Opinion: Today's young Republicans want a bigger tent

Young Republicans agree that being on the right

Young Republicans agree that being on the right side of history doesn't mean leaning to the left. We hold that fiscal conservatism and limited government do not preclude marriage equality. (Credit: Tribune Media Services / Kevin Kreneck)

Now is an exciting time for a particular conservative group dedicated to the promotion of a more inclusive Republican Party. This week, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and deferred to a lower-court ruling declaring California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional. For the Log Cabin Republicans, the largest organization of gay conservatives, these enormous victories further reiterate the overwhelming support for marriage equality by a number of diverse advocates, including members of the GOP.

This widening base of support is evidenced by the newest members of the Log Cabin Republicans staff: For the first time in its history, Log Cabin Republicans is proudly joined by two straight interns for the summer.

Like us, many young Republicans agree that being on the right side of history doesn't mean leaning toward the Democratic left. Instead, young Republicans are increasingly demonstrating a refusal to compromise: We hold that fiscal conservatism and limited government do not have to preclude marriage equality. As LCR's inaugural straight duo, we attest that the times are a changin', and the GOP needs to hop on board.


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A recent study by the College Republican National Committee suggests that young voters have an appetite for a more moderate GOP. Forty-nine percent of respondents maintained that same-sex marriage should be legal, half of whom indicated that "they would probably or definitely not vote for a candidate with whom they disagreed on same-sex marriage, even if they were in agreement on taxes, defense, immigration and spending." In other words, the GOP's opposition to marriage equality definitively eliminates at least one-fourth of its youth vote, regardless of the relevance or appeal of its other conservative policies.

Despite efforts to convince themselves otherwise, the Republican Party needs to accept that social matters do make a difference. Indeed, as the CRNC report illustrates, social concerns -- including support of same-sex marriage -- are increasingly a priority for young voters, with fiscal policies threatening to take a backseat.

This polarizing model of political binaries has created a staunch generational divide within the Republican Party. A Washington Post-ABC poll taken in March indicates that only 25 percent of Republicans over the age of 65 support the legalization of same-sex marriage. This figure is more than doubled in the young GOP: 52 percent of Republicans aged 18-59 support marriage equality. The divergence of opinion between these age groups manifests in a deepening schism within the party. CRNC reports that the young "winnable" Obama voters they focus-grouped described Republicans as "rigid," "racist," and "old-fashioned."

These assessments portend to an irrelevant GOP wrought by its stubborn fidelity to policies of intolerance. The unwillingness of the Republican Party to evolve has alienated its young constituency and threatens to disengage the emergent generation of voters.

The GOP's generational gulf has forced young Republicans to make a choice. Many young, socially moderate Republicans like us are increasingly asked to violate our personal convictions -- regarding issues like same-sex marriage -- in the pursuit of fiscal conservatism. But as members of the millennial generation, we are greeting this juncture with suspicion, rather than submission. We question the incongruence of marriage equality and conservative ideals, and assert that a reconciliation of these notions is inevitable, if not intuitive.

The Washington Post-ABC poll reports that a startling 82 percent of the millennial generation supports same-sex marriage: Equality is moving forward, and the GOP is precariously close to being left behind. The Republican refusal to renovate and reform has placed our generation at a crossroads, and if the GOP isn't mindful, many will turn left.

Marriage equality is no longer a gay issue, it is an age issue. We emerge from a generation in which equality is the assumption: that we even debate this equality is counterintuitive -- if not absurd.

Mack Feldman is a student at Georgetown University and a native of Oyster Bay, N.Y. Lisa Schoch is a student at Wake Forest University. Both are executive assistants at Log Cabin Republicans this summer.

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