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While gay conservatives see a door opening for their role in the Republican Party, anti-gay conservatives are on the defensive as they try to keep that door closed.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown have both scrambled to regain control of their message after Election Day, assuring supporters and donors that sweeping defeats for their side on marriage-equality ballot measures in Maryland, Maine, Washington and Minnesota were merely a setback.
Appearing on the American Family Association Channel, Perkins declared statements by activists that Election Day’s sweep of victories was a watershed moment for the LGBT-rights movement to be unfounded. Moreover, according to Perkins, any ruling by the Supreme Court that declares the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, which could be influenced by Nov. 6 victories, would leave Americans as divided as after the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
”I think if the court steps in at this moment and says, ‘We’re redefining marriage, same-sex marriage will be the law in every land,’ I’ll tell you what, I think you will create a firestorm of opposition,” Perkins said.
Noting continued divisions over abortion four decades after the Supreme Court upheld a woman’s right to choose, Perkins continued: ”When you look at a nation that is so divided along these moral and cultural issues, that you could have, I hate to use the word, but a revolt, a revolution. I think you could see Americans saying, ‘You know what, enough of this,’ and I think it could explode and just break this nation apart.”
According to Cooper, any theory that Romney or the Republican Party ran as too moderate is simply not the case.
”We didn’t lose because Americans want to spend more money. We didn’t lose because the American populace wants to go deeper in debt. We lost because our party was perceived as exclusionary and targeting particular minority groups,” says Cooper.
Adds LaSalvia, ”Ten years ago there was a different political reality, and there were people like me in the Republican Party who were told to shut up and deal with the political reality. So that’s my message to Tony Perkins: ‘Shut up and deal with the political reality on this issue.”’
Despite Perkins’s violent rhetoric, few can look at the results from this past election and argue that times are not changing. Polls continue to show shifting public opinion on the issue of same-sex marriage. And following the four ballot measure wins, activists hope to carry that momentum into more states.
It was only eight years ago in 2004 that President George W. Bush ran for re-election, leaning heavily on his support for amending the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. In the process, he won the state of Ohio. Although the wedge issue that once was same-sex marriage has lost its edge, it has now been replaced with silence from Republicans on LGBT issues. That too appears to be changing.
”Both parties should be vying for the votes of the LGBT community and our allies,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement. ”With the growing breadth and depth of our electoral power, no one should take our votes for granted.”
While some in the GOP have sought to exclude gay people from their party, gay Republicans argue for conservative principles that oppose government interjecting into the personal lives of Americans; that with changing demographics in key swing states and broadening support for same-sex marriage, the party’s message must change. Failure to do so could prove catastrophic for the future of the GOP. As Cooper notes, American political parties have died in the past.
Although few expect the Republican Party to make a sudden declaration of support for LGBT rights, at a minimum gay conservatives argue that party leaders must at least show some knowledge of the issues that specifically affect LGBT Americans, including marriage equality and workplace protections.
Says LaSalvia, ”Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can fix what’s wrong. And I think the Republican Party is about there.”