When Democrats announced that their 2012 platform would include a historic first — gay marriage written in as a plank — the reaction from mainstream Republicans was near silence.
There were no statements blasted out from Mitt Romney’s campaign. The same was true for the Republican National Committee. Romney has yet to address the fact.
But the comparative quiet from party leaders would have been unimaginable even four years ago, when public opinion hadn’t yet shifted so rapidly on a signature social issue. And it marks a dramatic change among some of the top Republican donors and opinion-makers, who are supporting same-sex marriage in state-based gay legislative and legal fights, even as the official GOP platform will remain centered on traditional marriage.
“Most Republican Party leaders seem to have lost the stomach for this fight,” said Dan Schnur of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. “Some of that results (from) the number of large-scale donors who support same-sex marriage, some of it’s a result in an increasing number of party leaders who support same-sex marriage, and a lot of it is public opinion polling which shows a shift in the way voters feel about same-sex marriage,” he added.
It is, Schnur said, “still an issue that motivates the party base, but it motivates the Democratic base, too.”
It was just eight years ago that Republicans, looking to turn out their base, put gay marriage bans on ballots in key states. The measure in Ohio is widely credited with boosting turnout that benefited President George W. Bush’s reelection effort.
And it was just three years ago that a Maine law allowing same-sex marriage was repealed by voters.
But in recent years, polling and ballot initiatives have shown the American public coming closer to a rough consensus on the issue.
In a Pew Poll released last week, the Democratic base has moved significantly on the issue since President Barack Obama announced his support of same-sex marriage, with 65 percent now backing it — making it an easy call for the Democratic convention. Among Republicans, Pew showed less movement, with 70 percent opposed to gay marriage. But equally significant was the figure showing 51 percent of independents supporting gay marriage, along with 48 percent of voters overall, compared to 44 percent against.