Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has gotten a lot of flak for his antiquated views on some social issues that, though not the focal points of this election, mean everything to some voters. Despite a conservative fiscal policy and a focus on strong national defense that many young Republicans support, Romney’s anti-gay marriage stance eliminates him as an option for voters who see his position as antithetical to fundamental civil liberties.
In an age that is increasingly supportive of equal rights for people of all sexual orientations, it is vital for the survival and viability of the GOP that the official party platform change to one that states its support for gay marriage. Without such a change, candidates like Romney will become less and less likely to gain office as the current generation of open-minded young adults grows up and becomes more influential within the electorate.
Romney’s stances on gay marriage are more specific than those of his party’s 2012 platform, but the pre-convention outline of Republican issue statements includes the concept of “traditional marriage” as something that must be defended.
Though opposition to gay marriage is the official position of the GOP in this election cycle, the tide of public opinion is starting to turn thanks to young people who understand that there is nothing socially subversive about two men or two women loving and marrying each other. In fact, it is socially subversive and dangerous to the future of civil liberties in the United States to categorically deny people a right as fundamental as freedom to enter into marriage contracts.
The GOP’s disapproval of gay marriage is inconsistent with individual liberties, something which the party normally promotes. This could make some socially progressive conservatives think twice about supporting the party in elections.
The current generation of college students has proved to be more socially liberal than their predecessors, especially when it comes to civil liberties. According to a study conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, upward of 71 percent of college students who were freshmen in 2011 supported gay marriage — up from 64.9 percent two years earlier.
Such a significant increase in support for gay rights over this short period of time speaks to this generation of young people’s dedication to equal rights for all. The GOP’s failure thus far to catch up to this freedom-oriented mentality will not bode well for its political future if things do not change soon.
The Democratic Party, on the other hand, threw its official support behind gay marriage in September by inserting an explicitly pro-gay rights stance into its party platform. This first time platform addition came a little more than a year after the Obama administration came out in support of the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would repeal the federal government’s ban on gay marriage as outlined in the Defense of Marriage Act.
Romney, however, has pledged to appoint an attorney general that will defend a discriminatory act that Obama has declared unconstitutional. Not only would Romney support DOMA, but he would propose and promote what he calls the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as being strictly between a man and a woman.
Such close-minded views within the Republican Party should be rethought, as should support for the politicians that tout its values. As a generation that understands this, college students who support marriage equality must continue to spread the message of liberty and equal rights for all by supporting candidates that espouse these values and speaking out against discrimination.
Without a modernized stance on civil rights issues such as gay marriage, the Republican Party could seriously damage its chances for success. It might not happen with this election, but it is time for the Grand Old Party to stop being so old in its close-minded rejection of gay rights.
Sarah Cueva is a junior majoring in political science and Middle East studies. Her column “Leaning Toward Liberty” runs Mondays.