In recent years, the Virginia GOP has struggled to win statewide elections. A big reason has been the party’s inability to secure the votes of millennials, the nation’s largest voting-age group.
In 2012, roughly 55 percent of millennials who voted did so for Democrats. To turn this Republican losing streak into a winning one, the Virginia GOP must work to reflect the values of the next generation while remaining true to the party’s principles.
Tired of having to say, “I’m a Republican, but . . . ,” I helped organize NextGen GOP, a group of young Virginia Republicans. We represent a generation of like-minded Republicans who believe in economic freedom and personal freedom. We believe in tolerance. We believe in the rule of law and equality under it.
That is why NextGen GOP and its members support the freedom for same-sex couples to marry, as do most millennials — 68 percent, according to the Pew Research Center, including about 80 percent of people younger than 30. Love should know no legal bounds, and we applauded the 2014 legalization of same-sex marriage in Virginia . But we understand that many consider traditional marriage a Republican concern. We wish the government would stay out of decisions on marriage — it evolved as, and still is to many, a religious institution, not a government one. However, we do not live in an ideal world, and as long as medical visiting rights, taxes and other critical elements of public policy are affected by this legal classification, Republicans must work to ensure equal opportunity under the law.
Of course, as Republicans, we are dedicated to defending religious liberty along with all of our constitutional rights, so of course we don’t think churches should be forced to perform same-sex marriages. We recognize that challenges lie ahead in balancing marriage equality and religious freedom, but, as believers in limited government, we’re against using state power to marginalize others based on beliefs or lifestyles.
If the GOP does not welcome the millennial view on this issue, it risks permanently losing a generation of voters. Twenty-six percent of millennials said they would not vote for candidates who disagree on same-sex marriage, even if they agree on many other issues.
Millennials can be a Republican generation. We simply must expand our dedication to promoting freedom and remain true to our roots as the party capable of fostering a business and labor climate that enables Virginia and the rest of the United States to thrive.
That is why we are taking action and organizing. Our generation will be heard. We are the generation that will define the future of the Virginia Republican Party. We no longer will have to say, “Yes, I’m a Republican, but . . .”
The writer is an executive member of NextGen GOP.