With Americans tilting toward support of gay marriage and two GOP senators now in favour,Republicans find themselves in a tightening political vice on the issue ahead of mid-term elections and the 2016 presidential race.
Last year was a watershed of sorts for the movement,with gay marriage laws passing in three states,Democratic President Barack Obama offering his public endorsement of marriage equality,and Wisconsin electing Tammy Baldwin as the first openly gay US senator.
But same-sex marriage is suddenly,unavoidably in the political spotlight once again,with the US Supreme Court mulling whether to repeal the Defence of Marriage Act which restricts federal benefits to marriages between a man and a woman.
And with the number of US senators backing gay marriage roaring past the halfway mark this past week – 53 of 100 members are now in favour – activists say Republicans risk getting left in the movement’s wake,which could find them struggling to attract new voters.
“The reality is,there is now irrefutable momentum in the country” in favour of marriage equality,Evan Wolfson,a founder of the gay marriage movement in the United States and president of the non-partisan group Freedom to Marry,told AFP.
With each passing year the support for gay marriage grows greater and broader,with a solid 58 per cent now in favour,according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News survey.
Wolfson said “true opposition to gay marriage is dwindling and isolated to a few demographic groups” – namely Americans over 65,non-college-educated whites,and white evangelical Christians.
Young Republicans are siding with Democrats on the issue. Conservative freshman Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona even conceded last week it was “inevitable” that a future Republican presidential nominee would be in favour of marriage equality.
Conservatives promote family and traditional values in their political platform. A Republican White House hopeful who openly espouses same-sex marriage could alienate the party’s base,while opposing it could trigger charges he or she is behind the times.
Some Republicans are not shying away from pressing their case,namely that same-sex unions dilute the importance of marriage as the traditional avenue for raising children with both a mother and father.
But their alarmingly off-script statements are “sending a shudder through the coroners who just finished the Republican autopsy,” noted Wolfson.