend the unalienable right of human life, from conception to natural death.
The Republican Party believes in the importance of the institution of marriage being between one man and one woman and supports the immediate adoption of a State Constitutional amendment in support of this. We are opposed to same-sex marriage, civil unions or any other entity or institution that is intended to gain equal or similar status or recognition as the traditional marriage of a man and a woman. We also oppose any policies written by state agencies that further the homosexual agenda.
The Wyoming Republican Party believes that the definition of marriage is the union of one man to one woman. [...]
The Wyoming Republican Party believes that sex education is primarily the responsibility of parents so any sex education offered must include the parents and be optional and opposes any teaching or encouraging of homosexuality or any other alternative lifestyle in all public schools and opposes distribution of contraceptives in schools. [...]
Be It Resolved that the Wyoming Republican Party believes that public education should focus on fundamental academics and that teachers and administrators should refrain from indoctrinating students with political and social views, including teaching or encouraging homosexuality and transgenderism as an acceptable life style. Such indoctrination also includes any teaching related to the United Nations Agenda 21. [...]
Don't Ask, Don't Tell Whereas the presence of on-duty, heterosexual or homosexual romance in the military greatly weakens the effectiveness of the military; and Whereas a vigorous pro-homosexual agenda in the military is apt to incite violence and therefore weaken the military; and Whereas social engineering and social experimentation have no proper place in the military environment; and Whereas in combat and other military situations transfusions and banking of untainted blood an urgent necessity; and Whereas a return to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy would mitigate the perpetuation of homosexuals in the military, Be It Resolved that the Republican Party demands the reinstatement of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy of the U.S. Armed Forces.