"Marriage is between one man and one woman," Mitt Romney said in his speech at Liberty University. He earned a standing ovation — which isn't much of a surprise given the audience. Liberty University, founded by evangelical nightmare Jerry Falwell, is arguably the most conservative university in the nation.
But Romney may have to reconsider. At least, that's the position of former Bush pollster Jan van Lohuizen, who is circulating a memo advising Republicans to catch up to public opinion about the gays and marriage equality. As Andrew Sullivan puts it, "If the GOP keeps up its current rhetoric and positions on gays and lesbians, it is in danger of marginalizing itself to irrelevance or worse."
The memo points to clear data suggesting a fast increasing move toward national acceptance of same-sex marriage.
Support for same sex marriage has been growing and in the last few years support has grown at an accelerated rate with no sign of slowing down. A review of public polling shows that up to 2009 support for gay marriage increased at a rate of 1% a year. Starting in 2010 the change in the level of support accelerated to 5% a year. The most recent public polling shows supporters of gay marriage outnumber opponents by a margin of roughly 10%.
It goes on to say that while more Democrats than Republicans support gay marriage, "the increase in support is taking place among all partisan groups."
Van Lohuizen even provides an example of the statements Republican politicians might make to explain this apparent flip-flop. Of course, they can always use Obama's terminology and say their position is "evolving," largely as a credit to more friends, family members, and colleagues identifying as gay. These "talking points" are written in the first-person, for immediate use at your next campaign rally or high tea.
Perhaps most interestingly, van Lohuizen offers a guide for "conservative fundamentals," who will have a hard time reconciling a support of same-sex marriage with evangelical morality.
As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone. This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government.
Or just keep being dinosaurs. Up to you.
To be fair, this was clearly not anything Romney would be willing to say in public — especially at a university where students protested his arrival, based on the belief that Mormonism is a cult. (Worth noting: Romney never used the word "Mormon" in his speech.) And regardless of what the Republican candidate once believed, he'll have to continue to appeal to the conservative voters who were hoping virulently anti-gay candidate Rick Santorum would snag the nomination.
[Image via AP]