The number of current Republican senators and representatives who support marriage equality has climbed to eight. On July 21, David Jolly (FL-13) announced he “as a matter of Constitutional principle” supports an inclusive legal definition of marriage.
His fellow pro-equality GOPers tend to all hail from a specific background. The three existing supporters in the House represent predominantly urban districts in increasingly blue-leaning states: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) represents the southernmost part of Miami; Richard Hanna (NY) holds Rome, the seat of New York’s upstate district (Utica hasn’t been carried by a Republican presidential candidate since 1992); Charlie Dent (PA) represents Allentown in a district that is 87 percent urban by population, skirting the northern portion of Philadelphia’s metro area. These three districts have been ranked as leaning towards Republicans in general by two, three, and two percentage points respectively.
Rep. David Jolly’s district fits that increasingly predictable pattern. It encompasses a central chunk of Tampa, which Jolly narrowly won in a special election earlier this year. Constituents in the district lean towards Republican candidates by only a single percentage point.
Pro-equality Republicans in the Senate are more geographically diverse. Lisa Murkowski (AK), Susan Collins (ME), Rob Portman (OH), and Mark Kirk (IL) come from far-flung regions of the country. That said, with the exception of Portman, three are well known for adopting political ideas rejected by most Republicans. Portman explained his position as a change resulting from his own son coming out to him. Rep. Jolly’s roundabout statements on the issue (he does “believe in traditional marriage” but is open to states recognizing other marriages) reflects a more cautious, less personal kind of support.
Part of what may have motivated Jolly’s announcement is that he not only represents a comparatively moderate district, but is also effectively running unopposed for reelection this fall. Stating his support now carries less risk than it would otherwise and will potentially yield greater rewards in future elections (this issue has become increasingly less controversial and pols who reverse positions have faced criticism).