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Republican presidential hopefuls are having a difficult time with the gay marriage issue. It seems like a relatively simple issue, but in the GOP world, it is quite convoluted.
Not wanting to upset their tea party and religious base, many candidates shun the idea of gay marriage. However, as public attitudes are changing, some GOP candidates are left scrambling.
“They see the polling – more and more Republicans are supporting gay marriage,” said David Welch, a former research director for the Republican National Committee. “It puts them in an awkward position with the younger members of the party and also with independents whose votes you need to win.”
Richard Socarides, a former Clinton White House adviser on gay rights, said the political climate has changed rapidly and dramatically as leading Democrats celebrate the advent of gay marriage in New York and the imminent end of the ban on gays serving openly in the military under President Barack Obama.
“It’s now advantageous for Democrats to support gay rights, and a net negative for Republicans to oppose them,” Socarides said. “It’s become extremely complicated for many of the Republican candidates who are used to using anti-gay rhetoric as a way to gin up their base.”
In early primary state New Hampshire, gay marriage is legal. According to conservative activists in the state, none of the major GOP presidential candidates has yet taken a public position on the ongoing effort by some Republican legislators to repeal the state law legalizing same-sex marriage.
In Iowa, two presidential hopefuls-Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum-both signed a pledge condemning same sex marriage among other things. Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty were among those refusing to sign the pledge, but both issued statements stressing that they favored limiting marriage to one-man, one-woman unions.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has stated he supports the each state’s right to legalize gay marriage. “That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me,” said Perry. However, some of his supporters were upset by Perry’s comments and he quickly tried to assuage those fears.
“I probably needed to add a few words after that `It’s fine with me,’” Perry said. “Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn’t changed. I believe marriage is a union between one man and one woman.”
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