Radio pundit Rush Limbaugh was baffled when Republican strategist Karl Rove told ABC News on Sunday, that he could imagine a presidential candidate from the GOP being supportive of marriage equality in 2016.
"Now I just have one question: If left up to a vote of the people, same-sex marriage loses," Limbaugh said the following day. "So why would the Republican establishment be supporting it? Maybe that's a question I'm not supposed to ask, but I'd like to know if the issue would lose as it always has, if left up to a vote of the people, then why are the Republicans for it?
The issue has not always lost at the ballot box, though. Last year, Maryland, Washington, and Maine each approved ballot initiatives to legalize marriage equality, while Minnesota voted against a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage rights. However, leaders and prominent figures within the party are slowly conceding that the GOP should abate its stance against rights for same-sex couples.
The party platform currently states, "We believe that marriage, the union of one man, and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage. However, some Republicans, including most recently Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, are coming out in favor of marriage equality and other LGBT rights.
Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus, who personally does not support same-sex marriage, told the Detroit Free Press that the party members should not persecute others who support marriage equality.
"I don't believe we need to act like Old Testament heretics," he said.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told Newsmax that states should decide the fate of marriage, but that ultimately, the Republican Party should not be focused on an issue that is beginning to divide its members.
"To have an era of conservative governance, which should be the objective — not winning political points, debating points—it ought to be: Can we win the presidency? Can we win Congress? Can we win the state capitals in a way that allows us to implement conservative principles in a way that improves the chances for people to be successful?" Bush said.
The revelations are coming after the party has seen some interest in modernizing to gain younger voters, and others who have not supported the Republican party because of its stances on social issues. This also follows the party's 97-page document on the GOP's failures with voters, much of which was based on its conservative stances on issues like LGBT rights.