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Republican Platform Tilts Right Of Trump On LGBT Issues

The platform will be voted on Monday at the start of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Angelo Merendino
Getty Images
The platform will be voted on Monday at the start of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

The Republican Party, as it prepares for its convention next week has checked off item No. 1 on its housekeeping list — drafting a party platform. The document reflects the conservative views of its authors, many of whom are party activists. So don't look for any concessions to changing views among the broader public on key social issues.

Four years ago, the platform called state court decisions legalizing same-sex marriage "an assault on the foundations of our society." Since then, the Supreme Court backed the right of same-sex couples to wed. But in two days of deliberations this week, platform committee members rejected all attempts to sound a more moderate tone on the matter.

"A man and a woman family is the best, ideal vehicle for raising children," according to James Bopp, a GOP delegate from Indiana, and a prominent conservative attorney.

Bopp and most other delegates supported language in this year's platform that says children "deserve a married mom and dad," and refers to "natural marriage" as between a man and a woman. Bopp says delegates' concern "has nothing to do with whether or not gays are getting married." Rather, he says, it's that 40 percent of the births in the U.S. are by girls and women who are not married.

A handful of platform committee members unsuccessfully sought to eliminate language like "natural marriage." Among them was Rachel Hoff, a delegate from Washington D.C., who is the first openly gay member of the platform committee.

Hoff says the platform is not only a statement of principles but a marketing device for the party. And as such she says it's failing.

"I certainly think we're alienating the LGBT community who might consider voting Republican," she says. "We're certainly alienating members of the Republican Party who are in the LGBT community and bravely out in that way. But we're also alienating young voters."

Still, delegate Leslie Rutledge, who is Arkansas' attorney general, says gays and lesbians are welcome in the party. She says delegates who spoke out against amendments by Hoff and others were not speaking out against the LGBT community.

"It was including any specific groups," Rutledge says. "I have many friends, close friends who are LGBT and that we must reach out to. They are Republican and so we are a big tent party."

Polls show a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, and allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. And presumptive nominee Donald Trump has expressed more moderate views on those issues as well.

The platform committee chairman, Wyoming Sen. John Barasso, however, says Trump exerted little influence on the committees actions. Barasso says Trump "has not really tried to weigh in on the platform." Barasso says he has stated from the beginning "this was going to be a conservative platform, reflecting the views, and the values, and the vision of the Republican party, and I think we stayed true to that."

Trump will certainly be comfortable with other provisions in the platform. There's a call for building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico; another says people entering the U.S. from " terror sponsoring countries" should be subject to "special scrutiny."

The platform will be formally voted on by Republican delegates at the start of their convention on Monday.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.
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