In an effort to appear more centrist the Oregon Republican Party has voted to cut from its party platform any overtly anti-gay language.
The move came last weekend during a party convention in Bend, with around 230 Republican delegates attending to hammer out the 2012 party platform. There, a slim majority decided to remove wording that essentially condemned same-sex unions and disparaged same-sex couples’ child rearing abilities.
“We want the public to take another look at the Republican Party and our policies,” said Greg Leo, spokesman for the state party. “It’s fair to say we’re more centrist.”
But the language change didn’t come easy. In fact, it was almost defeated, said Xander Almeida, who was among those who pushed to remove a section of the platform seen as denigrating lifestyles and rights of gays and lesbians.
Almeida said his motion to remove the language was first shot down 2-1 by a caucus of members focusing on the “family” section of the platform. He thought his effort was over until he talked to party Chairman Allen Alley, who told him the proposal should go to a full floor vote.
“That’s where things really kind of got heated,” Almeida said. After a contentious debate, the amendment passed with a bare majority of the 230 delegates who attended.
The Log Cabin Republicans, the gay tail of the Republican party, are extremely encouraged by this and are saying it is representative of a broader shift in the conservative movement that will hopefully spur on the GOP as a whole to adopt a more gay-friendly outlook.
But, is this really a change? Well, yes and no. According to those attending, there’s still plenty “pro-traditional family” language in the party platform:
Ken Taylor was at the convention, as the Chair of the Crook County Republican Party: “The platform still is actually very pro-traditional family. We removed some wording that some felt was offensive. But we are still the party of traditional family values.”
Indeed, the platform still states:
The Oregon Republican Party believes that the traditional family is ordained by God our Creator and is the foundation of our society. A traditional family is formed through the marriage of one man and one woman. This is environment is the optimum for raising children into responsible, self-sufficient, productive citizens. (Page 4; Oregon Republican Party Platform.)
To my mind this amounts to “we won’t call gays names because that’s not popular with the voters” but they still won’t back marriage equality, probably won’t vote in favor of giving same-sex couples the full range of rights to support child rearing, or even admit that it doesn’t matter what gender a kid’s parents are so long as those parents create a loving, stable environment.
So is this a positive step or is it really just a marketing tactic? I actually think both because at the very least this is a concession that younger voters do not want to see anti-gay rhetoric. That might constitute a (shaky) first step toward something more substantial, especially given that Millennial Republicans are, by a strong margin, polling in favor of equal rights.
The real test will be how the GOP reacts if equality groups, who have been testing the waters about overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, decide to go ahead and put a question to legalize same-sex marriage on next years ballot, and whether or not the state’s Republicans will be able to avoid using the smears and anti-gay tactics that we’ve seen recently from the GOP in North Carolina.