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Anti-Gay Conservatives Becoming A Growing Problem For Republican Leaders

March 31, 2011 1:29 pm ET by Carlos Maza

John Boehner

The issue of same-sex marriage is creating a major rift between House Republicans, with many traditional, anti-LGBT conservatives increasingly butting heads with party leaders who hope to avoid wading into contentious social battles.

House GOP leaders, perhaps acknowledging a change in public attitudes on marriage equality, are already treading cautiously on the Defense of Marriage Act – choosing to avoid bringing the law’s defense to a full House vote.

Now, Congressional Quarterly Today reports that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is leading a new effort to put pressure on House leaders to have floor votes opposing same-sex marriage, specifically targeting DC’s year-old marriage equality law:

Jim Jordan, chairman of the 176-member Republican Study Committee, is leading an effort by conservatives to press House leaders for floor votes in opposition to gay marriage.

Jordan's first project is a draft proposal that would set up a referendum to overturn a year-old District of Columbia law recognizing marriages of gay and lesbian couples. The move comes as conservatives express a desire to move beyond a focus on spending cuts and expand the House majority's legislative agenda to include social issues. [CQT, via Congress.org,3/29/11, emphasis added]

The effort has received support from a number of House conservatives including Tea Party Caucus founder Michele Bachmann, who is apparently now interested in pandering to social conservatives by dropping the economic focus she touted during the 2010 midterm elections.  

The renewed focus on social conservatism is not sitting well with Republican House leaders, who have taken a noticeably softer stance on LGBT issues as polls continue to show anti-gay discrimination is a losing strategy for the GOP:

House Republican leaders remain uncommitted about when and whether to allow such votes during this Congress.

[…]

…several lawmakers said Boehner has resisted making a similar commitment to press measures in opposition to gay marriage.

The Speaker skirted demands from conservatives earlier this month for a vote on a proposal to instruct House lawyers to defend a provision in the 1996 Defense of Marriage (PL 104-199) that directs the government to recognize marriages only between men and women.

Jordan’s announcement reveals an eerie shift in Republican priorities after a midterm election that seemed almost entirely focused on setting aside social issues in order to focus on jobs and the economy.

The 2010 GOP “Pledge to America” contained just a single sentence about LGBT issues. That single sentence is apparently becoming a “campaign promise” that compels Republicans to advance efforts to deny the rights of gay and lesbian couples:

Jordan said he expects the draft measure to draw strong support from House Republicans. He and other conservatives say they are weighing how best to promote the vote as an example of Republicans fulfilling a campaign promise. The GOP's 2010 Pledge to America vowed that a Republican majority would "honor families, traditional marriage, life and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values." 

[…] 

Jordan says he will press for a floor vote to allow fellow conservatives to make clear their opposition to gay marriage. "We want to advance marriage. That's the pledge. Our party should be all about defending marriage as it has always been defined," he said. [emphasis added] 

It’s becoming painfully clear that for many Republican lawmakers, the 2010 promise to focus on economic issues was little more than a Trojan horse for an anti-LGBT agenda most Americans would never have endorsed.




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