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Priebus and his 'Old Testament heretics'

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Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus sat down with USA Today around the same time marriage equality was being discussed at the U.S. Supreme Court, and the paper reported that the GOP's "absolute opposition to same-sex marriage" is unchanged, though Priebus intends to "welcome" those who disagree.

"We do have a platform, and we adhere to that platform," Priebus said in an interview Monday on USA TODAY's Capital Download video series. "But it doesn't mean that we divide and subtract people from our party" who support the right of gay men and lesbians to marry.

"I don't believe we need to act like Old Testament heretics," he said, saying Republicans "have to strike a balance between principle and grace and respect."

I'm not sure Priebus is using "heretic" correctly. Was he trying to say Republicans don't have to act like Old Testament absolutists? Purists? Literalists?

In any case, I find the RNC chairman's larger point fascinating. On the one hand, Priebus is saying that Republicans will continue to demand that millions of Americans be denied equal marriage rights and be treated like second-class citizens. On the other, Priebus is also saying Americans who disagree should vote Republican anyway. Why? Because his party will treat LGBT Americans with "respect" while treating them like second-class citizens.

Republicans, in other words, will continue to base their social policies on the wishes of the religious right movement, but Priebus would prefer that voters not think of them that way -- as if parties have a choice in dictating how they're perceived by the public.

As for the bigger picture, the political winds are clearly shifting in a progressive direction when it comes to marriage rights, but at the Republican National Committee, the only apparent change is in tone.