THE BLOG
06/05/2013 03:05 am ET Updated Aug 04, 2013

The GOP's Marriage Problem: They Still Don't Get It

Republicans have a gay marriage problem. Even their own focus groups with young voters prove it.

They released a report "Grand Old Party for a Brand New Generation," which appears to be titled more on wishful thinking than on reality. God's Own Party is chasing young people into the arms of Democrats faster than Mormons can breed them.

The report claims that a survey by college Republicans shows "44% of young voters said that same-sex marriage should be legal across the country, while 26% said that it should be up to the states to decide." That only measures how it should be legalized, not whether. They found that only 30 percent of young people wanted marriage restricted ONLY to opposite sex couples. You can't build a majority party on 30% of the vote in our system. If Republicans had sense they would start pushing for reforms toward a proportional system of representation.

The biggest problem with the survey is that they divided supporters of marriage equality into two groups, those who want it legal nationally, and those who want it, but think the states should decide. This allows them to refer to the 44 percent as if only 44 percent of YV's hold this position. The report refers to "respondents who said that same-sex marriage should be legal (a full 44% of young voters)." In reality, it is closer to 70 percent.

The report also said their focus groups with young voters showed this issue "came up as one that made young voters (YV's) wary of supporting the GOP." They found 39 percent of YV's said they were "less likely to vote for the candidate" who opposes marriage equality, and 51 percent of young independents felt the same.

Of course YV's are worried about jobs and the economy but "it was unmistakable in the focus groups that gay marriage was a reason many of these young voters disliked the GOP." I know how those young voters feel.

The GOP tried throwing ideal candidates at YV's who support marriage equality by inventing a candidate who agreed with the young person on major issues but who opposed same-sex marriage. They found that "half said that they would probably or definitely NOT vote for a candidate with whom they disagreed on same-sex marriage, even if they were in agreement on taxes, defense, immigration, and spending."

They say that only "about a quarter of young people" see opposition to marriage equality as a "deal breaker" and try to assure Republicans this "represents neither a hopeless situation for the GOP nor a great one." Instead it is a challenge on how to market anti-gay candidates to young voters who aren't bigoted against gay people.

They pretend "there is a 'middle ground' approach of letting states decide the issue." However, that merely evades the issue. Even those who support allowing states to decide the matter may desire equality of rights and be leery of candidates opposed to the measure. "States' rights" is not a way to evade whether one should support marriage equality or not. It merely discusses the level of government at which these policies should be decided.

Hiding behind states' rights doesn't mean YV's don't strongly support marriage equality at the state level as well. Nor does it mean that anti-gay Republicans aren't repelling these voters by their "middle way" position.

The report acknowledges that even with the states' rights excuse "there is hardly an appetite from this generation to see the GOP crusade against same-sex marriage."

The report says that the way to market the GOP to YV's, concerned about marriage equality for their gay and lesbian friends, is to "promote the diversity of opinion on the issues within" party ranks. But, a few lone voices for individual liberty in marriage are hardly reflective of "diversity." I suspect that some Gestapo didn't actually think Jews were such bad people, but I wouldn't market that as diversity.

Clearly the lonely Republicans who have supported equality of rights do not yet qualify the party as a diverse one. Nor is this surprising given that the Religious Right has spent 30 years stamping out diversity in the party. States that allowed marriage equality saw little support from Republican legislators -- usually just one or two votes. Diversity indeed.

The final suggestion they have for Republican candidates is "to focus on acceptance and support of gay people as separate from the definition of marriage." That's the "we accept you, but don't think you deserve the same rights as us" argument. Gay people don't buy it, and I don't think most friends and family of gay people will buy it either. This isn't even "separate but equal," it's just "you're not equal."

If someone were to tell me they accept me and support me, but they want to deny me the rights they enjoy, my reply would not be one fit for print. This Republican report shows they know they are off-putting to a growing number of young and independent voters. But, instead of trying to be less repulsive they are searching for ways to get people to ignore it. In other words, they think they can have their cake and eat it too. Republicans still don't get it.

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