HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Rob Portman changed his mind and many GOP leaders would just as soon change the subject. But socially conservative Republican National Committee members gathering in one of the most gay-friendly places in the country are pushing the party to redouble its opposition to gay marriage.
They may well succeed.
Republican National Committee members here for their spring meeting are set to vote Friday on a resolution reaffirming the party’s official position that marriage should be solely between one man and one woman. It is expected to pass overwhelmingly.
It would be an emphatic statement by evangelicals that they’re still a force that must be reckoned with on the RNC’s 168-member governing body — even as many establishment leaders would prefer to focus on party mechanics and avoid hot-button social issues.
The opposition to gay marriage was included in the platform that passed at last summer’s national convention, but those pressing for a vote say it’s a response to the so-called “autopsy” report released last month by a task force appointed by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.
That report said some voters see this as “the civil rights issue of our time.”
“For many younger voters, these [social] issues are a gateway into whether the party is a place they want to be,” the report said. “If our party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out.”
Iowa Republican committeeman Steve Scheffler, a prominent social conservative activist, told POLITICO he was “disgusted” that this language was included in the repot.
“There was no need to put it in there,” he said. “I’m for being inclusive, and if people want to support our party based on our platform and our principles, that’s fine and dandy. But … the perception that has become reality is that we are weakening on the position and that we’re about ready to embrace so-called homosexual marriage. It’s caused a whole bunch of fury in Iowa.”
Scheffler warned that gay-rights activists are planning to infiltrate the 2016 Iowa caucuses to try changing his party’s platform. He criticized former Mitt Romney consultant David Kochel, who has been advocating gay rights and recently declared that “the culture wars are kind of over.” Scheffler also singled out former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, who came out as gay after using the issue to the party’s advantage in 2004, for coming to his state in January to argue the party should change its stand on gay marriage.
Texas Republican national committeeman Robin Armstrong said the party can’t afford to turn its back on social issues, which matter greatly to the base.
“I’m a physician. I practice with homosexuals. They see my patients and take care of them and do a good job,” he said. “I’m not in opposition to anybody. We’re just in favor of protecting an institution that has existed for 6,000 years.”
Armstrong, who is African-American, said he’s campaigned in black churches and rallied support for the Republican cause over the issue. “Our base has perceived that we’re compromising, so it’s important to make a statement that says, ‘Listen, we have not gone anywhere on this issue. We stand with you,’” he said. “But at the same time we don’t demonize other people.”
Michigan committeeman Dave Agema, who has faced criticism for a Facebook post last month that highlighted dubious statistics about gays, sponsored the resolution. He reportedly compared being gay to being an alcoholic in a Wednesday radio interview.