Republican Senator Says Republicans Must Abandon Same-Sex Marriage Issue To Win Elections

On Monday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) urged the GOP to move beyond social issues and focus on economic policy ahead of the 2014 and 2016 elections, arguing that the party should allow voters and states to enact marriage equality.

“I’m pretty traditional guy, almost 60 years old. I think marriage is between a man and a woman. But again if the voters decide that they want gay marriage I’m not going to oppose it,” the senior senator from Wisconsin said during an appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box.

Pressed on what Republicans must do to win national elections, Johnson called on GOP leaders to clearly communicate their positions on economic and foreign policy, saying that “social issues are going to primarily be decided in the states through democratic process and that’s the why it should happen.” “I’ll certainly go with the judgment of the American people in terms of where they want to fall on, whether it’s abortion issues or gay marriage or wherever,” Johnson added.

The senator’s policy hasn’t always matched his rhetoric, however. He is signed on this Congress as a co-sponsor of the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to institute federal limits on abortion and the DC Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The measure would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Johnson represents a fairly Democratic state, which President Obama carried twice, and elected Tammy Baldwin, the nation’s first openly gay senator. Earlier this month, a U.S. district judge struck down Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage, but then halted marriages to allow for an appeal from Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. In the interim, more than 500 same-sex couples got married in the state. A poll published in May found that 55 percent of state residents support same-sex marriage.

While almost all Democratic senators have evolved on the issue, with the exception of Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AR), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), just three Republicans — Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.


This piece has been updated to reflect that Murkowski also supports marriage equality. We regret the oversight.