POSTED: Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 1:15pm
UPDATED: Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 4:02pm
ATLANTA (CNN) — As the justices of the Supreme Court now contemplate two same-sex marriage cases, and national polls show growing support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry, a debate has broken out over whether Republican presidential candidates in 2016 will embrace the idea.
Karl Rove, the former White House political adviser in the George W. Bush administration, said this week he could envision the 2016 GOP nominee -- whoever it is -- backing same-sex marriage.
However, Jim Messina, the manager of President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, disagreed.
"Given who their primary electorate is and given the fact that the ABC/Washington Post poll showed that 60% of older Republican primary voters still oppose it, I think you will see people talk less about it," he told Bloomberg Businessweek. "But I don't think they're showing any signs of moderating."
While the poll Messina referenced indicated 68% of Republicans over age 65 oppose same-sex marriage, it also showed younger Republicans between 18 and 49 were more supportive. In that age group, 52% said same-sex marriage should be legal.
Some Republicans, including Ken Mehlman, who ran Bush's 2004 re-election effort, are pushing the party to moderate their message on this issue. Mehlman is openly gay and has helped raise funds to support the effort to overturn California's Proposition 8, the 2008 voter initiative banning same-sex marriage in that state.
One of the cases heard by the Supreme Court this week centered on whether Prop 8 is constitutional.
The drive to overturn Prop 8 brought together a unique legal alliance four years ago: conservative Ted Olson and liberal David Boies. Olson and Boies, who found themselves on opposite sides in the legal fight over the 2000 presidential election, told CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger they came together on this issue because of its importance, and to symbolize this is not a partisan issue.
Borger talked to Olson and Boies for a CNN special, "The Marriage Warriors: Showdown at the Supreme Court." The show includes exclusive access to some of their preparations for the Supreme Court arguments.
"I think that in the beginning there was a curiosity factor. The odd couple getting together. Which I think served us well, because this is an issue where if you pay attention to the issue, if you think about the issue, you can only come out one way. The challenge is to get people to think about the issue," Boies said.
"I think that one of the things that our kind of novelty, odd couple status did was that it attracted people to listen to us in the first place and again to think of this issue in ways that they haven't thought about it before," Boies added.
Some conservative critics of Olson, however, have said they think he abandoned his conservative principles when he took the case, which he strongly disputes.
The CNN special airs Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET and 10:30 p.m. ET.