The issue of same-sex marriage is a long-fought issue by the GOP, but it might be one that they have to back off of if they want to avoid extinction. These days, young Republican voters are split on the issue, and the GOP’s strict opposition to the issue is pushing away more moderate voters. This is especially evident in the newest generation of voters, who are growing up in a time when same-sex marriage is supported more than ever.
If the Republican Party doesn’t change its stance, or at least drop the issue, they will likely lose many young GOP voters. One young Republican, Victoria Hurst, is president of the University of Northern Iowa College Republicans. She puts the issue succinctly into perspective:
“America has bigger problems than who can and cannot marry; it is time to move beyond this and focus on bigger problems, like the federal deficit and unemployment rates.”
Some Republicans have particularly taken issue with the party’s strong opposition to same-sex marriage because of its discord with one of the party’s major tenets: less government, more freedoms. Kyle Etzel is president of the Iowa State College Republicans, and feels like the government should back off of the issue.
“Personally, I’m more Libertarian. I don’t agree with gay marriage. I’m Catholic… but I don’t think that is something you can legislate,” he said. “The Libertarian side of me says, ‘I want the government to leave me alone.” Many others identify with this position, not necessarily agreeing with same-sex marriage but finding frustration that the party is so focused on legislating something that takes away personal freedoms.
Republican leaders and groups like Kenneth Mehlman and the Iowa Republicans for Freedom have recently spent time in the state talking with Republican Party insiders, seeking a change in heart on the issue. Part of the problem is maintaining a balance that pleases both young voters and older social conservatives—otherwise they risk losing one group while keeping the other. Thus far, social conservatism has been more of a focus, as is evidenced by the growing brand loyalty among young voters for President Obama and the Democratic Party.