Andrew Sullivan | Polls | Religion | Republican Party

Leaked Republican Memo Advises Quick Evolution On Gay Issues

Rainbow-elephant-1Not sure how this memo leaked, but I'm glad it did. It was dispatched yesterday from the desk Jan van Lohuizen, the respected Republican pollster and founder of Voter Consumer Research, and was destined for the desks of various Republican "insiders" and operatives. Here's the text:

Background: In view of this week’s news on the same sex marriage issue, here is a summary of recent survey findings on same sex marriage:

1. Support for same sex marriage has been growing and in the last few years support has grown at an accelerated rate with no sign of slowing down. A review of public polling shows that up to 2009 support for gay marriage increased at a rate of 1% a year.  Starting in 2010 the change in the level of support  accelerated to 5% a year.  The most recent public polling shows supporters of gay marriage outnumber opponents by a margin of roughly 10% (for instance: NBC / WSJ poll in February / March: support 49%, oppose 40%).

2. The increase in support is taking place among all partisan groups. While more Democrats support gay marriage than Republicans, support levels among Republicans are increasing over time.  The same is true of age: younger people support same sex marriage more often than older people, but the trends show that all age groups are rethinking their position.

3. Polling conducted among Republicans show that majorities of Republicans and Republican leaning voters support extending basic legal protections to gays and lesbians.  These include majority Republican support for:

  1. Protecting gays and lesbians against being fired for reasons of sexual orientation
  2. Protections against bullying and harassment
  3. Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
  4. Right to visit partners in hospitals
  5. Protecting partners against loss of home in case of severe medical emergencies or death
  6. Legal protection in some form for gay couples whether it be same sex marriage or domestic partnership (only 29% of Republicans oppose legal recognition in any form).

Recommendation: A statement reflecting recent developments on this issue along the following lines:

“People who believe in equality under the law as a fundamental principle, as I do, will agree that this principle extends to gay and lesbian couples; gay and lesbian couples should not face discrimination and their relationship should be protected under the law.  People who disagree on the fundamental nature of marriage can agree, at the same time, that gays and lesbians  should receive essential rights and protections such as hospital visitation, adoption rights, and health and death benefits.

Other thoughts / Q&A: 

Follow up to questions about affirmative action: “This is not about giving anyone extra protections or privileges, this is about making sure that everyone – regardless of sexual orientation – is provided the same protections against discrimination that you and I enjoy.”

Why public attitudes might be changing: “As more people have become aware of friends and family members who are gay, attitudes have begun to shift at an accelerated pace.   This is not about a generational shift in attitudes, this is about people changing their thinking as they recognize their friends and family members who are gay or lesbian.” 

Conservative fundamentals: “As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone.  This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government. 

Andrew Sullivan, writing at The Daily Beast, thinks the memo is a rather big deal. He writes, only a little melodramatically:

The last paragraph is, to my mind, the most remarkable. It's advising Republican candidates to emphasize the conservative nature of gay marriage, to say how it encourages personal responsibility, commitment, stability and family values. It uses Dick Cheney's formula (which was for a couple of years, the motto of this blog) that "freedom means freedom for everyone." And it uses David Cameron's argument that you can be for gay marriage because you are a conservative.

And the walls came tumbling down.


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  1. damned if they do and damned if they don't

    don't and go the way of the dinosaurs

    do and repub civil war with xtianistas

    Posted by: say what | May 12, 2012 3:12:56 PM

  2. Seems to me at this point that they're targeting the wrong people. I know this is cynical, but I've come to wonder if my problem is that I'm not cynical enough; they can still shock me sometimes.

    Getting this onto the desk of politicians or their scriptwriters is useless at this point. Every single candidate could flip on this issue with no appreciable change.

    On the other hand, if FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the PR wings of both the Catholic and Mormon churches made this shift, within 48 hours you wouldn't be able to find a Republican who admitted to every being for anything other than complete gay civil equality, and would be offended by the implication.

    And, honestly, find the tiny number of, as Rachel Maddow calls them, gazillionaires who finance all this, change their talking points, and exactly that could happen overnight.

    Find someone who still supports segregation as policy, or who will admit to every believing in it, even if they are in the photos.

    It's a telling indication of who actually runs the party. It sure as hell isn't Tony Perkins and Maggie Gallagher, but it isn't the candidates, either.

    Posted by: Lymis | May 12, 2012 3:30:11 PM

  3. I should add, I know it sure as hell won't happen any time soon!

    Posted by: Lymis | May 12, 2012 3:31:40 PM

  4. I am really curious to know what some of you are going to do once ENDA has been passed, marriage rights are attained nationally, and full legal equality has been achieved in every sphere......and you then realize that it has not changed the reality of your lives one iota......or made you any more embraced socially than you were before......

    What then?

