Republican Party platform-writers Monday reaffirmed the GOP’s strongly held view that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.
Its platform committee, in its first day of drafting a blueprint to guide GOP policy and principle in the years ahead, agreed that children from outside "traditional" families are more prone to violence and drug abuse.
An impassioned bid by Rachel Hoff, an openly gay delegate from the District of Columbia, to soften language she found unfriendly to gays got little support.
Look at the strong backing for same sex marriage and gay rights, she urged. “If our party wants a future, we should be mindful of these statistics, and we must evolve,” she said.
The biggest concession to gay rights involved recommending a constitutional amendment urging the courts to overturn last year’s Supreme Court ruling for same sex marriage. Any constitutional amendment, it said, should leave it up to the states to define marriage.
That’s a change from the 2012 platform, which urged an amendment saying marriage is the union of a man and woman.
The change reflected both political and legal reality, said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council and a committee member from Louisiana. It also reflected a desire on the part of platform-writers to inch towards a more tolerant image.
The change, though, was far from enough for many gay rights activists. The party still regards gay people as "second class citizens," charged JoDee Winterhof, a senior vice president at the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy organization.
The committee also endorsed a section that says children raised in a "traditional two-parent household tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, less likely to use drugs and alcohol, engage in crime or become pregnant outside of marriage."
It showed support for requiring transgender people to use public restrooms designed for the sex they were born with. The Obama administration’s "edict to the states concerning restrooms" and other facilities, allowing transgender people to use the restroom of the sex they identify with is "dangerous," the committee wrote.
Opponents found themselves outnumbered. Those notions are "a slap in the face to people we know and love who happen to be gay," said Annie Dickerson, a New York delegate.
While the platform is traditionally all but ignored by its presidential candidate, it takes on some significance this year as members of the 112-member committee try to build a philosophical base for a party whose most prominent figure is presumptive nominee Donald Trump.
Trump, who until this year never ran for elective office, is distrusted by many conservatives because of more moderate views he’s held in the past. And he’s alarmed many Republicans with his insults of women, Mexican-Americans and others.
Republican Party officials have been urging for years that the GOP should promote more tolerance, including respect for gay rights, warning that younger voters will be alienated if the party remains wary.
Before the committee met, Trump won praise from gay rights groups. Gregory Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, a GOP gay rights organization, calls him the most pro-gray rights Republican nominee in years.
His group is among those urging the party to adopt a national security plank that says radical Islamic terrorist is a threat to gays as well as others. It’s unclear if the convention will go along.
The platform change on a marriage amendment drew little controversy. "It’s settled law," said David Johnson, a delegate from Ohio, "and we have bigger issues to discuss."