Washington, D.C. —
As a prominent number of high-profile Republicans speak out in favor of same-sex marriage - and some even come out, there appears to be a growing shift among younger conservatives to be more libertarian toward social issues, including gay-rights.
A Washington Post
poll from February shows six in 10 adults younger than 30 support legalizing same-sex marriage, which is a break from religious conservatives.
Political analysts say this shift in the GOP is partly because of the "tea party" movement, which is considerably softer on social issues, such as gay rights, and more focused on economics.
According to a recent Pew poll
, same-sex marriage ranks at the very bottom of more than a dozen issues raised by voters as being "very important."
Gay Republicans also say the shift is to expand the party's appeal.
"Our nation is at a crossroads, and conservatives are trying to rally together to turn back the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda," Chris Barron, chairman of GOProud, a gay Republican group, told the Washington Post
. "That's why we've seen people like Glenn Beck saying, 'Look, same-sex marriage isn't hurting anybody.' Because he sees a need to create a broad-based conservative movement."
Beck, a recent Mormon convert, told Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly on his Aug. 11 broadcast that gay marriage is not a threat to America
. "Honestly, I think we have bigger fish to fry," said Beck.
Joining Beck in support of marriage equality are conservative pundits Ann Coulter and Elisabeth Hasselbeck from ABC's The View
"I am not ultra-ultra-conservative on every issue; I actually support gay marriage," Hasselbeck said in a recent interview
. "I think the gay marriage thing would definitely surprise people."
There has also been a shift in support of same-sex marriage among prominent Republicans including former first lady Laura Bush, former vice president Dick Cheney, Megan McCain, daughter of Sen. John McCain and Cindy McCain, the Senator's wife.
Former George W. Bush solicitor general Ted Olson, a Republican, was instrumental in the successful challenge to California's Proposition 8.
And this week, former Bush campaign manager and Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman came out gay
. Mehlman not only supports marriage equality, but he continues to raise money for the fight.
"Many conservatives are able to take the leap from wanting the government to stay out of their economic lives to wanting the government out of their personal lives," Mark Whittington wrote in a recent column on AssociatedContent.com
. "Telling gays that they cannot marry one another seems to many young righties to be an intrusion into private life."
Religious conservatives, including Illinois hate group Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH), continue to push back
against the increasing support for same-sex marriage in the GOP.
The Republican party is not alone in its struggle with marriage equality. President Obama favors civil unions over the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry.
Currently gay and lesbian couples can legally marry in New Hampshire, Massachusetts,Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont. New York, California, Rhode Island, New Mexico and Washington, DC recognize marriages by same-sex couples legally performed elsewhere.