News (USA)

Ex-Pawlenty aide urges GOP to back gay marriage or risk alienating young voters

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A former top aide to Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Wednesday publicly urged Minnesota GOP legislators to back legalized same-sex marriage or risk alienating young voters.

Brian McClung, who was deputy chief of staff to Pawlenty, made his case in a Star Tribune commentary piece due for publication Thursday but also spoke with The Associated Press.

Brian McClung

He said he is willing to go directly to Republican lawmakers considered persuadable on the issue ahead of legislative votes on gay marriage. Those votes are expected before the Legislature adjourns in mid-May.

McClung said by resisting gay marriage the GOP is ignoring a generational gap on the issue and coming off as out of touch.

“We risk closing the door on an entire generation of voters,” McClung told AP.

He added that by resolving the issue this year, the GOP can keep the focus on economic matters when they face voters next.

“By the time of the 2014 elections, it would be beneficial for us to have this as a settled issue and have us get back to the broader issues that we all support — like less spending, lower taxes and more accountability,” McClung said.

One legislative Republican, state Sen. Branden Petersen of Andover, has said he would support the same-sex marriage bill. But backers said they hope to get others on board. Some Democrats from rural districts are opposed to the bill, making the outcome unpredictable in Minnesota’s Democratic-led Legislature.

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McClung said he voted against a constitutional amendment on last fall’s ballot that would have fortified an existing statutory ban on gay marriage. The amendment, put on the ballot by a Republican-controlled Legislature, failed.

Seventeen House Democrats represent districts where a majority of voters backed the unsuccessful gay marriage ban. Conversely, 21 House Republicans represent suburban districts where the amendment failed.

McClung said he consulted with Pawlenty before making his announcement. But he said Pawlenty, a two-term Republican governor who left office in 2010, still believes marriage should remain between one man and one woman. Pawlenty didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

McClung isn’t the only ex-aide for Pawlenty to promote gay marriage. A former communications director, Dan Wolter, publicly advocated defeat of the amendment last fall.

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