We have all heard that support for same-sex marriage is creeping up across the country but the source of the biggest jump may surprise you: a significant push is coming from the right.

With marriage equality falling off the radar for average Democrats, is it possible that it will actually be the Republicans that will deliver us equal rights?

There are still many more Democrats than Republican voters that support gay marriage (59 per cent vs 29 per cent) but in the past few years, the red line has been catching up with the blue.

There are still many more Democrats than Republican voters that support gay marriage (59 percent vs 29 percent) but in the past few years, the red line has been catching up with the blue.

That has given parts of the party fuel to renew the push for marriage equality, including right-wing nonprofit Project Right Side, launched by former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman. His argument? Choosing who you marry is a freedom and freedom is the foundation of the GOP.

“Our concept of freedom is based in the Declaration of Independence, where every American was provided by their creator, not government, with the right to pursue happiness,” he wrote in an editorial reprinted by newspapers across the country.

“What freedom could be more basic and personal than the right to marry the person you love?”

Average Republicans Get on Board

Though Republican Party policy still does not support gay marriage, the Pew Center’s Religion and Public Life Project has been tracking attitudes to marriage equality since 2001 and has found Republican support wavered around the 20 per cent mark until 2010. That year, it jumped to 24 per cent, then 27 per cent (2011), dropped slightly to 25 per cent (2012) and hit 29 per cent last year

Compare that with support among Democrats, at 53 per cent in 2010, 56 per cent in 2011, 62 per cent in 2012, then a drop to 59 per cent last year.

The Democratic Party went to the polls in 2012 with a policy of support for marriage equality.

In the decade to last year, Republican support for same-sex civil unions jumped from 34 per cent to 63 per cent. Though it’s worth noting the majority of LGBT people see civil unions as a poor substitute for marriage rights.

Dan Meyers, who was a staffer for former New York Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani, says a wave of millennials (people born after 1980) was changing the party’s attitude from within.

“As loyal Republicans and as millennials, we will continue our efforts outside of the media’s spotlight to move our party in a direction of inclusion that is grounded by our faith in individuals and families over government mandates and restrictions,” he wrote in a piece for Politico.

“The millennial generation is a conservative generation that believes in less government, free-market values and equality. Above all, we believe in freedom – for everyone.

Senators Come Out – In Support

Nate Silver at The New York Times says support for marriage equality is surging in the Senate much faster than it is among the public, now that opinion polls show more people in favor than opponents.

He said support among Senators – both blue and red – had jumped in 2011 and 2012 because it “became possible to argue that support for same-sex marriage had become the majority position”. In other words, the public got on board and Senators followed suit.

Once that happened, there was a snowball effect.

“If one senator comes out for same-sex marriage and finds that she is getting a favorable response from her constituents, her donors, her colleagues and the news media, she may encourage others to do so as well,” Mr Silver wrote at the newspaper’s Five Thirty Eight blog.

But he warned the trend would likely not continue because most Senators left opposing marriage equality had strong personal objections or represented states where a majority did not support it.

“The past year or two has been a good time for senators to jump on the same-sex marriage bandwagon, and most of the stragglers (i.e., Democrats from blue or purple states) have been rounded up,” he said.

“The remaining senators who have not taken the opportunity yet may have good political reasons for it, and may wait some time before they do.”

Both sides agree on one thing: gay marriage as an issue is not going away. In fact, Republicans (73 per cent) are slightly more likely than Democrats (72 per cent) to think legal recognition for gay marriage is inevitable.

Impact of the Pink Dollar

For Republican candidates, there may be more swift benefits to being on the right side of history. Last year, three in ten LGBT reported that they gave money to politicians that supported their rights – this is despite earning up to 32 per cent less than their straight counterparts.

And then, there’s the economic argument in favor of gay marriage. The 7100+ same-sex weddings conducted in New York City in its first year contributed an estimated $259 million for the city and $16 million in taxes.

Newlywed Christine Quinn told the New York Daily News that the impact was greater than money.

“I hope people who think that marriage equality was somehow going to cause the end of the world see it has done quite the opposite. It has put people to work,” she was quoted as saying.

“But what you can’t quantify is just the joy that has happened in New York City.”


  • Pew Research Changing Attitudes to Gay Marriage (June 2013). Retrieved from http://features.pewforum.org/same-sex-marriage-attitudes/slide4.php
  • Ken Mehlman, Las Vegas Sun, Marriage equality a conservative ideal (May 18, 2013). Retrived from http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2013/may/18/marriage-equality-conservative-ideal/#axzz2TeWOHCXy
  • Democratic Party National Platform (2012). Retrieved from http://assets.dstatic.org/dnc-platform/2012-National-Platform.pdf
  • Pew Research, Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions and Inevitability (June 6, 2013).
  • Glad, Civil Marriage v Civil Unions (January 2013). Retrieved from http://www.glad.org/uploads/docs/publications/cu-vs-marriage.pdf
  • Dan Meyers, Politico, The GOP’s Generational Shift (April 7, 2013). Retrieved from http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/the-republican-partysgenerational-shift-89712.html
  • Nate Silver, The New York Times, Explaining the Senate’s Surge in Support for Same-Sex Marriage (April 4, 2013). Retrieved from http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/04/explaining-the-senates-surge-in-support-for-same-sex-marriage/
  • Pew Research, A Survey of LGBT Americans (June 13, 2013). Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/06/13/a-survey-of-lgbt-americans/
  • Center for American Progress, The Gay and Transgender Wage Gap (April 16, 2012). Retrieved from http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/news/2012/04/16/11494/the-gay-and-transgender-wage-gap/
  • Tina Moore and Erin Durkin, New York Daily News, More than 7,100 same-sex couples applied to wed in New York City in first year since state legalized gay marriage (July 24, 2012). Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/7-100-same-sex-couples-applied-wed-new-york-city-year-state-legalized-gay-marriage-article-1.1121152

Main image: Pargon CC

This post first appeared at the blog of the Pacific Center, Berkeley.