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Former Iowa senator: More state Republicans will accept, advocate for gay marriage

More Republicans are starting to accept and advocate more for same-sex marriages in Iowa, and what was once considered a minority view within the GOP will “have influence” at the August Ames straw poll and 2012 Iowa Caucuses, a former state senator said Wednesday.

Former state Sen. Jeff Angelo, an Ames Republican, said his newly launched group, “Iowa Republicans for Freedom,” is only the beginning of more Republican-centric organizations advocating for same-sex rights, including civil marriage, and such groups will be more common as time goes on.

“If you’re an activist like me and you go to these Republican meetings and this issue gets discussed, you’re made to feel uncomfortable in you’re in favor of marriage equality,” Angelo said.

“There needs to be an organization which Republicans can join and say ‘I’d actually like to advocate for gay and lesbian marriage as part of my conservative principles,’” he continued. “So I do think that these types of groups are existing so people are aware there is another Republican voice on this issue, besides the Republicans who support exclusive one-man-one-woman marriage.”

Freedom to marry is an issue that directly aligns with the conservative beliefs of limited government and personal freedom, Angelo said.

“Iowa is in the perfect position to start the conversation about how the Republican platform can get back to its conservative roots and back to being a party that stands for true conservative values, like limited government,” he said.

Angelo is a heterosexual father of three who identifies as an evangelical Christian. He regularly attends the Ames Evangelical Free Church. While he still considers himself “very much an activist Republican,” Angelo said he, and other Republicans, are recognizing banning same-sex marriage violates the widely-held conservative belief of personal freedoms.

And while there is a shift in opinion among Republicans, it is not highly publicized.

“I keep going to meetings and get Republicans coming to me and privately saying, ‘I support what you do,’ but they don’t want to come out yet and say that. But there’s enough people coming to me that gives me a feeling that things are shifting.”

Angelo said Iowa Republicans for Freedom, which has about 50 members, will mobilize to exert influence on the Iowa Caucuses in February, but does not expect any presidential candidates, except perhaps Fred Karger, to share the group’s view. Karger, a long-time Republican operative, is the first openly gay man from a major political party to run for President.

“I think that’s pretty unlikely (to have a political candidate agree with us), because many candidates have already established their positions (on same-sex marriage),” Angelo said. “But we will have an influence on the caucuses. We will go to caucus meetings and not be intimidated anymore, and will reject this assertion that you’re not Republican if you don’t stand on this a certain way. We will have that kind of influence, yes.”

On the national level, more self-identified gays are finding themselves agreeing with conservative values, said Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of the D.C.-based GOProud. GOProud was founded two years ago, and has official affiliations and movements throughout the U.S., including a movement in Iowa.

“It was the stereotype that if you were gay, you were an uber-liberal activist,” LaSalvia said. “And that is just not the case anymore. More and more gay people people are realizing they are conservative in their views. Limited government is good for everyone.”

Though LaSalvia did not speak to whether or not groups like GOProud or Iowa Republicans for Freedom would increase in number, therefore exerting influence on the conservative perspective on same-sex marriage, he said certainly opinions traditionally held by Republicans on gay marriage are changing.

“Attitudes on a whole host of issues are changing, and you’re going to see movement across the political spectrum,” LaSalvia said.

Unification of the Republican Party, however, is likely to come from the core issues conservatives share, not an issue like acceptance of gay marriage, LaSalvia said.

“I think the problems facing this country are so important that everyone should ban together to fix them,” he said. “That’s the reality that’s bringing conservatives together.”

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