With Mainers to vote on whether to allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses in November 2012, a group of Maine Republicans has stepped forward to announce their support. Some changed their minds and were greeted with a certain consternation or at least apprehension from their fellow partisans.
How does this relate to national dynamics?
The national Republican party includes many strong social conservatives. Particularly since 1980, the religious right has been a solid element of the Republican coalition. Nationally, many Republican politicians have supported — and continue to support — restrictions on gay rights, abortion and even birth control.
However, the Republican party has long included a libertarian strand and those Republicans have supported (some degree of) equal rights for gay and lesbian people. For instance, Senator (and 1964 presidential nominee) Barry Goldwater, said of military service, “Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar” and “You don’t need to be ‘straight’ to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight.”
Also moderate Republicans — like Maine Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe — have been relatively supportive of gay rights, both as concerns service in the military and marriage. In 2006. both voted against proceeding to a vote on a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and woman. More recently, both supported ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). There are fewer moderate Republicans than before, but they are still part of the party.
Republicans have became more supportive of gay rights. On gays and lesbians in military service, Republicans shifted from a strongly anti-gay stance to, by May 2010, 60% support for repealing DADT.
But what about marriage equality?
National data show that, as public opinion has shifted on marriage, Republicans have not changed very much.
Public opinion on same-sex marriage has moved a great deal. Now national polls find over 50% support. Much of that change comes from younger age groups and there are clear differences by different generations. If one looks at particular age groups over time, it’s clear that opinion within age groups has also changed and has become more supportive of marriage equality.
But the partisan patterns — at least in national polls — show much greater change among Democrats and independents than Republicans.
via Republicans for marriage equality? Maine and beyond – Pollways – BDN Maine Blogs.