CLEVELAND—After fending off attempts to change the Republican Party’s official position on LGBT issues and traditional marriage, a coalition of social conservatives cautiously celebrated an early victory Monday afternoon.
Before the Grand Old Party picks its presidential nominee formally, a select set of delegates on the platform committee will spend the week staking out Republican positions on everything from domestic to international issues definitively.
On the social issue front of the Republican platform, conservatives maintained a strict definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. They limited the use of single-sex bathrooms in public buildings to those of the same biological sex. And they defeated efforts to steer the party in a direction more in line with LGBT advocacy groups.
“There are those who are committed to undermining the conservative ideals that this party has long stood for,” said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Center and a Louisiana delegate to the convention.
“They’re an extreme minority, they’re committed to their view, and I think they will persist,” he told The Daily Signal Monday. “But I don’t believe they will prevail.”
To become a part of the party’s platform, those initial advances still need to be ratified by a majority of the 2,472 Republican delegates that will crowd onto the floor of Quicken Loans Arena next week.
But social conservatives seemed confident Monday afternoon that they had defeated an effort financed by billionaire Republican Paul E. Singer, according to The New York Times. His group, American Unity Fund, along with Log Cabin Republicans, aimed to hammer new gay rights planks into the platform.
The effort ultimately failed in the subcommittee on the family.
“I’m really happy with the way it turned out. I had heard that somebody was spending $6 million to get LGBT stuff into the platform,” Kansas delegate Mary Culp told The Daily Signal. “I would say that the effort fizzled.”
President Barack Obama’s bathroom directive took center stage. In a sweeping May proclamation, the administration instructed local schools to extend Title IX protections, which prohibit sex-based discrimination, to transgender students. The directive suggested that schools that refuse to allow transgender students to use the single-sex bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify with would potentially lose federal funds.
Addressing that policy in the platform is a political miscalculation, according to Anne Dickerson, a New York delegate who argued that the “discussion of bathrooms takes us down a rabbit hole quite a great distance.”
“I think this is a state issue,” she told her colleagues during a subcommittee hearing. “A lot of states, local municipalities, and schools who have transgender students have dealt with this issue rightfully at the local level.”
Though Dickerson declined to comment for this article, the New York delegate argued in committee that Republicans were blindly taking Democrats’ bait by elevating the issue in their platform.
Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, echoed that sentiment, telling The Daily Signal he’s frustrated by Monday’s development.
“This is a foolish issue to nationalize and talk about within the Republican Party platform,” he said. “It literally drags the platform into the gutter when so many people who are on this committee seem hell-bent with some obsession with bathroom use.”
Social conservatives on the family subcommittee justified their positions by insisting that the White House forced their hand. It was necessary to insert bathroom language in the platform, they argue, to offer a rebuttal and give local school districts guidance on the issue.
“Cowards would say this is not politically expedient, let’s not talk about it, let’s just let the president’s radical agenda go unchallenged,” Perkins told The Daily Signal. “This is not the party of cowards.”
In an interview last week with The Daily Signal, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said delegates on the platform committee should take up the issue to keep boys and girls in their respective bathrooms based on biology, not gender identity.
“The president had made a federal issue—and it’s amazing to be saying this—of bathrooms,” Cuccinelli said. “The president has done this, we didn’t. But if he’s going to pick the fight, we’re not going to back down.”
The fight over social issues comes as evangelical voters question where Donald Trump, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, stands on social issues.
Trump has been friendly toward former Olympian and current transgender advocate Caitlyn Jenner—who announced she will speak as a “transgender ambassador” at an event in Cleveland during the convention.
But recently the New York businessman announced his support of a North Carolina law that requires individuals to use public restrooms that correspond with their biological gender.
Social conservatives see the platform as a way to tether Trump to their brand of a pro-family platform. And so far, the Trump campaign has demonstrated little interest in challenging the party platform.
That’s good news for conservative groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List that were happy with the 2012 platform position on abortion, which looks unlikely to have significant changes.
“We’re going to remain vigilant, we want it [to] remain rock solid, and then we want to see Mr. Trump embrace this platform once it’s passed,” said Billy Valentine, the pro-life group’s director of government affairs, in an interview last week.
Though the party’s presumptive nominee disagrees with some GOP orthodoxies, coalition members say they’re confident that Republican doctrine on social issues will be conserved in the party platform.