Nashville, Tennessee is a staple of America’s Bible Belt and, as such, one of the last places in the country where one would expect GOP governors to alter their views on same-sex marriage. However, signs have been emerging lately that several Bible Belt GOP governors may be subtly shifting to a new message regarding gay marriage. The issue is a moot point at the moment – one of the most divisive and politically contentious social issues that the United States has seen over the past decades. Yet the times – they might just be a-changing for once.
The religiously conservative members of the Republican party are still staunchly opposing same-sex marriage. However, the Bible Belt GOP governors seem to have had a change of heart of sorts, even though their shift in attitude has more to do with tone than substance. It can also be largely chalked up to the upcoming mid-term electoral polls, which usually determine shifts in rhetoric in order to attract more voters. Yet, even in spite of these subtle differences in understanding what’s going on with Bible Belt Republicans, it’s impossible not to appreciate the dramatic evolution that their typically socially conservative attitude is undergoing.
During the National Governors Association meeting, which took place in Nashville the past weekend, Republican Governor Scott Walker from Wisconsin, told the Associated Press in an interview that he doesn’t think “the Republican Party is fighting it”. He added: “I’m not saying it’s not important. But Republicans haven’t been talking about this. We’ve been talking about economic and fiscal issues. It’s those on the left that are pushing it”. It’s perhaps relevant that Walker might be running for president in 2016, in case he comes out the winner during this year’s mid-term polls. Just as notably, Walker recently appealed against a ruling by a federal judge, which struck down his state’s ban on same-sex marriages. To boot, Walker had supported the ban, which was then taken to court.
The results the Republican Party saw in 2012 elections were a failure on most counts, which, in turn, led to a shift in attitudes at the heart of the faction. A report commissioned by the Republican National Committee asked for “inclusive and welcoming tones” on issues that stand to create division, such as gay rights and same-sex marriage. And Walker is not the only GOP governor to stand to, but there are also numerous Republican governors that are still strongly and publicly opposed to gay marriage – such as Chris Christie of New Jersey and Terry Branstad from Iowa.