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Republican governors’ rhetoric softening on same-sex marriage

Saturday, July 12, 2014
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Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, suggested that Republicans are better served by focusing on economic issues.

“I’m a religious conservative, I’m a Catholic, I’m pro-life,” he said. “(But) I think the people of Iowa look to me to provide leadership in bringing good jobs and growing the Iowa economy.”

From left: Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.), Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), and Gov.Terry Branstad (R-Iowa).

From left: Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.), Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), and Gov.Terry Branstad (R-Iowa).

A Gallup poll found in May that national support for same-sex marriage reached an all-time high of 55 percent. That includes 30 percent of Republicans and nearly 8 in 10 young adults from both parties.

Courts across the nation repeatedly have struck down gay marriage bans in recent months. The latest such ruling came Wednesday in Colorado, but it’s on hold pending an appeal. At least 20 states now allow gay marriage, although the issue may be headed for the Supreme Court.

The high court’s landmark ruling last summer allowed married same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits as other married people but did not specifically address whether gay marriage is a constitutional right.

Democratic governors serving in Republican-leaning states that have banned gay marriage also appear to have softened their stands on the issue. Many said they were looking to the Supreme Court to resolve the issue once and for all.

Like Walker, Kentucky’s Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is appealing a recent court ruling that struck down his state’s gay marriage ban.

“My goal is to get that issue to the United States Supreme Court and get a final decision that will tell us all what the law is going to be in the future, and then Kentucky will abide by it,” Beshear said.

Walker, too, said that Republican governors would be “legally obligated” to support gay marriage should the Supreme Court rule in its favor.

For now, the Republican Party’s official platform, as adopted in 2012, calls for a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as “the union of one man and one woman,” while formally supporting Republican-led campaigns to make the same change in state constitutions.

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And despite the softening rhetoric, several states are continuing to fight.

Tennessee, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky are scheduled to present arguments against recent gay marriage rulings in their states before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Aug. 6.

“The Republican Party has been on the wrong side of history on marriage equality,” said Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who leads the Democratic Governors Association. “Whether it’s women’s rights, voters’ rights, workers’ rights or marriage rights, this is not the most creative group of people that are open-minded to being inclusive.”

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