GOP Played Critical Role in Ushering LGBT Votes

Rob Portman GOP Support for Gay
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

We all know the Hollywood caricature of Republicans. Rich, greedy, white traditionalists: mostly male, old and anti-gay. Think Jack Donaghy in “30 Rock,” Mr. Burns from “The Simpsons.” You can strain your brain trying to think of a single sympathetic Republican portrayal. The good guys are always Democrats.

The truth is that we wouldn’t be winning marriage equality without GOP support. The first step came from New York, the first Republican-led legislature to pass marriage equality in June 2011. Since then, reform Republicans have played a critical role in states ushering in LGBT freedom. In New Hampshire, 119 Republicans joined with Democrats to fend off a right-wing attempt to repeal marriage equality. GOP majorities in Indiana rewrote that state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act to include LGBT civil rights protections.

More than 232 Republican state legislators have voted for marriage equality. While only 11 federal legislators publicly support the issue, 10 GOP senators helped break a 10-year deadlock to pass LGBT employment non-discrimination legislation in 2013.

See More: Read Variety’s marriage equality issue, featuring Q&As, columns, features and analysis on Hollywood’s role in gay rights

A majority of Republicans under the age of 50 back marriage equality. And there is solid GOP support for every law that has been enacted to expand freedom to LGBT Americans, including healthcare decision-making protections (86%), repeal of Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (68%), joint tax filing (70%) and surviving spouse death benefits (60%).

And support for LGBT rights is growing among communities of faith. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, there is majority support for marriage equality within major religious groups: 61% of Catholics, 62% of white mainline Protestants, and 77% of Jewish Americans. Millennial evangelicals show 64% support.

Yes, most GOP elected officials are still out of step with constituencies. But remember: President Obama didn’t come out for marriage equality until 2012. Hillary Clinton didn’t come out publicly in favor of it until after GOP Senator Rob Portman of Ohio voiced his support in 2013. Other Democratic senators (Bob Casey, Jon Tester, and Claire McCaskill to name a few), not wanting to look more right-wing than the courageous Ohio senator, then backed it.

More than 300 leaders signed an amicus brief arguing the conservative case for marriage equality, including David Koch (yes, one of the dreaded Koch brothers!) and Rudy Giuliani. Republican-appointed and conservative judges have written some of the most important decisions advancing marriage equality in the last two years.

From Judge Callie Granade in Alabama and Judge John Jones in Pennsylvania (both appointed by George W. Bush) to Judge Richard Posner in the 7th Circuit and Judge Bernard Friedman in Michigan (both appointed by Ronald Reagan), they paved the way for a legal framework that values all families. There’s a rising generation of reform Republicans committed to expanding individual freedom. Without Republican support, we wouldn’t be addressing the issue nationwide.

Margaret Hoover is president of the American Unity Fund.

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  1. J. Parsons says:

    “More than 232 Republican state legislators have voted for marriage equality.” Impressive unless you are aware that there are around 3,019 Republican state legislators. That would indicate support at the .07 % range. Hardly instrumental in change. Applaud the 232 but don’t paint the group

  2. Loki says:

    To claim that the GOP majority in the NY legislature supported equal rights is an outright lie. It misrepresents the history of equality in the state of NY, and does a great disservice to the two GOP Senators who stepped out from the caucus to support marriage equality after the so-called Gang of Four Democratic party Senators split from the NY Democratic party to caucus with the GOP specifically in an effort to block marriage equality.

    If the author wants to claim that there have been individual GOP politicians who have supported marriage equality in NY, I would applaud that. Claiming that the GOP, as a whole, lead the fight in the NY legislature to pass marriage equality in the state is mistaken at best, and feels more like a deliberate lie. It certainly colors my judgment of the reliability of any of the other facts the author might care to present.

  3. Saying it don't make it so says:

    Didn’t the GOP support Prop 8 in California? Oh, yeah that’s right they did. Aren’t all of the current GOP presidential candidates against same-sex marriage? Oh, yeah that’s right they are. Giving credit to republicans for same-sex equality is like giving them credit for taking down the confederate flags still flying at state capitals. The republican party is infamous for reinforcing discrimination (racist, sexist, homophobic), stepping aside as the tide of public support crushes their efforts then claiming the changes were their idea all along. Crawl back under your rock please.

  4. Marsha Berger says:

    Bravo Margaret Hoover! The most discriminated against people in our country are the middle class Republicans. I can’t dare say I lean to the right, or I’m Black-listed and made fun of. Republicans don’t have the right to think differently. Yet every other group of people has their rights to think differently. The media defame Republicans constantly. We are supposed to be an anti-bullying country. But the Media LOOKS for ways to bully Republicans. Thanks for the Republican update Margaret. Maybe some media people will be ashamed of their behavior and allow this Republican group of people the same rights as they declare for others.

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