The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Republicans are okay with voting for gay candidates. They are less okay with their children being gay.

Hundreds of people gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington on June 26, 2013, in anticipation of the ruling on California's Proposition 8 . (MLADEN ANTONOV/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

The Republican Party is gradually moving toward a more accepting attitude toward gay rights.

When it comes to their own families, though, it's slow-going.

A new poll from McClatchy and Marist College shows that 68 percent of Republicans say they would be no less likely to support a well-qualified gay candidate, and 59 percent say they prefer that states decide same-sex marriage rather than the federal government -- a stance that effectively is allowing such unions to take hold across the country.

At the same time, a strong majority of Republicans still personally oppose same-sex marriage (63 percent), and a similar proportion remains concerned about these issues directly affecting their family. In fact, six in 10 say they would be upset if one of their children were gay. Thirty-seven percent say they would be upset if their child told them that he or she was gay, while 23 percent say they would be "very upset." One-quarter of Republicans say they would not be upset at all.

To recap, two-thirds of Republicans say a gay candidate's sexuality doesn't make them less apt to support them, but 60 percent say they would be upset if they had a gay child.

Republicans are hardly the only ones who say they would be upset if their child came out as gay. About three in 10 Democrats and independents say the same. Clearly, many Americans remain apprehensive about such a prospect.

Overall, though, the percentage of Americans who say they would be upset if one of their children said they were gay has dropped significantly (as one might expect) in recent decades. While a 1985 poll for the Los Angeles Times showed that 89 percent of Americans said they would be upset -- including 64 percent being "very upset" -- today, 35 percent say they would be upset, and only 12 percent say "very upset."

The GOP's feelings on this, as with most GLBT issues, have evolved more slowly than others'. That's especially true when it comes to their families -- and that is going to prevent the party and its leaders from moving faster toward embracing same-sex marriage.