Republicans working to craft the party’s platform before the national convention gets under way next week rejected two proposals on Tuesday which would have changed the GOP’s position on marriage.
Rhode Island Delegate Barbara Fenton proposed replacing the plank endorsing marriage as the union of one man and one woman with language advocating civil unions for both same-sex and heterosexual couples.
“That was discussed and briefly debated,” said Gregg Keller, executive director of the American Conservative Union. “That went down pretty decisively, however. The argument that was generally advanced by the people pushing the proposal was the separation of church and state, and the idea that government should not be ‘meddling’ in these institutions — that they should just get out of it altogether.”
Nevada Delegate Pat Kerby proposed an amendment which would add support for same-sex civil unions to the party’s support for the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
“We can take this stance and still keep our commitment to the institution of marriage,” Kerby said. His proposal also was quickly voted down.
Meanwhile, the closest vote of the day concerned language supporting abstinence education in public schools. It was one of the few times the platform committee needed to record a tally instead of using a voice vote, Keller said.
Ultimately, the resolution passed 41-35.
“I think there was some concern in the room that as conservatives and Republicans, we believe in local control of education — that people on the ground, parents and school boards, are the best arbiters of the education their children receive,” he explained. “The concern was that we say we believe in local control, but here we are dictating, potentially from afar, the kind of education children on the ground will be receiving. There was a concern from a member in Alabama who said there are boys and girls in their teenage years that are sexually active. This particular member thought that is a fact of life, and we were faced with two options: We could either try to help children who are sexually active by means of giving them schooling in STDs, contraception and the like, or we could not give them some of the tools this member thinks they believe they need because they are sexually active.”
Despite the debate, the overall platform is resoundingly conservative. The language drafted will go through an editing phase before the Republican National Convention begins on Aug. 27.
“People were really pleased about where the document started,” Keller said, “and even more pleased about where it is today in terms of protecting conservative values.”