State Sen. Cam Ward joined the growing number of younger Republicans who disagree with a move by some leaders in the Alabama Republican Party to discipline or remove a steering committee member who disagrees with the party’s stance on gay marriage.
Ward joins the Young Republican Federation of Alabama in criticizing the proposed changes to the party bylaws by some members of the Alabama Republican Executive Committee that would prohibit a member of the steering committee from taking a position contrary to the Republican platform.
“I served on the National Republican Platform Committee in 2012 and take great pride in the work we did, but I do not think our party establishment should seek to stifle the voices of dissent in our ranks,” said Ward, who has served on the state party executive committee for 14 years.A number of young Republicans, in social media and elsewhere, seem to agree that the party needs to stop what they believe is a pattern of stomping out dissent, which they said makes the party less inclusive.
Bill Armistead, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, said he is not aware of any effort to silence anyone, but said the people of Alabama, the Alabama Republican Party and the national party have voted resoundingly against same-sex marriage.
“The Republican Party and Alabamians are against same sex marriage,” said Armistead, who said he has not been out front speaking about the issue. He said most of the discussion about the issue has been on blogs and the Montgomery Advertiser was the first media outlet he has talked to.
“This is not about silencing anyone,” Armistead said.
The disagreements within the party surfaced after the chair of the College Republican Federation of Alabama, Stephanie Petelos, expressed her support for same-sex marriage. Other committee members then proposed measures aimed at removing her. Petelos serves on the state party’s steering committee by virtue of her position.“The Alabama Republican Party should be a place where we celebrate the things we agree on instead of ostracizing people on those things that we do not,” according to a resolution adopted by the executive committee of the Young Republican Federation of Alabama.
“The YRFA believes our party is better when we allow and promote the engagement of more, not fewer, Republicans and their ideas,” said federation chairman Clayton Turner of Homewood. He said the future of the Republican Party and the nation is “dependent on our ability to reach and embrace new voters and ideas. Turner also serves on the steering committee by virtue of his position as the elected leader of the federation.
“Our future is brighter when we respectfully work together,” Turner said, adding that he hoped the Alabama Republican Party would follow the lead of the federation on the issue.
Armistead said, from his understanding, those who submitted the proposed bylaw changes were concerned about leaders in the party speaking out publically against the positions of the party. He said they do not believe it is in the best interest of the party, particularly in areas where the party is so strongly opinionated.
“We are against same sex marriage,” he said.
Armistead said those who believe there is an effort to silence someone is “reading something into it.”
Ward, R-Alabaster, said he has been married to his wife for 20 years and supports traditional marriage, but argued the recent resolution to remove someone from the committee “who does not agree with my view and that of the party platform is plain wrong.”
“I hope that our party sees the need to reject this resolution and welcome the views of all of our party members and not just a select few,” he said.
Ward, who has been a delegate or an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention during every presidential election since 1996, said that Republican lawmakers fought during the last legislative session to protect the Second Amendment “against government intrusion.”
“I hope that we will be equally as passionate about protecting the First Amendment as well,” he said and spoke of the sacred right of free speech.
Armistead, a former state senator, said Ward is entitled to his opinion and will have an opportunity to vote as a member of the executive committee. He said it is an internal party issue.
“Everybody will have a chance to say their peace at the meeting on Saturday,” the chairman said.
The executive committee meets in Montgomery this weekend.
Turner argued the proposed change and two other proposed bylaw changes related to party leadership and service are a “divisive overreach that restrict the ability of all Republicans to engage in the ongoing activities of the Alabama Republican Party.” He argued the move was a restriction on free thought and speech.
The executive committee of the Young Republican Federation of Alabama voted unanimously against three proposed bylaws, according to a recent statement from the group of 18- to 40-year old Republicans.
Turner added that he was proud that the “Young Republicans are standing united in opposition” to them.”
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen