The Right And Marriage Equality: A Tipping Point?

Kilgore wonders whether Portman’s flip on marriage will have a ripple effect:

Portman’s move could trigger a wave of conversions in the Republican ranks, and that in turn could break down legal resistance to same-sex marriage. Already we’ve seen most conservatives abandon the “traditional marriage” cause as a backlash generator and vote mobilizer. Now we’ll see if votes change in state legislatures, and the walls come tumbling down.

I’ll point out the way that Marco Rubio addressed the question at CPAC:

Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot.

Indeed. But that’s a defense of federalism, not an attack on marriage equality per se. I know I’m splitting hairs here – but my main worry is that over-reach by SCOTUS this June might hand the advantage on this issue back to the right, just after it appears to being settled in the court of public opinion in the states. I’m also struck by Jennifer Rubin’s account of a marriage equality event at CPAC last night:

The event featured, among others, GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia. Former CEI chairman Fred Smith moderated the panel, which included Jonah Goldberg, GOProud and Freedom To Marry adviser Liz Mair, GOProud board member and author Margaret Hoover, and me. To his credit, NRA weddingaislepresident and CPAC board member David Keene attended…

LaSalvia made the conservative case for gay marriage (“We should want everyone to settle down, be monogamous, get married and be happy – even gay people”) and for the GOP to shed the image of intolerance toward gays, which “contributes more to conservatives’ image problem than any other, because it’s an issue that cuts across all demographic groups.” And he spoke more generally about the need “to seriously examine and recalibrate our movement to build a new coalition that can win,” one built around a common understanding of the centrality of liberty but one that allows for differences …

LaSalvia received a boisterous ovation. There were polite differences among the panelists, with Goldberg encouraging federalism and Hoover making the case that marriage is a “fundamental right” recognized in a host of Supreme Court decisions. But there was widespread agreement that support for gay marriage is consistent with modern conservatism and that opposition to it is a barrier to political success for the GOP.

That’s a huge shift – in line with the British Tories. One small hat tip: Liz Mair has done amazing work on this for years, and I personally want to thank her. Nonetheless, Jonathan Bernstein bets that the 2016 GOP nomination won’t feature a serious debate over marriage:

I’m still guessing that Portman will remain the exception, and that opponents of marriage will still maintain a solid veto over the presidential nomination in the 2016 cycle. To some extent, that’s because public opinion within the GOP, and presumably especially among the presidential primary electorate, still runs overwhelmingly against marriage equality. It’s possible that could change, especially if GOP elite opinion continues to change, but right now it’s hard to see a same-sex marriage supporter benefiting even in a large field in which staking out a minority position could have some advantages.

We’ll see, won’t we? But this change is accelerating, not losing steam.