Metro Weekly

RNC chair praises Portman as GOP report calls for gay inclusion


In an expansive “autopsy” of the GOP, the Republican National Committee released a report today providing a path forward for the party, one that includes gay inclusion, following a series of defeats last November.

Titled the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” the 97-page report specifically singles out the GOP’s stance on gay-rights issues as being a key contributor to alienation among younger voters and one that must be addressed if national Republican candidates wish to win at the ballot box.

“For the GOP to appeal to younger voters, we do not have to agree on every issue, but we do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view,” the report states. “Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be.”

“If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out,” the report continues, adding that disagreement over 20 percent of the issues should not mean the party cannot come together on the other issues. Polling has consistently shown nearly half of conservatives younger than 30 support marriage equality.

The report comes after RNC Chairman Reince Priebus announced the creation of the project to examine the GOP’s electoral woes in December 2012. Tasked with putting forward recommendations in a number of key areas necessary for winning elections, the co-chairs of the project made contact with more than 52,000 people through a series of polls and focus groups.

“The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue,” the report states. 

Although the report makes no mention of marriage equality nor does it specifically argue for the adoption of a national position on LGBT rights, it does recommend campaigning within the gay community and “communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case.”

“We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too. We must recruit more candidates who come from minority communities,” the report states. “But it is not just tone that counts. Policy always matters.”

The release of the report comes the same day Priebus spoke at the National Press Club in D.C. In a striking statement, Priebus volunteered the name of Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who endorsed same-sex marriage last week after learning that his son is gay, when asked what “rising stars” in the party could help “rein in the anti-gay and anti-women sentiments.”

“I think Sen. Portman made some pretty big inroads last week,” Priebus said. “I think it’s about being decent. I think it’s about dignity and respect, that nobody deserves to have their dignity diminished, or people don’t deserve to be disrespected.”

Although Priebus would not say if the RNC supported Portman’s position on marriage equality, he said it would not impact the committee’s financial support of the Ohio senator.

“It’s not a matter of whether I support his decision,” Priebus said. “I support him doing what he wants to do as an elected person and as an American. If that’s his opinion, then I support him having that opinion.”

Priebus’s comments and the report itself were yet more signs that the marriage fight within the GOP is rapidly changing. During the Conservative Political Action Conference held last week, the conservative movement’s struggle to attract gay and young voters was clearly visible during a number of panel discussions.

According to Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, Priebus’s remarks show the party is serious about attracting gay voters.

“Of all the underrepresented populations with which the GOP needs to make inroads, acknowledging the party’s deficiencies in addressing LGBT voters would not only broaden support among gay voters, but increase appeal among the youth vote that is critical to the longevity of the Republican Party,”Angelo said in a statement. “With more and more Republicans coming to support civil marriage for all and standing on the right side of history, the party needs to understand the reality that growth and opportunity in the Republican Party will only happen by including gay Americans in the equation.”

[Image: Reince Priebus during his appearance at the National Press Club (Screenshot courtesy of C-SPAN)]

Read the full RNC report here:

RNC Growth Opportunity Book 2013

Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's former political editor and White House correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @JustinCSnow.