While GOP Elites Soften On Gay Marriage, Local Leaders Haven’t Gotten The Message

April 1, 2013 10:47 a.m.

As poll after poll shows a growing number of Americans favoring marriage equality, Republican leaders on the national stage have slowly signaled a willingness to moderate their long-held opposition.

Rob Portman (R-OH) last month became the first Republican senator to endorse same-sex marriage. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said last week that while the party still opposes gay nuptials, the GOP doesn’t “need to act like Old Testament heretics.” And freshman Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Sunday said that a Republican presidential nominee who backs marriage equality is “inevitable.”

While national Republicans have softened on gay marriage, state and local leaders don’t seem to have gotten the message. Here are a few recent examples:Gay Marriage: A Slippery Slope To Fraud

Sue Everhart, chairwoman of the Georgia Republican Party, probably echoed the sentiments of many on the right when she called homosexuality unnatural in an interview published Saturday in the Marietta Daily Journal. But Everhart adopted a unique position when she also warned of another sinister consequence of legalizing gay marriage: fraud.

“You may be as straight as an arrow, and you may have a friend that is as straight as an arrow,” Everhart said. “Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal. I believe a husband and a wife should be a man and a woman, the benefits should be for a man and a woman. There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.”

If that scenario sounds familiar, it might be because it was the premise of Adam Sandler’s 2007 film, “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.”

I’m Not A Bigot — I Have Statistics!

Michigan Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema drew a firestorm of criticism last week when he posted an anti-gay article on his Facebook page. The article, written by a physician named Dr. Frank Joseph, included “some statistics about the homosexual lifestyle,” such as: “50% of suicides can be attributed to homosexuals (10)” and “Homosexuals account for 3-4% of all gonorrhea cases, 60% of all syphilis cases, and 17% of all hospital admissions (other than for STDs) in the United States (5).”

Despite growing calls — including from some Republicans — to resign, Agema isn’t backing down. He said on Friday that he has no intention of resigning. And on Sunday, Agema doubled down on his position by posting more anti-gay rhetoric on Facebook. In one of the latest posts, he claimed that there are “reems (sic) of studies showing the negative health affects (sic)” of homosexuality.

Take A Stand, Get Taken Out

As Minnesota looks to become the latest state to legalize same-sex marriage, Republicans there have been nearly uniform in opposing the Democratic-led legislation. Their jobs may depend on that opposition. After state Sen. Branden Petersen said that he will likely become the only Republican in the legislature to back the bill, the National Organization of Marriage promptly pledged to “take out” any GOP member who votes to legalize gay marriage.

Petersen was never likely to find any allies on the right. State Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R) has been vociferous in his fight against the bill, arguing that homosexuality is “an unhealthy, sexual addiction.” In March, Gruenhagen brought someone who he described as an “ex-gay” friend to the state House floor. When Republicans controlled the Minnesota legislature in 2011, they helped get a proposed gay marriage ban on the ballot, which voters in the state rejected last year.

Endorse Gay Marriage At Your Own Risk

Illinois Republican Party Chair Pat Brady learned first-hand earlier this year that supporting same-sex marriage remains a non-starter in many GOP circles. After Brady expressed support for a bill to end the state’s ban on gay marriage, he faced a revolt from some social conservatives, who attempted to oust him from his post.

A meeting was scheduled for last month to determine Brady’s fate, but it fell through after some Illinois Republicans expressed concern that firing him could hurt the party with moderate voters. It’s safe to say that state Sen. Kyle McCarter (R) was never on board with Brady. McCarter took to Facebook in February to argue that legalizing gay marriage is “discriminatory to those who hold the sincerely held religious belief” that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

Anti-Bullying Event A Bridge Too Far For Iowa GOP

A state-sponsored event in Iowa to promote safe educational environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning is slated to be held Wednesday, but more than a dozen Republican legislators have assailed the event. They’ve threatened to cut funding to the Des Moines Area Community College, which is one of the sponsors of the 8th Annual Iowa Governor’s Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Youth.

“We cannot in good conscience vote to give taxpayer dollars to people or groups who pervert the Bible (and) teach our youth to engage in dangerous behavior,” the legislators said in a statement.

(Photo credit: Lightspring / Shutterstock)

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