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Tom Zirpoli: Gay marriage issue is a family issue

Republicans are on the wrong side of the same-sex marriage issue and they need to re-frame the issue according to conservative values.

But don't take my word for it. Read the memo sent to members of the Republican establishment from Jan van Lohuizen, a leading Republican pollster who worked for former President George W. Bush.

Caught off guard by President Barack Obama's "same-sex couples should be able to get married" statement during a recent television interview, Republicans are looking flat-footed, especially Mitt Romney, who immediately announced that this was one issue where he has been consistent. But, of course, like Obama, Romney has also evolved on this issue, although in the opposite direction.

In 1994 when he was a candidate for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, Romney stated in an interview with a group of Log Cabin Republicans that he supported and would promote "full equality" for gays. Today, Romney is not only against same-sex marriage, but is against civil unions which would provide gay couples full equality under the law.

Romney reinforced his opposition to both same-sex marriage and civil unions last week in a commencement address at the conservative Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

While Obama's position has evolved with shifting American opinion on this issue, Romney has changed his position to align himself with the ultra-conservative members of the GOP base. How this plays out in the November elections is anyone's guess.

As more gay and lesbian Americans come out of the closet, Americans are beginning to realize that the same-sex marriage issue is a family issue and an issue that strikes closer to home than we may have thought a few years ago. The GOP's position begins to look mean-spirited as one Republican controlled state legislature after another bans same-sex marriage, civil unions and the extension of basic civil rights to gays.

Van Lohuizen's memo is more of a talking-points list for Republicans than a morality statement. He is not arguing that Republicans should change their position because it is the right thing to do. Rather, he states that they should change their position to better align themselves with traditional GOP values.

And what are those traditional GOP values that support same-sex marriage? Van Lohuizen writes that Republicans should stress that they "believe in equality under the law as a fundamental principle," that "gay and lesbian couples should not face discrimination, and that their relationships should be protected under the law."

He writes that "gays and lesbians should receive essential rights and protections such as hospital visitation, adoption rights and health and death benefits."

Van Lohuizen warns that this issue is "not about giving anyone extra protections or privileges, this is about making sure that everyone - regardless of sexual orientation - is provided the same protections against discrimination that you and I enjoy."

Lastly, Van Lohuizen writes that Obama's position to support same-sex marriage has many "conservative fundamentals." "As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government," writes van Lohuizen, "we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone. This includes freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government."

One has to wonder, however, if Van Lohuizen's list of traditional GOP values is still valid for today's Republican Party.

Of course, Republicans could ignore the sage advice of this experienced and senior member of the GOP and, instead, follow the advice of Bristol Palin, daughter of 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who loudly criticized Obama's position as anti-family and anti-marriage.

I wonder which adviser Republicans will embrace.

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