Starting in 2012, the group backed ballot measures for marriage equality in four different states. Now, the group has more than 60 members with one task: convince state Republicans — especially national delegates — that opposing gay marriage is a losing issue.
The movement against antigay language in state party platforms has already seen some success in Nevada, New Mexico, and Indiana — all states with Republican governors — along with California and Oregon. But the true coup d'etat for the group would be to strike antigay language from the national party's platform ahead of the 2016 Republican National Convention.
"It just defies common sense that the national platform would be so monolithic." Tyler Deaton, the campaign manager for Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, told National Journal.
Still, Deaton admits his group doesn't expect to see a sea change before the 2016 presidential election. "We don't think that in 2016 the Republican Party is going to endorse the freedom to marry," he said. "We can get the Republican Party to agree to disagree."
Don't write the project off — there's a mandate for their work. Fully 61 percent of young Republicans support gay marriage, compared with 39 percent of Republicans overall. And even vehemently anti-gay-marriage politicians are coming around to the idea that it may be inevitable. "Let's face it, anybody who does not believe that gay marriage is going to be the law of the land just hasn't been observing what's going on," Sen. Orrin Hatch told a Utah radio show last week.
A few Republicans in Congress have even reversed their views entirely. Last week, Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania threw his support behind same-sex marriage. "Life is too short to have the force of government stand in the way of two adults whose pursuit of happiness includes marriage," he said in a statement. He joins five other Republican lawmakers — Richard Hanna, Mark Kirk, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — who have openly voiced support for marriage equality.
Here's the RNC's current language opposing gay marriage:
RESOLUTION FOR MARRIAGE AND CHILDREN 2013
Whereas, the institution of marriage is the solid foundation upon which our society is built and in which children thrive; it is based on the relationship that only a man and a woman can form; and
Whereas, support for marriage has been repeatedly affirmed nationally in the 2012 Republican National Platform, through the enactment of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, (signed into law by President Bill Clinton), and passed by the voters of 41 States including California via Proposition 8 in 2008; and
Whereas, no Act of human government can change the reality that marriage is a natural and most desirable union; especially when procreation is a goal; and
Whereas, the future of our country is children; it has been proven repeatedly that the most secure and nurturing environment in which to raise healthy well adjusted children is in a home where both mother and father are bound together in a loving marriage; and
Whereas, The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of laws adopted to protect marriage from the unfounded accusation that support for marriage is based only on irrational prejudice against homosexuals; therefore be it
Resolved, the Republican National Committee affirms its support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and as the optimum environment in which to raise healthy children for the future of America; and be it further
Resolved, the Republican National Committee implores the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the sanctity of marriage in its rulings on California's Proposition 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.
And here's the language Deaton's group wants to use to replace the current RNC language:
We believe that marriage matters both as a religious institution and as a fundamental, personal freedom. Because marriage — rooted in love and lifelong commitment — is one of the foundations of civil society, as marriage thrives, so our nation thrives.
We believe that the health of marriage nationwide directly affects the social and economic well-being of individuals and families, and that undermining families leads to more government costs and more government control over the lives of its citizens. Therefore, we believe in encouraging the strength and stability of all families.
We recognize that there are diverse and sincerely held views on civil marriage within the Party, and that support for allowing same-sex couples the freedom to marry has grown substantially in our own Party. Given this journey that so many Americans, including Republicans, are on, we encourage and welcome a thoughtful conversation among Republicans about the meaning and importance of marriage, and commit our Party to respect for all families and fairness and freedom for all Americans.
Deaton says hard-core social conservatives are losing control over the soul of America, and over their own party. "They're losing in the courts. They're losing in the states. They're losing at the federal level. They're losing in the court of public opinion," Deaton said. "All they have left are these five angry sections in the national party platform."
Is Deaton encouraged by gay-marriage opponents like Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz openly walking back their stances? "Definitely," he said. Then, after a pause, "We'll take it."