Debate over marriage equality splinters Republican ranks into 3 camps

Former Republican Massachusetts state Sen. Richard Tisei speaks to supporters in Wakefield, Mass., on Jan. 23, 2014, as he announces he will run for the state's 6th Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. John Tierney. Tisei is one of three openly gay Republicans nationwide running in this year's midterm elections for Congress. Elise Amendola, AP

Former Republican Massachusetts state Sen. Richard Tisei speaks to supporters in Wakefield, Mass., on Jan. 23, 2014, as he announces he will run for the state's 6th Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. John Tierney. Tisei is one of three openly gay Republicans nationwide running in this year's midterm elections for Congress. Elise Amendola, AP

Former Republican Massachusetts state Sen. Richard Tisei speaks to supporters in Wakefield, Mass., on Jan. 23, 2014, as he announces he will run for the state’s 6th Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. John Tierney. Tisei is one of three openly gay Republicans nationwide running in this year’s midterm elections for Congress.

NEW YORK — As same-sex marriage cases cascade through the federal courts, Republican politicians find themselves awkwardly split into three camps.

There’s a small but growing number who favor legalizing gay marriage, a hard-core faction that continues to denounce it, and a sizable group in between that seems to wish the issue would disappear.

At one end of the spectrum, at least eight GOP members of Congress have endorsed same-sex marriage, and two openly gay GOP candidates for the House hope to join them.

In Massachusetts, Richard Tisei has run ads featuring his husband. In California, Carl DeMaio ran an ad showing him and his long-term partner in San Diego‘s gay-pride parade.

On the other flank, conservative Republicans in Congress have introduced legislation seeking to protect states from being forced to recognize same-sex marriages. One of those lawmakers is Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a potential presidential contender who drew applause at a recent conservative gathering by saying, “We stand for marriage,” and insisting that his party not shy away from “family values.”

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Then there’s the large group in middle, not ready to embrace same-sex marriage but wary of antagonizing its supporters, including what polls suggest is a solid majority of Republicans under age 30.

Several GOP governors fit into this category, including Chris Christie of New Jersey, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada. Each decided within the past year to back away from all-out legal fights against gay marriage.

Sandoval said Nevada’s gay-marriage ban “is no longer defensible in court.”

In the Great Lakes region, three GOP governors who are up for re-election and may be nursing presidential ambitions rarely raise the topic on their own.

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