The prolonged Republican primary forced Mitt Romney to take stances on a host of controversial issues to win the allegiance of conservative voters. That could be alienating now that he is moving to the general election. His opposition to reproductive rights, harsh tone on immigration, and deference to Paul Ryan's budget have been the centerpiece of the campaign so far; he has also turned against gay rights, a move that puts Romney out of touch from the increasing majority of Americans who favor same-sex marriage. During debates Romney tried to cast himself as nondiscriminatory in his interactions with LBGT individuals but settled on a hardline opposition to same-sex marriage.
"From the very beginning in 1994, I said to the gay community, I do not favor same-sex marriage. I oppose same-sex marriage and that has been my view," Romney said in January. He reiterated that stance in February, disparaging a court's decision to overturn Proposition 8. "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and, as president, I will protect traditional marriage and appoint judges who interpret the Constitution as it is written and not according to their own politics and prejudices,” Romney said in a statement.
That stance doesn't only put Romney out of step with the mainstream; it also distances the presumptive Republican nominee from a collection of his biggest donors:
Paul Singer, Dan Loeb and Cliff Asness — three hedge fund managers and major players in donor circles — each cut six-figure checks toward the landmark effort to legalize gay marriage in New York.
The New York moneymen and some other Republican movers-and-shakers — such as former George W. Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman, who came out two years ago and is now raising money from a broad swath of donors to push for gay marriage but who hasn’t made a presidential campaign endorsement — are at odds with Romney, who signed a pledge proffered by the conservative National Organization for Marriage promising to, among other things, support “sending a federal marriage amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the states for ratification.”
Polls have shown a steady increase in support for marriage equality. A Washington Post/ABC News survey from March found 53 percent supporting legalized same-sex marriage with just 44 percent saying it should be illegal.
The real problem for Romney and the Republican Party in general is not just the wider overall acceptance but also the distribution of support. Young people—even many of a conservative ilk—accept same-sex unions as a given fact, a no-brainer policy that puts the United States out of touch with modernity. It's equally accepted among the elite moneyed class that pushes the GOP's anti-tax platform. This class group has a long history of tying themselves to social conservatives to gain the votes for their low tax rates, but opposition to gay marriage is increasingly untenable among the socially accepting ranks of the country's elite. He may be able to skate by in the upcoming election thanks to Obama's own waffling on the issue, but if Romney spends the fall demonizing same-sex marriage it could further alienate his party from not only the next generation of voters, but also the wealthy individuals who fund their campaigns.