But Heritage's Darling disputes the polling data. "The best temperature taking, the best evidence of where the American people are on the issue are the referendums in the various states," he says. Voters in 13 states adopted a gay marriage ban in 2004, and three more did the same in 2008. "There's an overwhelming weight of the vote in favor of traditional marriage over gay marriage."
Despite the fact that all the major GOP candidates oppose gay marriage, the issue has already been a headline grabber on the primary campaign trail. And the fact that New Hampshire's legislature is scheduled to vote on repeal of the state's law allowing gay marriage just before the important first-in-the-nation primary election early next year means that is likely to continue. [See a roundup of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP primary candidates.]
Stories of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's anti-gay-marriage bona fides continue to trickle out: Her husband's counseling clinic practices "pray the gay away" treatment, though Marcus Bachmann emphasizes that therapists only practice reparative therapy if patients request help becoming heterosexual, and it is not the focus of his business, according to an interview with Minnesota's Star Tribune. And, on Monday, Mother Jones reported that critics blame Bachmann's "antigay allies" for fostering an environment of intolerance that contributed to a rash of teen suicides in her district.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who may yet enter the race and who opposes gay marriage, last week indicated he is okay with New York's recent decision to allow gay marriage because "that's New York, and that's their business," he said to a crowd of GOP donors in Aspen, Colo. "If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business."
Perry's comments may indicate a shift in the broader Republican Party's attitude toward gay marriage, as did the response: The audience in Colorado cheered his states' rights attitude. That attitude may also appeal to Libertarians, who made up the original roots of the modern Tea Party. But it didn't impress some social conservatives who believe marriage is a moral issue that transcends state rights. Fellow presidential candidate Rick Santorum tweeted in response: "So Gov Perry, if a state wanted to allow polygamy or if they chose to deny heterosexuals the right to marry, would that be OK too?"
In the June New Hampshire debate, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Santorum, and Bachmann all stated they would support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.