Ask any Republican if they support gay marriage, and you will more than likely get a not-so-affirming response.
Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said that the gay lifestyle is “personal bondage and enslavement,” strongly expressing her opposition to the idea of “redefining marriage.”
Former Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who also opposes same-sex marriage, said that “family” is based on the “traditional” definition of marriage between a man and woman.
Most Republican, conservative Americans demonstrably reject the idea of legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian citizens.
Jeff Angelo, former Iowa state senator is one of the few Republicans a part of a burgeoning movement for marriage equality. Angelo, who served as a senator for 12 years, is the founder of Republicans For Freedom, an organization that stands on a divergent stance among the Republican party in support of gay marriage.
Angelo recently said that his organization is defending the status quo for same-sex marriage in Iowa, which is one of only six states in the country to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian Americans.
Like his GOP cohorts, he once opposed same-sex marriage, but today has a change of heart, and is hoping that his grassroots movement in Iowa will someday be a model for the rest of the country.
But Angelo recognizes the collective attitude mainstream Republicans have towards gay marriage. A 2011 Gallup poll showed that only 28 percent of Republicans supported the idea of same-sex marriage, compared to 69 percent of Democrats.
“The opposition [to same-sex marriage] is well organized and gets a lot of media attention, but [I felt] there had to be an alternate group for Republicans that want to say ‘marriage is a great thing to promote, we’re glad that the gay community wants to be married, and we want to be supportive of that in our own political party,'” Angelo told NewsOne.
The GOP’s monolithic stance on gay marriage is very harmful to the party, according to Angelo. While Republicans stand on a platform of constitutional conservatism, Angelo said the opposition to gay marriage goes against the grain of what Republicans claim to uphold.
“We (Republicans) are pro-stable family, which marriage provides, and so when a gay man or a lesbian says ‘I want to be married’ we should encourage that,” he said. “It’s good for society and it is consistent with what the Republicans say they believe.”
“There are those that believe the Republican Party should be of one mind on this issue and they don’t believe that there should be room in the party for those that disagree.” Angelo said such a mindset is “never” healthy for any political party.
In addition to party fragmentation, Angelo says Republicans push away gay voters who may align politically with the party, but do not vote Republican because of this one issue. He feels there are probably many gay and lesbian citizens who like the GOP’s stance on foreign policy, low taxes, and pro-business, but do not support the party because they don’t feel welcomed.
“A gay person may be with the Republican party 95 percent of the time on their issues, but say ‘I’m not a Republican because you don’t make me feel welcomed’ and I think that’s a shame,” he lamented.
Not every organization in Iowa, however, shares such accepting views. The Family Leader, an organization founded by Bob Vander Plaats, a very well-respected GOP stalwart, dispersed a controversial “Marriage Vow” that most characterized as anti-gay. Plaats said that he would not support any presidential candidate who does not sign the pledge. So far, candidates Bachmann and Rick Santorum are the only two to either sign or commit to signing the pledge.
Angelo said the pledge was “tremendously insensitive.”
“So many people convince themselves that they can treat gay neighbors as second-class citizens,” he said.
Most Republicans reference religion as their basis for opposing same-sex marriage. But Angelo disputes that conservative penchant.
“Nobody’s freedom of religion is being threatened. Churches are allowed to disagree on this issue but the government can’t side with one church over the other,” he cautioned.
Although the Republicans For Freedom remain relatively modest in size, there is evidence to suggest that a cluster of gay-marriage-friendly Republicans is on the horizon. Though his political identification is now Republican turned Independent, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg publicly supported same-sex marriage and was a key player in legalizing it in the state.
Interestingly enough, Bloomberg’s predecessor Rudolph Giuliani also spoke on the Republican party’s opposition to gay marriage. Giuliani who said he personally believes marriage should be between a man and woman, told CNN’s Candy Crowley that Republicans need to “get the heck out of people’s bedrooms” and keep the discussion out of politics.
It seems Angelo isn’t alone.
Angelo maintains that the Republicans For Freedom are committed to setting political precedence for other states.
“Hopefully this is a model that other states can follow in regard to most Republicans and Democrats coming together for protecting the right to get marry,” he said.
With the debate on same-sex marriage, and the Gay Civil Rights movement still brewing on a state and federal level, it will be interesting to see what directives political movements like Angelo’s will take and the political impact they could make in government.