    Posted by: Rick | May 12, 2012 3:42:43 PM

  5. Everything boils down to politics. Anything a political party thinks will get them re-elected they will do. It's a well-oiled machine that gets nothing done except elections.

    Posted by: Stuff Queer People Need To Know | May 12, 2012 3:54:32 PM

  6. @Rick
    I believe history does not support your premise that we won't be more embraced socially. These are all things blacks have had to fight for, and they were lynched by whole towns who came out to see the spectacle and if that ever happened to a gay person in this country I would be very surprised to find that out. The point of that awful "sentence" was, most whites won't say the "N" word today. What makes you think one day homophobia won't be driven underground as a fringe position one day? They are clearly more socialy embraced then before they attained these rights. And even if you think I have the cause and effect backwards,there is still a causal relationship. Do you really think we have to win over every singe homophobe to be more socially embraced? I don't understand your position

    Posted by: NullNaught | May 12, 2012 3:55:44 PM

  7. Won't happen. Gay republicans are too cowardly to ever stand up to their families and political allies.

    Ever notice how all the Republicans who vote against LGBT Equality claim to have "gay friends"? Yeah, it's you Gay Republicans. And you're apparently so pathetic that you're the reason they don't think LGBT people are deserving of Equality - you're the example of "gay" that they see and interact with, and you do such a lousy job of being a respectable human being that they base their bigotry on their interactions with you.

    So congrats, plebes. :D

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | May 12, 2012 4:00:09 PM

  8. Ah, littlekiwi: no sense of history; no sense of compassion, no sense of proportion; non-sense.

    Posted by: NullNaught | May 12, 2012 4:05:22 PM

  9. Rick: I don't want to be "embraced socially". I want equal treatment under the law.

    Posted by: Anastasia Beaverhausen | May 12, 2012 4:05:42 PM

  10. Rick the self-loathing Uncle Tom writes: I am really curious to know what some of you are going to do once ENDA has been passed, marriage rights are attained nationally, and full legal equality has been achieved in every sphere......and you then realize that it has not changed the reality of your lives one iota......or made you any more embraced socially than you were before......

    What then?

    I'm going to marry my partner; get the full federal legal benefits and responsibilities that will make sure neither of our parents can swoop in and shut out one of us should the other die; live where I want to and apply for the jobs I want to and be out at work without fearing I'll be fired for being gay; get spousal coverage on either of our health plans....

    Oh yes, the reality of our lives would not change one iota. Maybe you were only talking about yourself, because after gay equality is achieved, a self-hating a**hole like yourself still would look in the mirror and see how desperately he wishes to be some perceived straight, "masculine" archetype. Nothing would change for YOU because you'd still find yourself trolling on the internet for anonymous hookups and feel guilty afterward for taking another guy's c*** up the rear. The rest of us, who are well-adjusted, would be living out our dreams and building a life of love, commitment, and honesty.

    Posted by: atomic | May 12, 2012 4:06:19 PM

  11. Romney would be excommunicated, by the Mormon Church, if he flip-flopped to this position before their "Prophet" has his discussion with their version of the Lord, and the LDS Church Doctrine gets changed. Mitt wants his celestial planet, and won't take that risk before the Mormon's allow it.

    Posted by: jsb | May 12, 2012 4:13:07 PM

  12. @Nullnaught The point is the difference between toleting a group of people and agreeing with the principle that they, like all people, should enjoy certain basic rights, on the one hand....and actually liking a certain group of people and welcoming them fully into your lives socially and forming bonds with them, on the other.

    I really grow tired of these analogies with racial minorities, but since your brought it up, no, I don't think most non-blacks really like blacks as a group on the whole--and that is born out by the fact that, despite the endless propagandizing on behalf of inter-racial everything by Hollywood and the media in general, there is very little socializing between blacks and other races outside of an "institutional context"--the races live in separate neighborhoods, socialize separately in bars and clubs and everywhere else, worship separately, etc.

    Back to us, despite DADT repeal, very, very few gay servicemembers have come out. Why? Because they know that changing the law did not really change the reality of their situations as far as being discriminated against is one could then ask what has really been gained by the very hard-fought battle for passage.

    The underlying causes of homophobia will not really be addressed by legislation.

    Posted by: Rick | May 12, 2012 4:13:55 PM

  13. what does it mean to be "embraced socially"? I've been Out since my teens. I live an open, honest, authentic life. I have the love and support of my family, my non-gay friends, and pretty much everyone i encounter.

    a funny thing happens when you stop living each day looking over your shoulder, worrying what The Straights are thinking about you - you start to realize that you're respected only if you respect yourself first. and teh RICK's of the world are too cowardly to ever do this.

    we all know RICK is annoying, but he's also a pathetic closet case. fear not - he has no impact in the real world whatsoever - that's why anonymous-online comments are his raison d'etre. without this place to anonymously vent, he'd have nothing left at all.

    pity the poor creature.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | May 12, 2012 4:15:33 PM

  14. Back in the 70s, there were pro-gay, pro-feminist, absolutely secular Republicans. The party, however, saw the future and made a choice. They could have modernized, adapted to the modern world -- as the right-wing parties of most Western countries -- OR they could foment division by purposely targeting gay people and turning into the party of racists and misogynists. It was a logical choice to prolong, indeed intensify, the purposeful promotion of policies that benefit corporate and very wealthy interests.

