Muted GOP Reaction to Portman Gay Marriage Switch

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 16 2013 4:30 PM

Muted GOP Reaction to Portman Gay Marriage Switch Illustrates Shifting Views in Leadership

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Sen. Rob Portman wasn't criticized for switching his stance on marriage equality

Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Rob Portman became the highest-profile GOP lawmaker to support gay marriage while in office this week. But rather than the shockwaves and condemnation that would have surely followed such an endorsement not too long ago, the move was received with a deafening silence across the GOP leadership. Instead, Republicans inside the beltway largely welcomed the switch, an illustration of how the GOP elite widely favors marriage equality, even if most Republican voters do not, points out Politico. Some Republican lawmakers are increasingly trying to strike a middle ground, but in Washington “it is probably more acceptable to favor gay marriage as a Republican consultant than to oppose it,” points out Politico.

Portman’s switch led the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza to affirm that “the political debate on gay marriage is effectively over.”  That doesn’t mean the GOP will suddenly change positions on marriage equality. But it does suggest that pretty soon Republican leaders will stop talking about the issue, a bit like Democrats stopped talking about guns when the base stopped caring about the issue in the mid 1990s.

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That attitude appeared to be in full display at the annual gathering of conservatives this week, where speakers mostly avoided talking about gay marriage. Less than a decade ago, opposition to same-sex marriage was a rallying cry at the Conservative Political Action Conference but now things seem to have changed, points out Politico.

“My sense is that a platform fight within the party is still eight to 10 years away, but that moment is coming,” a Republican strategist tells the Christian Science Monitor.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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