N.H. RNC Member: Party Should Drop Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage

Jul 15, 2016

Republicans drafting the party's platform in Cleveland this week rejected appeals to soften language opposing same-sex marriage.

According to NPR, delegates supported language in this year's platform that says children "deserve a married mom and dad," and refers to "natural marriage" as between a man and a woman. 

Republican National Committeewoman Juliana Bergeron of Keene is a member of the platform committee and is in Cleveland this week. She's been open about her disagreement with her party on this issue.

"I do think Republicans need to change their thinking, but I do understand the platform supports the party base, so I’m in a minority here, as are other people," she told NHPR's Morning Edition. "I just think the Republican Party wants to be a party of a big tent, and we need to open our minds to equality for all."

Bergeron drew criticism from some in her party last year for signing an amicus brief in a case before the United States Supreme Court in which she and others conservatives urged the justices to overturn state bans on same-sex marriage.

The court ultimately did find such bans were unconstitutional, legalizing same-sex marriage across the country.

This week, the Republican platform committee included language seeking to overturn that ruling. That was despite an appeal from Emily Hoff, an openly gay Republican delegate from Washington, D.C.

"I certainly think we're alienating the LGBT community who might consider voting Republican," Hoff said, according to NPR. "We're certainly alienating members of the Republican Party who are in the LGBT community and bravely out in that way. But we're also alienating young voters." 

Bergeron says she's not disappointed, because she didn't expect it to change because the platform typically reflect the party's base.

"I think there are a lot of disappointed people in our country though who did work hard and thought that it was going to change," she said.

You can find Bergeron's complete transcript with Morning Edition below:

Let’s start with the status of New Hampshire’s first in the nation presidential primary. Heading into this week, it looked like New Hampshire’s leadoff status may be challenged.

What happened?

Well, there was a lot of work behind the scenes and there were no rule changes offered yesterday that would challenge our first-in-the-nation status. The rules committee had a lot on their mind and a lot of work to do trying to keep delegates bound and this was going to come up, but it never came up. We did make a lot of calls and worked with the other carve-out states, particularly Iowa and South Carolina, and I think the prior work paid off.

But the fact is Republicans who want to see the primary process change will likely bring this up again, right?

It always comes up. It comes up every time there’s a presidential election and it comes up mostly at every other RNC meeting. There are people who want a southern primary with six states, which would put us out of business. There are two new ideas where people want to see a combination, like Massachusetts and New Hampshire combining and Iowa and another state combining, to bring more states into this process. And there’s a thought they could do a rotating primary and change the order of the states every election cycle, but I just don’t see how that would ever work at all. None of those ideas came to the floor yesterday.

You sit on the platform committee which earlier this week rejected appeals to soften the party’s language on same-sex marriage. The draft platform calls for overturning the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that legalized same-sex marriage.

You’ve been open about your disagreement with your party’s stance on this issue. Is this an area where you believe Republicans need to change their thinking?

I do think Republicans need to change their thinking, but I do understand the platform supports the party base, so I’m in a minority here, as are other people. I just think the Republican Party wants to be a party of a big tent, and we need to open our minds to equality for all.

Juliana Bergeron

So is it fair to say were you disappointed by the party’s lack of movement on this issue?

Not disappointed because I didn’t really expect it to change. I think there are a lot of disappointed people in our country who did work hard and thought that it was going to change. I think the platform always reinforces the views of the party base and that’s what we have here. I was more surprised to see them put in actual information about support of a border wall. The Trump people were pretty much hands off on the platform, but the base and the party have decided we’re supporting Donald Trump, and so they did put in some of his ideas.

The platform also takes what some call other anti-LGBT positions, such as supporting state bans on transgender people using the bathroom of their choice. Are these areas where the party risks alienating groups of voters?

I saw some of the people who I thought would be most disappointed by that at an event yesterday and they felt they had made some gains because they felt they had more people voting for those issues. There were five people voting in favor of such things in 2012 and they felt there were 30 people or so voting for such things in 2016, so they considered it progress.

Of course, social issues are only part of the platform, which goes before the full convention next week. What areas of the platform were you most focused on this week?

I was most focused on jobs and the economy. That is what I believe should be our number one focus; that and defense, particularly in light of what happened yesterday in France. So I was happy to be working on jobs and the economy. I think a lot of the problems in our country could be solved by people having jobs and being able to support themselves and their families and having a better life.

Also this week, a push by some in the party to unbind the delegates failed, essentially ending the so-called “Never Trump” movement.

This clears the way for Donald Trump to secure the Republican presidential nominee next week, so what is your position on Trump?

I’m a Trump person. He’s who the people in New Hampshire voted for; not all of them, obviously, but he did win our primary. Therefore, I don’t think it’s a time for me to support this idea of voting conscience and thinking I can change somebody else. I think I represent New Hampshire Republicans and I’m supporting Donald Trump.

Would you describe yourself as an enthusiastic supporter?

We've had Barack Obama as president for eight years and I believe in our style of government. I believe we have checks and balances and I don't believe any one person can do extreme harm to our country.

  I am an enthusiastic supporter at this time, yes. I don’t think we have a choice. I think it’s between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and there is no way I want to see Hillary Clinton in the White House. I think she is perhaps the most disingenuous person that I have ever seen. A lot of young people don’t trust her and I think we have to be a party that looks to the future. While I don’t agree with the way Donald Trump has said everything, I do think he has hit a cord here in the United States.

So there’s no trepidation on your part?

About him being president? No, not at all. We’ve had Barack Obama as president for eight years and I believe in our style of government. I believe we have checks and balances and I don’t believe any one person can do extreme harm to our country. I also think the person we saw earlier in this campaign was a little more of a showman and I think he’s gradually becoming more presidential. I have faith that it’s going to work. He didn’t become as successful as he is by being the person we saw earlier in the campaign.