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Where the GOP goes on gay marriage

March 16, 2013, at 10:16 PM

If Sen. Rob Portman's family-driven conversion to the ranks of same-sex marriage support is a tipping point, how much love for gays comes out of the jar? As interesting as it is to see this turn of events among the elites of the Republican Party, apparently extending even to Jeb Bush, who told a CPAC audience that the GOP cannot be perceived as anti-gay, and as fascinating as I find the Rand Paul techno-libertarian movement, I just don't know how quickly the party can shift its views on the issue.

As same-sex marriage becomes more publicly accepted, perhaps it will not be as odious to evangelical Christians as it once was. (There is a reason why some gay rights activists don't want the Supreme Court to decree that same-sex marriage be a Constitutional right — they worry that a lot of otherwise sympathetic voters will sense an overreach and retrench. The preferred outcome: Invalidate DOMA and overturn Prop 8 in California on a technicality. But I digress.)

Fundamentally, the Republican presidential primaries are not controlled by social liberals or social libertarians. They're controlled by evangelicals. The activist energy in the party, the energy that talk radio feeds on and then regurgitates for cud, is decidedly not ready to flip the switch on gay issues. (Rush? Mark Levin? Hannity?) The party platform won't be written by devotees on Jon Huntsman.  The GOP cannot win the presidency without evangelicals voting heavily. There is no magic coalition for Republicans right now that does not place social conservatives at its core. That may change as the electoral cohort shifts, but we're a few presidential cycles away from that now. 

One thing that's certain: Being pro-gay and Republican won't incur a financial penalty. Almost every big donor in the party either actively or tacitly supports gay rights. The rest are libertarian and don't care. The identifiable social conservative rich folks are dwarfed. 

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