In 2016, Donald Trump made history: He was the first American president to enter office already supporting same-sex marriage.
And he was a Republican.
— ABC News (@ABC) November 14, 2016
Like these other would-be presidents around his age, former President Trump had not always been in support of, or had at least been “evolving,” regarding gay marriage. Yet the record will show that not only was he the first to enter the White House holding this position, but during the 2020 campaign the Republican candidate attacked his Democratic opponent Joe Biden for being anti-same-sex marriage in the past. (He even highlighted Biden’s past support for the Defense of Marriage Act.)
Note: This was a Republican president going after a Democrat for being anti-gay.
The tides have turned on this issue. A 2021 Public Religion Research Institute poll showed that a majority of Republicans supported same-sex marriage for the first time.
Some believe Trump might have had something to do with Republicans trending toward supporting same-sex unions. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Joe Garofoli pondered in June 2021, “A recent Gallup Poll found that for the first time a majority of Republicans (55%) said they supported same-sex marriage. Four years ago, only 40% backed it.”
“So what changed over that period?” he asked.
Charles Moran, president of the LGBT Republican organization Log Cabin Republicans, said, “Obviously, change happens rapidly in society. But I do give a good amount of credit to the leader of the Republican Party during those times.”
Of course, there is still significant anti-same-sex marriage and general anti-gay sentiment in some parts of the GOP. There were also decisions made by the Trump administration that were controversial in the LGBT community, like the transgender military restrictions.
But this is not necessarily your father’s Republican Party anymore on this issue. And it’s certainly not your grandfather’s GOP.
Happy #PrideMonth!@GOP is proud to have doubled our LGBTQ support over the last 4 years, and we will continue to grow our big tent by supporting measures that promote fairness and balance protections for LGBTQ Americans and those with deeply held religious beliefs.
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) June 2, 2021
At the 2016 Republican national convention, Trump addressed a recent mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida during his speech, “Only weeks ago in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by terrorists.”
“As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens,” he added.
The Republican crowd cheered in approval.
Trump noticed the importance of that moment. What he said next was notable, “I must say, as a Republican it’s so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said.”
Earlier during the GOP convention, billionaire Trump supporter Peter Thiel told the audience, “I’m proud to be gay.” They applauded him.
Thiel would add, “I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all, I am proud to be an American. I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform. But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline.”
While there have been fits and starts, the GOP continues to trend in a pro-gay direction.
As Brad Polumbo recently observed at BASEDPolitics, most of the 47 congressional Republicans who just voted for the “Respect for Marriage Act” on Tuesday were the younger members of their party.
Some Republicans, often older, voted against the law that would protect same-sex marriage in all 50 states citing constitutional concerns about encroaching on federalism and states’ rights. Yet their position is losing ground among the next generation. The younger you go in any category of Americans polled, the more support you find for same-sex marriage.
Yes, including Republicans. And this has been true for almost a decade.
A June 2021 Gallup poll showed that 84% of young adults, 72% of middle-aged adults, and 60% of older adults said they favored same-sex marriage. The poll noted that, “When Gallup first began asking this question in 1996, just 27% of Americans endorsed the legal recognition of gay and lesbian marriages.”
A lot can change in 25 years. Majorities of Republicans are changing too.