Senior officials of the Alabama Republican Party are trying to pass an amendment which would remove any member of the group’s steering committee who publicly opposes the GOP platform outlined in 2012’s Republican National Convention.
The move is widely seen as an attempt to purge 23-year-old steering committee member and University of Alabama College Republicans president Stephanie Petelos after she made statements perceived as supportive of gay marriage to a local news station.
“The majority of students don’t derive the premise of their argument for or against gay marriage from religion, because we’re governed by the constitution and not the Bible,” Petelos told al.com in reaction to the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act in June.
Petelos said the rhetoric used by religious conservatives to describe gay marriage is “harmful to the party.” She said she supported the states’ rights argument in the gay marriage debate, and insisted conservatives focus on family breakdown instead.
“Kids who don’t have fathers, parents without education who aren’t able to give their kids the opportunities they deserve, that’s the decline in America that people need to talk about,” she said. “Those are the social issues in this country that are hurting us. Not two people who love each other and are trying to build a life together. That’s not going to ruin America.”
Petelos also urged her friends to join “Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry” on Facebook, a group she has since left.
Petelos told Buzzfeed that leaders within the group were “furious” about her comments, especially Bonnie Sachs, one of the amendment’s two sponsors. Bill Armistead, the state party’s chair, had called the DOMA decision “an affront to the Christian principles that this nation was founded on.”
Party insiders told Yellowhammer News a spoken word agreement was reached in which Petelos agreed to stop speaking out on gay marriage in her official capacity in return for staying on the steering committee. But the bylaws committee took it one step further, and tried to make Petelos sign a written agreement to never publicly oppose any aspect of the Party’s policy platform. She declined to sign, prompting the controversial amendment.
“I feel like as a member of the Steering Committee and leadership, that you have a higher duty to support the party’s platform in your official capacity,” said Don Wallace, President of the Alabama Republican Assembly and the amendment’s other sponsor. He added that Petelos’ statement supporting gay marriage “requires action by the Republican Party on both procedural and moral grounds.”
It’s a bitter change of atmosphere inside the Alabama Republican Party, considering its wholehearted endorsement of Petelos back in April.
In a profile on the state party’s website, Petelos was called as a “rising Republican star.” Her accomplishments as a young Republican activist were praised, and her various pursuits described in glowing terms: “Stephanie is an accomplished water-skier, a rock-climbing instructor, and a summer camp counselor,” the profile read.
But now, Petelos’ position in the Alabama GOP is on the rocks – although she has received some support on Twitter.
I am so disappointed with what the @ALGOP is trying to do to with the steering committee. This is why our party is struggling to grow!
— Shelby Bergstresser (@shelboxo) August 16, 2013
— MattSimpson (@MattSimpson) August 16, 2013
Nothing is set in stone, however, until the amendment is up for passage at the party’s summer meet on August 24th.