Poll: 74% of Fla GOPers back gay marriage or civil unions
It was barely four years ago that nearly 62 percent of Florida voters passed a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions. The Florida GOP, at the direction of then-Senate president and CFO candidate Tom Lee, pumped $300,000 into the effort in 2006 and 2008.
It's hard to see how that amendment could pass today. A March 15-18 automated poll by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found 75 percent of Florida voters favor allowing gay couples to legally marry (38 percent favored) or be allowed to form civil unions (37 percent supported). Only 23 percent said there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship. Among Republicans just 25 percent opposed legal recognition of a gay relationship, while 53 percent support civil unions and 21 percent would legalize gay marriage.
Another poll released today by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute found that 52 percent of Americans and 54 percent of Floridians surveyed (a sample of only 228) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally.
Republican party leaders in Florida and nationally are grappling with the dramatic change in public opinion on same-sex marriage, and fretting that the GOP's long-standing opposition to same sex marriage is killing the party among voters under 30. This from the Republican National Committee task force, including Sally Bradshaw of Florida, looking at the current state of future of the party:
...Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be. If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out....
It's hard to imagine the Republican Party of Florida today eager to spend $300,000 embracing and promoting a statewide campaign against civil unions and same sex marriage when polls suggest that stance is now well outside the mainstream. Times/Herald reporter Tia Mitchell today caught up with Sen. Lee, R-Brandon, and he sounded taken aback and rather defensive about the issue he championed as a statewide candidate. The Florida GOP spent $150,000 to help put the issue on the ballot in 2006 and when that failed, spent another $150,000 to ensure it made it on the ballot in 2008.
"At this point in time I feel like there's a lot more important things for us to work on than to talk about this particular subject. It's sort of a distraction," Lee said.
Does he worry opposition to gay marriage turns off young voters, 80 percent of whom support it, accordinfg to national polls?
Lee: "You know. The presumptions in that question are so pejorative it really doesn't even warrant an answer. .... The Republican Party is about a lot of things. As is the Democratic party about alot of things. And there are people that support legalizing marijuana. There are people that support all kinds of things. And no party can embrace the complete spectrum of views of any one particular individual. I think the goal of the Republican Party is to broaden its appeal to younger voters, to broaden its appeal to minorities, particularly Hispanics at this point in time, and by doing so broaden the tent. But I think to isolate a particular issue as sort of the reason why there's a problem for Republicans is just pretty narrow minded."