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Reince Priebus vs. Ken Mehlman on gay marriage

by Mark Murray, Senior Political Editor, NBC News /  / Updated 

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One man is the current chairman of the Republican Party; the other man held that job six years ago.

And they have two fundamentally different views on the subject of same-sex marriage.

In an interview with CBN's David Brody that was released today, current Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus says he and the GOP believe that "marriage is between one man and one woman." But he adds that the belief has "to be draped in the concepts of grace, love, and respect."

I do believe, and I still will tell you that our party believes, that marriage is between one man and one woman. Our party believes that life begins at conception. I think those are foundational issues that aren’t going anywhere, but what I have said -- which I don’t think should be controversy at all, and I would think that Christians and pastors and everyone in between should agree -- that our principles have to be draped in the concepts of grace, love and respect and that’s not code language.

That position opposing gay marriage is consistent with most Republicans' views. Per an April NBC/WSJ poll, just 27 percent of Republicans said they favored same-sex marriage (versus 73 percent of Democrats, 54 percent of independents, and 53 percent of all respondents).

But it appears at odds with the RNC's "Growth & Opportunity Project" post-election report, which argued that the GOP couldn't be seen among younger voters as "totally intolerant" on issues like gay rights. The report said:

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. 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.

Meanwhile, in an interview published today on Andrew Sullivan's blog, former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman -- who came out as gay a few year ago and served as party chair from 2005-2007 -- explained how he talks to Republicans on the subject of same-sex marriage.

To me, what [marriage] is about is two individuals who love each other who want to spend their lives committing to each another; they take care of each other when they are sick or old. And so that people in their world and community share that commitment and help them out in tough times. And I think that goal is something that should be available to people -- whether they are straight or gay.

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