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GOP should support less government

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There are currently nine candidates running for governor in the Republican primary, but will any one of them face the tough issue that the Montana Supreme Court is considering now? On Aug. 4, Montana Supreme Court heard an appeal giving same-sex couples the protections that heterosexual couples enjoy. We should demand that our Republican leaders support this decision. But, the Montana Republican party platform says homosexual acts should remain illegal.

Apparently, the party that favors smaller, less intrusive government wants bigger, more intrusive government when it comes to our domestic arrangements. Three's a crowd in the bedroom, folks.

Worse, the party line doesn't fit with what most Republicans think. The latest Gallup poll says that 85 percent of Republicans want their candidates to focus on the economy, not social issues.

It will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win general elections if party leaders try to block the Supreme Court ruling or this troubling clause stays in the Republican state platform. Almost two-thirds of independents supported legalizing same-sex marriage in a 2010 Gallup poll.

Anecdotal evidence from online posts shows thousands of voters saying they would vote Republican except for the GOP's rigid stance on gay issues.

Almost one-third of Republicans supported legalizing same-sex marriage in the 2010 Gallup poll. Over 70 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds support legalizing same-sex marriage, up 16 percentage points from 2010. This "overwhelming" number in favor of marriage equality "makes the trend toward growing acceptance both clear and unstoppable," says Jon Walker at Firedoglake.

Six states allow legal same-sex marriages: New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. The District of Columbia also allows them. While five of those states are considered "blue," their legalizing of same-sex marriages are a sign that times are changing.

As Gallup's Frank Newport said: "At the moment, those advocating changes in constitutions and laws to allow same-sex marriage in additional states can take heart in the apparent shift in national sentiment in their direction."

This shift means Montana Republicans are resisting a groundswell. Soon enough, equal rights for gays will trump states' rights.

The repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" for our armed forces was a victory for individual freedom. Barry Goldwater, who once said, "I don't care if they are straight, I only care if they shoot straight," would be proud.

As usual, Goldwater was ahead of his time. More than 72 percent supported repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" according to a November 2010 CNN poll, up from 67 percent in September.

Majorities of weekly churchgoers (60 percent) and conservatives (58 percent) also support repealing the policy (Gallup, 2009).

Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" also was a victory for fiscal responsibility. A 2003 Government Accountability Office study identified almost $200 million in costs for the first 10 years of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." A follow-up study by an expert commission put these costs at more than $363 million.

Over the long term, Republican candidates cannot expect their opposition to equal rights for gays to help them. If support for gay marriage continues accelerating as fast as it has in the past two years, supporters will outnumber opponents roughly 56-40 in the general population by November 2012.

Another straw in the wind: The Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud have been invited to the Conservative Political Action Conference for the last few years. The facts are clear. Republicans all over the country and here in Montana support gay families. Delegates will have the opportunity to change the Republican state party platform. We should lead and not follow on this issue.

The State Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling by the end of 2012. If we Republicans let this platform clause stay in place again in 2012, we will once again experience millions of Montana Republican homophobia news stories living forever online. We will lose forever voters who would be Republicans but for our stubborn resistance to gay rights. We will lose the big offices in the state. And we will be wrong.

A.J. Otjen is a professor at Montana State University-Billings, and was a GOP candidate for Congress in 2010.


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