In a heated debate over the social issues dividing the Massachusetts Republican Party, state committee members accepted a proposal Tuesday that redefines conservative beliefs about abortion and same-sex marriage, despite recent efforts from gubernatorial candidate to move MassGOP toward the middle of the political spectrum.
Massachusetts Republican committee members accepted the platform by a 52-16 vote after the platform committee unveiled the proposal at a meeting held at Boston University’s Agganis Arena.
Presented by Amy Carnevale, chairman of the Platform Committee, the proposal defines the goals and viewpoints of MassGOP and reshapes the values of the party, with linguistic alterations and additions to the social issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. The approved platform will be ratified at the Republican state convention in March.
“These issues evoke passion for a reason,” Carnevale said. “We recognize that there’s disagreements. Many of us would have preferred to write the language differently, but this was the compromise that we came up with. It reflected the good will on both sides of these issues.”
Restructuring the final section of the platform, entitled “Values”, the members of the Platform Committee added phrases to the sections about abortion and same-sex marriage, saying “every instance of abortion is tragic” and they “believe the institution of traditional marriage strengthens our society.”
After the presentation of the platform proposal, committee members addressed the body, debating the linguistic changes and largely focusing on the two social issues.
William Gillmeister, who served on the Platform Committee, said he would have loved to see the values section stronger with regard to pro-life and traditional marriage sentiments, but he understands that compromise is necessary.
“The language that’s here is a nice balance and compromise that will move this party forward,” he said. “We talk about a big tent, and there are a lot of conservatives, such as myself, that don’t feel included in that tent. With this kind of a platform, we will be feeling as though we’re being included, and that’s the important thing that we have to understand and realize.”
Mindy McKenzie-Hebert, another Platform Committee member, said she agrees with everything in the values section, but the MassGOP platform must also acknowledge the social beliefs of the younger generations to avoid turning them away from the conservative movement.
“I really want us to have a generation of Republicans coming up, and our kids don’t see this as being an issue.” she said.
Other committee members, such as Platform Committee member Jeanne Kangas, said they could not accept a platform with language that is disrespectful to the Commonwealth’s gay and lesbian citizens.
“If I recall, we’ve had marriage equality in Massachusetts, as interpreted by our highest court under the Massachusetts state constitution, for nearly a decade now,” Kangas said. “Does that mean it’s getting to be traditional?”
Platform Committee member Matthew Sisk said the adoption of this proposal will exclude members of the Republican Party from feeling accepted, which will ultimately harm the efficiency and success of MassGOP.
“Since gay marriage has become law in the Commonwealth, has your life been negatively affected?” he said. “Have you noticed rioting and pillaging in the streets? Does the sun not still rise? Furthermore, knowing many in the gay community to be card-carrying Republicans, why take steps to exclude them from our voting ranks when we teeter on the verge of political insignificance? We need to stand united together tonight as a party.”
In the wake of the proposal adoption, the party’s leading gubernatorial candidate, Charlie Baker, has moved toward the middle of the political spectrum on the social issues that created controversy in the state committee meeting.
“Charlie is pro-choice and respects a woman’s right to make decisions about her medical care,” said Tim Buckley, spokesman for Baker’s campaign. “Charlie is and has always been a strong supporter of marriage equality. [His] focus as a candidate for Governor is on creating good jobs, improving our schools and strengthening our communities.”
Mark Fisher, the other gubernatorial candidate vying for the Republican nomination, said he supports the newly adopted Republican Party platform.
“The Republican Party in Massachusetts is absolutely fractured, and there are a lot of people that sit on the sidelines and don’t vote,” he said. “What I’m trying to do with my campaign is appeal to these people, and that’s exactly what this re-emphasis does.”
Carnevale, in an effort to appease the concerns of committee members prior to the vote, said at least 80 percent of the platform can be agreed upon by all members of the state committee, and the remainder must be negotiated to satisfy both sides and bring success to MassGOP.
“The issues are the reason that we’re all here,” she said. “It’s why we feel it’s important to be Republicans and elect Republicans. So the fact that we’re passionate about the issues we believe in is a good thing and having that debate is important.”