This is conservative. In Europe.

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Catch of the Day: Conservatively Gay

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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A Catch to political scientist Andrew Reynolds, over at the Monkey Cage, who points out the enormous gap between the Republican Party and many European conservative parties on marriage and other LGBT issues, a gap that extends to party politicians:

Of the 82 openly LGBT national representatives newly elected around the world over the last five years, one-third have been from right-wing parties, another third have come from left-wing parties, and the remaining third are centrists, greens and nationalists. Right-of-center politicians who identify as LGB are members of parliaments in Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, and Switzerland, and there is likely to be a gay Likud MP in the Israeli Knesset soon. In Scandinavia, this trend has gone on for while; in fact, openly gay Per-Kristian Foss was briefly the Conservative Party’s acting Prime Minister of Norway in 2002.

That compares with a current goose egg at the federal and statewide level for Republicans.

If the Supreme Court recognizes marriage equality as a Constitutional right in the next month (a decision could come as early as Monday), it would be a real shocker if even one of the huge flock of Republican presidential candidates applauds the decision. Instead, the only question is whether all will compete to condemn it or if a handful will choose to duck the issue.

This is, as Reynolds points out, best seen as interest-group party politics. The international perspective is helpful because it reminds us that there’s nothing inherently “conservative” about the Republican position (if there were, it would be shared by more conservative parties). Instead, Republican opposition to gay marriage stems from the strength of Christian conservatives in the  Republican Party, which allows them to exercise an almost complete veto over policies such as abortion and LGBT rights.

Of course, while public opinion on abortion has remained stable, support for marriage equality has gone from a minority position to a solid majority over the past decade. What’s more, it could become a salient issue for many proponents, which means that Republicans may suffer if they continue to oppose it.

Can Republicans escape damage? Perhaps. If the Court rules for marriage equality, one good option for Republicans is (after an initial round of venting) to just treat it as resolved. Indeed, the evidence in Massachusetts, Iowa and elsewhere is that most people lose interest in marriage equality soon after it is implemented. But if Christian conservatives seek innovative ways to revive the issue, such as the “religious freedom” law that recently kicked up a fuss in Indiana, Republicans may pay a political price. Supporting such measures will prove irresistible for some Republicans (not just at the presidential level) competing in primaries, but will probably prove poisonous in general elections.

The crucial question is whether those Republicans who care most about the issue will accept defeat and move on to issues (abortion, for example) that don't put the party on the defensive. We don't know the answer to that one yet.

And: Nice catch!

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To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Francis Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net