POSTED: Monday, April 15, 2013 - 8:05pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 11:47am
LOS ANGELES (CNN) — The Republican National Committee approved two resolutions Friday re-affirming the party's position on marriage, a move designed to mollify social conservatives angry at GOP leaders who have suggested Republicans tone down their rhetoric in opposition of same -sex marriage in order to appeal to younger voters.
The resolutions were approved by a voice vote as a larger package of 12 resolutions including one honoring former Texas Rep. Ron Paul. There was no opposition to passing all 12 resolutions en bloc.
"Let me make crystal clear something I've said since January," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a speech before the vote on the resolutions. "While we have to do things differently, there's one thing that can't and won't change: our principles. There are some that would like us to abandon them, but as long as I'm Chairman, we'll stay true to them. Some would have us turn into Democrats-lite, but I refuse."
While Priebus emphasized he would "never suggest we should waiver on our principles," he also noted that he "won't tell anyone they can't be a part of this party."
Recent efforts by Priebus to attract new voters to the Republican Party have drawn the ire of social conservatives who fear the chairman is abandoning the GOP's political and policy platform, specifically the plank that defines marriage as the "union of one man and one woman." A task force created by Priebus in December released a report last month detailing strategies for the GOP to grow including a suggestion the party soften its tone on gay issues.
"For the GOP to appeal to younger voters, we do not have to agree on every issue, but we do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view," the five members of the task force wrote in the report titled the Growth and Opportunity Project.
"Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays - and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be. If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out."
Social conservatives viewed this as an attempt to change the party's position on marriage, particularly approving of same-sex marriage, which is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, urged conservative activists Thursday evening to withhold contributions to the RNC and other GOP political committees over this issue.
"Until the RNC and the other national Republican organizations grow a backbone and start defending core principles, don't send them a dime of your hard-earned money," Perkins said in the email, a copy of which was obtained by CNN. "If you want to invest in the political process, and I encourage you to do so, give directly to candidates who reflect your values and organizations you trust-like FRC Action."
The first resolution was titled "Supporting Core Values of the 2012 Republican Platform," and endorsed the GOP platform adopted at the Republican National Convention last year. The second resolution, "For Marriage and Children 2013," calls on the Supreme Court to "uphold the sanctity of marriage in its rulings on California's Proposition 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act."
While approval of the resolutions was largely symbolic, it is likely to be embraced by social conservatives, but also enrage Republicans who believe the party should be accepting of same-sex marriage.
The three-day meeting in Hollywood also focused on political and fundraising strategy as well as new messaging to minority voters including African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Hispanics. Former Vice President Dick Cheney also addressed the committee members at a luncheon.
There is an acknowledgment among Republicans that they need to attract more voters to the party, but there is a disagreement on how best to do so. Social conservatives believe the party needs to stand by its principles, while more centrist Republicans think the party needs to rethink its positions on social issues such as same-sex marriage. In addition, with the nation's changing demographics, Priebus is launching new programs to reach out to minorities including hiring staff which will live in African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic communities across the country. President Barack Obama overwhelming won all three groups in the 2012 election.
Dr. Ada Fisher, a national committeewoman for North Carolina, said she thinks there is a misperception that Republicans don't care about people and the GOP needs to work to change it.
"We have to be perceived as a party which addresses issues that people are interested in and not just positions that we might be interested in," she said. "For example, one of the things that Republicans are known for is that we stand for smaller government. Well, when people hear that they think they are getting ready to cut our programs and that is not necessarily true. One of the things you need to do is to consolidate duplicated services, not cut the services per se, but to make sure you are not wasting money doing the same thing for four or five different agencies."
Fisher, who is African-American, said there is not one thing she thinks the GOP needs to do to attract African-Americans to the party except focus on the economy.
"I can't think of too many things specifically that we need to do for African Americans other than make government work," she said. "Make it do its job. When the economy blossoms, everybody blossoms. So if the economy is kicking on all cylinders we will prosper. I guarantee you if Romney had been elected we would be in far better shape than we are today."
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