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Alabama GOP won’t silence same-sex marriage proponent

Saturday, August 24, 2013
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MONTGOMERY, Ala.– Alabama’s Republican Party decided Saturday against a rule meant to silence a young party leader who supports same-sex marriage, even though the party doesn’t share her view.

Stephanie Petelos, chairman of the College Republican Federation of Alabama, created a furor in the party when she supported the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act and said more young people would take the position if they didn’t fear a backlash from party leaders.

Stephanie Petelos

After passionate comments from both sides Saturday, the State Republican Executive Committee cast a lopsided voice vote to reject a proposed rule change aimed at Petelos’ remarks.

It said that no member of the party’s steering committee may publicly oppose any resolution passed by the party’s executive committee. Petelos serves on the 21-member steering committee because of her College Republican position.

She said she hopes the vote inspires more young people to get involved in the party and make their voices heard. “I really hope this doesn’t scare or shy people away from the party,” the University of Alabama senior said.

Petelos is from a family that was Republican long before the party dominated Alabama politics. Her father, Tony Petelos, was a Republican legislator, director of the state Department of Human Resource and mayor of Hoover before becoming administrator of Jefferson County. Her mother, Teresa Petelos, served as a Republican circuit judge in Jefferson County until getting beat by a Democrat last year.

Executive committee member Bonnie Sachs of Double Springs, who proposed the rule change, said steering committee members such as Petelos should be held to a higher standard of not publicly criticizing the party’s positions, including traditional marriage.

Several speakers said they don’t share Petelos’ view, but the party must defend her First Amendment right to express it.

After voting down the rule change, the executive committee passed a resolution reaffirming its support for traditional marriage and its opposition to abortion.

One of Alabama’s best known Republicans, Chief Justice Roy Moore, ended the meeting by telling the GOP, “If the Republican Party of this state should ever adopt same-sex marriage, I will no longer be a part of the Republican Party.”

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