Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer
Just a few years ago, House Republicans were trying to etch their opposition of gay marriage into the Constitution.
Now? They’re almost silent.
It’s been one of the swiftest shifts in ideology and strategy for Republicans, as they’ve come nearly full circle on same-sex politics. What was once a front-and-center issue for rank-and-file Republicans — the subject of many hotly worded House and Senate floor speeches — is virtually a dead issue, as Republicans in Congress don’t care to have gay marriage litigated in the Capitol.
Even more than that, Republican leadership has evolved, too. It has quietly worked behind the scenes to kill amendments that reaffirm opposition to same-sex unions, several sources told POLITICO.
It’s not like the GOP has become a bastion of progressiveness on gay rights, but there has been an evolution in the political approach — and an acknowledgment of a cultural shift in the country. Same-sex relationships are more prominent and accepted. There are more gay public figures — including politicians — and it’s likely that many Washington Republicans have gay friends and coworkers. Just as important — there’s also a libertarian streak of acceptance on people’s sexuality coursing through the House Republican Conference.
“In one decade, what’s shocking on TV is accepted as commonplace in the other,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), a veteran of the culture wars of the 1990s. “It’s the same with sexual mores all over that if you look at campuses and universities, they have a lot of gay pride clubs and so there has been a deliberate and effective outreach to the younger generation about being more accepting of same-sex relationships.”
But there’s also a political strategy at work: The economy has displaced moral issues in today’s politics. Ask most House Republicans today if they have deep convictions about gay relationships, and it hardly registers.
“I personally have deep convictions about my children having a financially stable country that they can live in,” Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) said in an interview. “I want my daughters to have the opportunities that I had, and that’s what concerns me. That’s what keeps me up awake at night, not worrying about who’s sleeping with who.”
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), a 32-year veteran of Congress, never a man of many words, simply said, “I don’t hear it discussed much.”
Even die-hard social conservatives like Texas Republican Louie Gohmert aren’t digging in.
“That’s not something we’re focused on now,” Gohmert said.
-----National party operatives have taken notice. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions all did fundraisers in the 2010 cycle with the national gay and lesbian GOP grass-roots organization, Log Cabin Republicans.
The group’s Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper said that while the three party leaders got flak for doing the events, they stood their ground.
“Twenty years ago they would have thrown us under the bus,” Cooper said. The group recently hosted a 40th birthday fundraiser for Priebus.
Even among the most conservative ranks there has been some softening. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) — who holds a 93 percent lifetime score with the American Conservative Union — recently attended a Log Cabin Republican meeting in Houston. Poe’s office said his “views on same-sex marriage have not changed, however, he found that there were plenty of things they did agree on and he really enjoyed listening to what they had to say.”
Leadership, too, has played a role. At the top levels of House Republican leadership, aides have tried to “quell” legislative proposals on the sanctity of marriage.
Read this story at dyn.politico.com ...