Despite polling that show attitudes about gay marriage have shifted – and Republican Rob Portman’s recent announcement that he now supports it – most Republicans in Congress are unswayed.
A new survey from Pew Research found that the shift in public opinion on gay marriage “over the past decade is among the largest changes in opinion on any policy issue over this time period,” including 14% of Americans and 28% of gay marriage supporters.
But then there is Congress. “I’m not gay. So I’m not going to marry one,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who is retiring in 2014.
The disconnect between inside-and-outside-the-Beltway attitudes comes at a thorny time, especially for Republicans. The party is trying to broaden its appeal to younger Americans — who support gay marriage in large numbers — as well as scores of new voting blocs. Some establishment figures have changed course, with Rob Portman last week becoming the first sitting GOP senator to endorse gay marriage, after learning that his son is gay. And the Republican National Committee, in a bluntly worded report detailing the GOP’s political woes, called for the party to become more sensitive on the issue of gay rights.
But many lawmakers are changing their legislative tactics and toning down their public rhetoric — rather than undergoing a sea change in their stances.
“I’m with South Carolina,” Sen. Lindsey Graham told Politico. “I believe in traditional marriage — between a man and a woman, without animosity. I don’t mind if people are able to transfer their property, visit their loved ones in hospitals, but marriage to me, I’ve stayed with the concept of traditional marriage.”
“I believe in traditional, historic and the religious nature of marriage,” said Rand Paul. “Marriage is always a state issue, and I think it should remain a state issue.”
As The Hill reported, the party’s overall continued opposition to gay marriage puts potential 2016 contenders in a tough spot:
But if it’s politically risky for a major Republican candidate to back gay marriage, it’s also problematic to staunchly oppose it.
A Washington Post poll showed support for legalizing gay marriage at an all-time high of 58 percent, with 52 percent of Republicans between the ages of 18 and 29 indicating support for legalizing gay marriage.