College Republicans has decided to use the post-election lull in heated partisan rhetoric to make a 180 shift in its position on one of campus’ most hot-button issues.
Its partnership with Penn Democrats and the Lambda Alliance last month to host a marriage equality event at the Love Statue on campus kicked off their recent support for same-sex marriage rights.
“Personally, I just think that marriage equality support is a conservative ideal,” College Republicans president and College junior Arielle Klepach said. “I think that’s something that government shouldn’t be involved in, and I think that’s great that more Republicans are coming out in support of it.”
The shift comes at the same time as new data has come to light on a transition in the Republican Party on same-sex marriage, especially among young voters. Over one third of Republicans under 30 now say they favor same-sex marriage, and 66 percent of all under-30 voters said they support legal recognition of the right of same-sex couples to marry, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
“We are in general trying to represent what we think is the average Republican at Penn,” Klepach said. “And I personally, from my experience talking to people in my organization and talking to people about their political views, believe the average Republican at Penn tends to be a more moderate Republican.”
Lambda chair and College sophomore Dawn Androphy said that she was excited to see College Republicans break from the official Republican position on the issue by co-hosting the Valentine’s Day event.
“I hope it told people on campus that marriage equality is something that there is growing support for on this campus and nationwide,” Androphy said. “It’s something that we as an organization and a community feel should be accepted regardless of what political party you’re affiliated with.”
College Republicans and Penn Dems have also been working on a joint statement in support of same-sex marriage rights that they are circulating to college Democrat and Republican student groups across the country. At first, they had planned to shoot for unanimous support among groups at Ivy League schools, but several chapters of College Republicans declined to sign on to the agreement, which Penn Dems president and College sophomore Matthew Kalmans found “very surprising and very disappointing.”
Instead, the two groups decided they would start a national campaign to encourage political organizations at other schools — not just in the Ivy League — to sign on. They reached out to 100 groups — 50 on each side of the aisle — and plan to release a joint statement soon.
“We said there’s no reason why it has to be confined to the Ivy League,” Kalmans said. “It really is a national issue that groups around the country should have a chance to weigh in on.”
For College Republicans, the hope is that the change will better allow them to represent Republicans on campus.
“We want students to feel like it’s okay to be a Republican,” Political Director and College sophomore Anthony Cruz said.
Klepach added that she hopes the change will encourage students to consider joining the organization, especially if their beliefs do not align with the vision of Republicans on a national level. While the organization has not identified other issues they would consider as a backdrop for further partnership with Penn Dems, Klepach said that they would continue to try to better represent other student Republicans, whom she sees as often socially moderate or liberal.
Androphy also added that she would welcome a partnership with the two political groups on other LGBTQ-related issues as well, such as employment and housing discrimination.
“If we were able to make marriage equality a mainstream platform in both parties,” she said, “that’s not the end of the road.”
Kalmans mentioned immigration reform as another issue he has gotten feedback on from some of the groups at other schools he has reached out to. Cruz agreed that College Republicans would consider other moderate social issues with which they could appeal to a broader swath of the Penn population.
“A lot of students at heart sympathize with fiscal conservatism,” Cruz said. “Now that they see that we tend to be a little more fiscally conservative, but we also are moderate on social issues, it’s really going to appeal to Penn students.”
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