Republicans Are Bailing on the Gay Marriage Wars

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 18 2013 10:34 AM

Slowly, Surely, Republicans Bail on the Gay Marriage Wars

Same-sex marriage advocates protest after same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses from the San Francisco county clerk on February 14, 2013 in San Francisco, California.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The great Chris Geidner wraps a theme of CPAC hits on a fact that was universally tweeted (and twitpic'd) at the time. Young conservatives packed a rebellious libertarian panel on the GOP "rainbow," which let the banned and press-savvy GOProud into the conference. But only a few dozen people bothered to attend an all-star panel with National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown and ACU board member Cleta Mitchell—i.e., the woman who got GOProud barred. Anyone glancing at the turnouts would think the debate was won.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

"We are treated as if we are bigots," Brown complained to a largely empty room, assembled for a panel dedicated to discussing the bullying they and other conservatives say they face from the Obama administration.
An hour later, speaking to a packed room at another CPAC panel about increasing tolerance in the party, GOProud executive director Jimmy LaSalvia basically agreed.
"We have tolerated something in our movement for far too long: anti-gay bigotry," LaSalvia said.

This was on Thursday. On Friday, I ran into Brown—who is always accessible to the press, even as he's being lambasted—outside of a happy hour put on by Rick Santorum's Patriot Voices PAC. I sheepishly suggested that Brown must have answered the same question 100 times that day. So, uh, what about Rob Portman's gay marriage "evolution?"

Brown didn't mind giving another answer. "Portman's going to have a primary in 2016," he said. He had never been active on the marriage issue, staying on the sidelines when Ohio voters passed a traditional marriage amendment in 2004. That was okay. NOM still knew how to win those amendment fights. They were merely outspent in 2012, when they lost in four states. "If there'd been one state campaign, not four, we would have won," he said.

Hard to say, but there wasn't a ton of evidence at CPAC. The annual straw poll asked a series of questions about non-electoral topics. It hardly asked anything about social issues. Only 15 percent of attendees agreed with the sentence "My most important goal is to promote traditional values by protecting traditional marriage and protecting the life of the unborn." That was the only "social issues" question. A popular theory around the conference was "gay marriage" didn't make it into the poll because the libertarian-skewing attendee pool... would have voted in favor of gay marriage.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 7:03 PM Once Again, a Climate Policy Hearing Descends Into Absurdity
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 7:23 PM MIT Researchers Are Using Smartphones to Interact With Other Screens
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.