Young voters are committed to the institution of marriage, and don’t believe it should be reserved for straight couples. They are also aware that the current economy makes it hard for them to start families, CRNC found. “I’ve been dating my girlfriend for almost five years now, and we’re still not even really thinking about getting married because …financially we’re in a bad spot, as a whole generation,” one of the young entrepreneurs in their Orlando focus group told them.

To young voters who might otherwise be attracted to Republican principles, “opposition to same-sex marriage constituted a ‘deal breaker,’” according to CRNC. “Among those respondents who said that same-sex marriage should be legal (a full 44% of young voters), half said that they would probably or definitely not vote for a candidate with whom they disagreed on same-sex marriage, even if they were in agreement on taxes, defense, immigration, and spending.”

Can the GOP win on issues of greater issue salience, so that gay marriage is not a “deal breaker” for a large number of young voters?  Probably not.  To these voters, marriage equality is more than a position on an issue.  It is a matter of ethics and integrity. They would not support a party with so deep a character flaw, even if its surface positions were compatible.

The party’s second option is to strike a middle ground.  CRNC, for example, suggests that the party push a “states rights” approach, leaving issues of marriage up to candidates at the local level.  That, however, is likely to backfire in short order, much more quickly than did the Democrats’ alliance with segregationists in the 1960s.

I come from San Francisco, and in The City, the most determined and outspoken proponents of genuine family values are gay and lesbian couples. They know the importance of a strong two-parent family with a masculine and feminine influence, no matter the gender of the parents; a family that sacrifices for the children and never regrets it.

Why are they mostly Democrats, and not Republicans? Because they think the Republican Party rejects their qualifications for parenthood, and their capacity to live for their family, for their children.

It is important for the GOP to be on the side of history on this issue.  While the party may remain divided for a few years on exactly how gay and lesbian Americans secure an equal right to form families – whether via civil unions or marriage rights – the party needs to champion these rights.  The just position, and the politically expedient one, is the same: support for same sex marriage should be encouraged; eventually it will become the norm.

The Republican Party needs to follow the example of Nike. First, we need to stem the blood flow, by better conveying what unregistered Republicans want to know we understand: women, blacks, and Hispanics are and ought to be powerful. Climate change is used by Democrats and Republicans, cynically, to advance their own unrelated agendas – but the risk is real, and demands a serious response. Prosperity is our most urgent need, and achieving it does not mean sacrificing the environment. Family values have some of their most powerful advocates in those just given the right to be a family. American ideals are often most vigorously championed by those who have fought for the right to be Americans, whether on the battlefield, in the immigration process, or risking their lives to cross into our nation in order to be free and the GOP needs to include these individuals if it hopes to survive.