    It was easier to go the route of backwardness than to develop a coherent governing structure for a modern day democracy. They have been richly, richly rewarded, with decades in essential control of our government and trillions in dollars funnelled to the top tier of society. The country, on the other hand, is in a shambles compared to where we could have been.

    Even if the GOP were to change, do not forget. Do not forget what they have done to us. Do not forget what they have done to the country.

    Posted by: BobN | May 12, 2012 4:15:48 PM

  15. @stuffed animal, I'm pretty sure it is Photoshopped

    Posted by: Yo | May 12, 2012 4:21:15 PM

  16. without "gay" as a wedge-issue the GOP would be forced to talk about, you know, the economy and jobs etc.

    And in doing so would prove to their base that a GOP vote benefits only the wealthiest Americans.

    wedge-issues are what fires up the base - tell the broke toothless joes that you hate the gays and love jeebus and they'll happily vote themselves into financial destitution: SEE - all the broke-@ss republican states.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | May 12, 2012 4:23:28 PM

  17. "live where I want to and apply for the jobs I want to and be out at work without fearing I'll be fired for being gay"

    That you are naive enought to believe that passage of a law will prevent anyone from discriminating against you just demonstrates that you--like most of the activist types--are so far removed from the social mainstream that you don't even realize how naive your notions about it really are.

    But perhaps that is the point--since you have removed yourselves from the social mainstream in the first place, you don't care about ever being a part of it and are content to live in your little gay bubble--a nobody in the larger world, of course, because in order to be somebody in the larger world, you have to succeed socially among its inhabitants and alter the culture in such a way that you are embraced and admired.

    Of course, if your sole ambition in life is arranging flowers in your shop, it is a moot point.....

    Posted by: Rick | May 12, 2012 4:28:43 PM

  18. Rick writes: "The underlying causes of homophobia will not really be addressed by legislation."


    That's one of the FEW statements that you've made that I actually agree with.

    You are correct. Protection under the law will not stop anti-gay violence or discrimination, no more than it has stopped racial violence or discrimination. But you make a serious and basic logical flaw by concluding that because the law doesn't stop society from hating gays, then there must be no merit to enacting legal equality.

    The purpose of the law is not to change the minds of bigots, but to make sure that (1) we have recourse to pursue justice when we are discriminated against; (2) we are treated fairly by the government itself; (3) prevent those who would discriminate against us from doing so had the law not established equality.

    I don't need the whole world to accept me, because I accept myself for who I am. And that's why you keep missing the point about legal equality, because you keep thinking it's about a kind of broad societal acceptance that you desire as a result of being unable to accept yourself or others for who they are.

    Posted by: atomic | May 12, 2012 4:29:36 PM

  19. They'll eventually have to cave. Not this cycle. But soon.

    Can't wait for the day until the play the "we were the original ones fighting for LGBT equality" card.

    Just look at them. They think THEY freed the slaves. They think THEY gave women the right to vote. They think THEY championed the anti-segregation movement. One needs not look any further to those old photos where we see "Race Mixing is Communism!" signs with American Flags everywhere.

    The only thing they are good at is rewriting history. Once they finally come to their senses on this issue, don't let them forget they arrived last.

    Posted by: neptune | May 12, 2012 4:35:24 PM

  20. Rick, it's very simple: ask any black person whether they would want to return to the time when there was racial segregation, lynchings, and slavery; before the time when racial equality was made legally explicit in the United States.

    Similarly, ask gays and lesbians today whether they want to return to a time when open discrimination was not only socially acceptable, but encouraged and institutionalized.

    For you, you wouldn't notice a difference because you've always treated your sexuality as something to be ashamed of, to hide, to judge. It makes no difference to you because the only time you're gay is when you're gagging on some trick's schlong in the back room of a seedy bar, and then you call yourself "masculine" while deriding every other gay man as "effeminate." Even now you think being a florist is a degrading insult. You're incapable of understanding how legal equality would provide concrete benefits that other gays and lesbians truly need, because you've chosen to arrange your life in a way that would make those things irrelevant to you. You wouldn't need hospital visitation rights or job discrimination protections or marriage equality because you don't have anyone else you want to protect.

    You are so pathetic and beyond help. You live out your life in misery not because society judges you, but because you judge yourself and you judge others.

