Kolbe and Whitman joined dozens of other prominent Republicans in signing a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down the law barring federal recognition of gay marriages. But with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, still defending the law and social conservative groups vowing payback for those who abandon it, prospects are slim that Congress will move any time soon to repeal it on its own.
"It's sort of a bandwagon effect among the cultural elite," said Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, which opposes gay marriage. "Some of these politicians who have changed their position, those who live in more conservative states, may pay for that shift with a defeat in their next election."
If public opinion continues to move in the direction it has been for the last 15 years, what's true for the next election may not be true just a few years down the line — even for Republicans.
When Gallup first asked in polls about gay marriages, in 1996, just 27 percent felt they should be valid. That figure climbed to 44 percent two years ago, and reached a majority by last November, when 53 percent said gay marriages should be recognized. Among independents, a key barometer for politicians, support has jumped 23 points to 55 percent, including a six-point gain since 2010.
Even among Republicans, support has grown by 14 percentage points since 1996, although there's been no significant movement among Republicans since 2010, when 28 percent backed legal marriage.
"A lot of Republicans have come to the conclusion we can't live one life in private but advocate another life in public," said Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. "We all know families who are loving parents of the same gender who are raising great kids."
AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.
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