Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

In GOP, support for same-sex marriage is growing

By Margaret Hoover, CNN Contributor
updated 10:33 AM EDT, Wed May 9, 2012
Margaret Hoover says 197 Republican state legislators across the nation have stood up for the freedom to marry.
Margaret Hoover says 197 Republican state legislators across the nation have stood up for the freedom to marry.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • North Carolina approved measure banning same-sex marriage, domestic unions
  • Margaret Hoover says there's significant and growing GOP support for gay marriage
  • Voters in other states will confront the issue this fall
  • Hoover: Many Republicans helped preserve same-sex marriage law in New Hampshire

Editor's note: Margaret Hoover is a CNN political contributor and author of "American Individualism: How a New Generation of Conservatives Can Save the Republican Party." She is a consultant to backers of the New York initiative that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in that state and is active in GoProud, a conservative gay rights organization, and other gay rights groups.

(CNN) -- Just in case you thought you had time to catch your breath from the culture wars, the issue of marriage for gay couples is back at the ballot box this year. On Tuesday, North Carolinians voted 61% to 39% to ban all forms of relationship recognition for same-sex couples.

That's right, this amendment doesn't just prohibit gay marriage, it prevents the existence of civil unions and domestic partnerships under North Carolina's Constitution.

Shockingly, the state's Republican House speaker, Thom Tillis, who was largely responsible for putting the measure on the ballot, called the anti-gay marriage initiative a generational issue and predicted that while the initiative would probably pass, it would also be repealed within 20 years.

Even for most of the GOP's old-school legislators, there is dawning understanding that opposition to freedom to marry is on the wrong side of history and damaging to the long-term, and increasingly the short-term, prospects of the GOP, especially among independent-minded younger voters. Indeed, according to Gallup, 70% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 believe that same-sex marriage should be legal.

Vote means uncertainty for North Carolina's same sex couples

Margaret Hoover
Margaret Hoover

In November, residents of four more states -- Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington -- will voice their views on same-sex marriage at the ballot box. Voters in Minnesota will consider a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and in Maryland and Washington, they will probably face measures to undo new laws legalizing same-sex marriage passed by state legislatures.

Maine will, for the first time in history, have the chance to vote "yes" for a freedom to marry law. Unlike in previous years, polling shows that advocates of the freedom to marry stand a good chance to win some of these battles -- and the potential losses they would face are by much smaller margins than Americans witnessed even five years ago.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter and Facebook.com/cnnopinion

The politics of same sex marriage
Voting on same-sex marriage
Will Obama come out for gay marriage?

While the reigning stereotype is that Republicans are opposed to gay rights, growing Republican support in state-by-state fights belies this perception. Indeed, in New Hampshire and New York, Republicans were critical to recent marriage freedom victories. And Republicans will play key supportive roles in November at the ballot box.

There are tectonic shifts happening just beneath the surface within the Republican Party that haven't percolated to the national dialogue on gay rights. Efforts to support gay rights by GOP state legislators in several states are real and indicative of an increasing realization that expanding equal opportunity and freedom to gay Americans shouldn't be a partisan issue.

Most recently, a stunning victory occurred in New Hampshire, where anti-gay forces sought to roll back the freedom to marry. After Republicans gained three-quarters supermajorities in both chambers in the 2010 elections, the National Organization for Marriage, the chief organization opposing same-sex marriage, proclaimed it was "confident of victory" and would show "that history is not unidirectional" on the issue.

Unfortunately for them, New Hampshire Republicans who believed in the state's "live free or die" motto were quick to build a powerful campaign and harness the two-thirds of the public who opposed taking freedoms away and downgrading people's families. They mobilized hundreds of civic and business leaders and thousands of citizens to make their voices heard.

Not only did the Republican-controlled New Hampshire House defeat the repeal bill, it did so by a lopsided 211-116 margin. The most overlooked fact: A substantial group of Republican legislators, 109 to be exact, voted to preserve the freedom to marry in the Granite State. Despite the best efforts of the National Organization for Marriage, history is unidirectional on the issue, and the freedom to marry is a settled issue in New Hampshire. The trend toward greater acceptance is clear, irrefutable and happening on both sides of the aisle.

To date, 197 Republican state legislators across the nation have stood up for the freedom to marry -- and have lived to tell the tale. Republicans put the bill on the New York state Senate floor and provided the votes needed to make same-sex marriage a reality, making it the first GOP-controlled legislative chamber in America to do so.

The state senators who courageously voted for marriage risked primary opposition from anti-marriage forces but are now garnering wide support. They are well-positioned to fight single-issue attacks while running campaigns and building records of public service that respond to the core priorities of their constituents: less government, lower taxes, individual autonomy and personal responsibility. (In the interest of full disclosure, as a New York resident, I personally advocated for the passage of freedom to marry in Albany last summer.)

A few years ago profiles in courage like these seemed to come in ones and twos. Today, they are occurring frequently. A growing number of Republican legislators are choosing to stand on the side of freedom because they have gay and lesbian people in their lives who they care about.

They've done so because the politics has shifted dramatically, taking the peril out of following one's conscience. They've done so because they believe, like so many of us, that marriage is the most powerful social institution on Earth, integral to strengthening our society because it is rooted in the traditional values that strengthen our families and communities: the values of love, commitment and sacrifice.

To be sure, there's a long way to go before the Republican Party fully embraces these values and is consistent about being the party of individual freedom, but I'm glad to see more and more of my fellow Republicans on the right side of history.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Margaret Hoover.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT