California Republicans are abuzz following the Marin County Republican Central Committee’s vote Thursday to support same-sex marriage, becoming the nation’s first Republican county central committee to do so.
“We recognized that we were not providing Marin voters with a viable choice at the polls, and we looked at ways to begin correcting that perception,” Kevin Krick of Fairfax, the committee’s chairman, told my Marin Independent Journal colleague Richard Halstead.
But Harmeet Dhillon – chairwoman of the San Francisco Republican Party and vice chair of the state GOP – on Monday said the feedback she’s hearing from Republicans all around California is “pretty overwhelmingly in opposition” to the Marin GOP’s vote. She called the vote “ill-advised politically and premature at best,” and said she doesn’t know of any other county that’s considering following suit.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to have platform positions at the local level that contradict what the party positions are at the state and national level,” she said. “I don’t believe in meaningless gestures, and we don’t engage in them at the San Francisco Republican Party.”
Activists have not been agitating for the San Francisco GOP to take a position on the issue, she said, “and I don’t expect that to change because they’re not single-issue voters and it’s not the most important issue for them.” Dhillon said gay Republicans like other Republicans are more focused on economic issues, and though she considers Krick a friend, she finds this decision surprising: “I don’t think it was properly aired, vetted, thought out.”
“There’s really no groundswell for taking what I think is a premature position on the issue,” she said. “It’s not decided by any stretch of the imagination in the courts, by the Legislature or by the people.”
Nor does she believe it’ll attract new voters to the party, Dhillon said: People for whom same-sex marriage is a prime issue usually disagree with the GOP on many other issues as well, so all this does is vex the party’s conservative base.
Stuart Gaffney of San Francisco, spokesman for Marriage Equality USA, said though this is a first for the Republican Party, “it confirms what we already know: Support for marriage equality is increasing on a daily basis across all spectrums of our society.”
“It wasn’t that long ago where marriage equality might’ve been thought of as a partisan issue, but we see more and more politicians and leaders working across the aisle,” he said, noting actions like those of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman – who last year became the first GOP senator to support same-sex marriage – and the Marin GOP’s “are a result of seeing their LGBT constituents as human beings worthy of full dignity in all aspects of their lives.”
“Any politician and any political party needs to be looking at how they can put together a majority, because they need to win elections,” Gaffney said, citing a new Gallup Poll that shows 52 percent of Americans would vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.
“The numbers are only getting stronger and stronger… so any party that hopes to remain relevant needs to get on board or get out of the way. It’s a question for politicians and political parties now whether they want to be on the right side of history or not.”
UPDATE @ 1:25 P.M.: Gregory Angelo, executive director of the national Log Cabin Republicans, said the Republican Party of Washington, D.C., in June 2012 became the first GOP affiliate to officially declare its support of same-sex marriage, but Marin is the first county committee.
“This news is encouraging and only further shows what we’ve long said: that the GOP is no longer walking in lockstep on this issue,” Angelo said. “Enabling local Republican party central committees to take their own positions on marriage equality is an inherently conservative choice because it lets those closest to the ground have the ability to make policy and platform decisions that best meet the needs of their community and constituencies. That’s what the Republican Party advocates across the board.”