    Posted by: atomic | May 12, 2012 4:43:42 PM

  21. "I don't need the whole world to accept me, because I accept myself for who I am"

    I see.

    So is your view that virtually all the accomplished and prominent gay people in every field--from Corporate America to the halls of Congress to the sports world to even liberal bastions like Hollywood and academia--many, if not most of them political liberals--remain in the closet because they don't "accept themselves for who they are" rather than because coming out would likely cost them their status?

    Yeah, that makes perfect sense--they got to the lofty positions they occupy in society by having low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence.

    Of course not. Just the opposite.

    And people like you, who would judge them, only "live out loud" in most cases, either because you are so obviously gay that it would be pointless to try to pretend otherwise...or you have nothing to lose because you have no ambition and/or status in the first place and are jealous of those who do.

    Which explains the viciousness you display towards those who are part of the mainstream.

    Which circles back around to my original point....

    Posted by: Rick | May 12, 2012 4:55:35 PM

  22. Full equality matters to out gay people because they are living out, full lives. It doesn't matter to closeted gay people, especially older people, who have nothing to protect. In fact closeted people are threatened by gay equality because it leaves them behind. Out gay people are the mainstream and will become ever more so: closeted people have fallen outside the mainstream into a sad isolation.

    Even a few Republicans are realizing this, but until they get the party out of the control of religious zealots and gay enablers like the pathetic GOShamed, they'll just keep sliding backwards in time and into irrelevancy till the bigots die off.

    Posted by: Ernie | May 12, 2012 4:57:05 PM

  23. "Out gay people are the mainstream and will become ever more so: closeted people have fallen outside the mainstream into a sad isolation"

    And tell us again what you do for a living up there in Vermont, Ernie? How about you, Atomic? Little Kiwi?

    Some sneaking suspicion tells me that none of you are corporate CEOs or university presidents or NFL quarterbacks or movie stars or members of Obama's cabinet, but, hey, I could be wrong.

    And even if you are not, I am sure you can provide a long list of prominent out gay people in all the major fields of endeavor, which proves your point.

    So please do, right here, right now.

    Hollywood actors who are out--and who don't regret it a la Rupert Everett and Richard Chamberlain, both of whom are on record as advising young actors not to come out (John Travolta, Kevin Spacey, Tom Cruise, Jake Gyllenhall, etc. are all self-hating losers, I guess)

    Cabinet members of present and past President's Administrations, especially enlightened Democratic Presidents (Do you hate yourself, Janet Reno?)

    Supreme Court justices and prominent Federal judges (Does Justice Kagen hate herself?)

    Corporate executives, who are not entrepreneurs who own their own businesses (Are you just self-loathing Tim Cook? Did you become the most powerful man in Silicon Valley by languishing in your low self-esteem?)

    Democratic members of Congress who are out and were not outed voluntarily and do not represent college towns

    Professional athletes who are currently active and/or members of a team

    Go ahead, Ernie. Either there are virtually no accomplished gay people that really matter in just about any field that matters......or they are all closeted and therefore can only be regarded as self-loathing basket cases....unless of course, you can provide me with an impressive list, which I am sure you can.

    Posted by: Rick | May 12, 2012 5:15:37 PM

  24. @Rick, the gay CEO's of the future will all be like Chris Hughes, out. They won't be living lonely closeted lives.

    I'm not sure why you're so obsessed by Hollywood leading men. Their lives resemble no real lives, and closeted actors are likely as miserable as other closeted people.

    BTW, the most recent SC Justice in my state is the out lesbian who led the fight for our equality. Her wife was at her swearing in ceremony. That's what it means to be openly gay. Having a family who you don't have to hide and who is protected under the law.

    Having to hide your family is shameful no matter your level of professional accomplishment. Unfortunately closeted people can't measure their lives by the things that actually matter. Their loss.

    Posted by: Ernie | May 12, 2012 6:01:49 PM

  25. Thought 1: is this legit?? Seems suspiciously like another hackjob, altho not as humorous, like the NOM posts a few weeks ago.

    Thought 2: Wish this had been leaked on Monday, rather than on the weekend--would love to see how the MSM would cover it, were it "breaking news."

    Thought 3: "leak"? Really? More like a trial balloon, much like Biden's comments on Meet the Press last Sunday. I find this part especially suspicious (as far as legitimacy): “This is not about giving anyone extra protections or privileges, this is about making sure that everyone – regardless of sexual orientation – is provided the same protections against discrimination that you and I enjoy.” This is a COMPLETE 360. Couldn't imagine Bachman & Santorum wrapping their little heads around this notion, let alone convincingly voicing it!

    Thought 4: if this IS legit, and the GOP stops making us the object of hate, I'm all for it. Not enough to VOTE rethug tho, ever.

    Posted by: jim | May 12, 2012 6:04:30 PM

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