On Tuesday night the Massachusetts Republican State Committee, by a vote of 52 to 16, adopted a new state party platform.
The new section on Values has sparked controversy among members who object to what they perceive as a shift to the right that is incompatible with the realities of Massachusetts voter preferences.
The adopted section reads,
True to the spirit of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, Republicans believe that unalienable individual rights and the responsibilities that go with them are the foundation of freedom.
Informed by the essential guarantees of the Declaration of Independence, we affirm the inherent dignity and sanctity of human life. We believe that every instance of abortion is tragic. We advocate policies that will assist a woman during a crisis pregnancy.
We reject all forms of discrimination, intolerance and exploitation. We are opposed to modern-day slavery and human trafficking and respect the inherent dignity of all human beings and their right to freedom. We believe the institution of traditional marriage strengthens our society. There should be no infringement on the rights of the people of Massachusetts to vote on ballot initiatives.
Our Party vocally supports religious liberty. As a Party, we support the Constitutional guarantee of individual religious freedom, and we oppose judicial and legislative attempts to eradicate faith, whether in symbol or practice, from public life.
We affirm every citizen's right to apply religious values to public policy and we support the right of faith-based organizations to participate fully in public programs without renouncing their beliefs, symbols, or hiring practices.
We support the First Amendment right of freedom of association for religious organizations, including the right of religious organizations to refrain from participation in public policies that violate their religious conviction.
Matthew Sisk, a State Republican Committee member from Braintree, who delivered an impassioned speech objecting to the platform, summed up his attitude toward the revised statement. “This is the Republican Party of Massachusetts; it’s not the Republican Party of Alabama. These kind of divisive social issues don’t do us any service, don’t do our candidates any service…. Beating the drum on this issue at the state level will only serve as a major distraction from the things we can actually solve: unemployment, over-taxation, reckless spending, unaccountability, and one-party control.”
Further fanning the flames of discontent is the notice provided on the Republican site Red Mass Group. “A member of the platform committee has confirmed that there will be no vote on this at convention.”
Kristen Hughes, chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, who voted against the language, also expressed her dissatisfaction. “This party is a party of inclusion,” Hughes said. “I did not want to focus on things I felt were divisive, and that’s what I felt the language was.” WLNE TV in Providence reported, “Massachusetts Republican Party Chair Kirsten Hughes said she doesn't support the platform and that GOP candidates are ‘free to divorce themselves from it.’"
Opposing members of the platform committee wrote a minority report. Describing abortion as tragic, they wrote, “demonstrates a judgment we are not willing to pass with such a broad brush.” They wrote that the language could be read to indicate opposition to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case establishing abortion rights, which a large portion of Massachusetts Republicans support.
They wrote that the language excludes the societal contributions of gay and lesbian couples and their children and such language “serves to divide, not unite and falls outside the beliefs of many within our Party and our Commonwealth.”
Currently, the party’s leading candidate for governor, Charlie Baker, and its best hope for winning a congressional seat, Richard Tisei, both support abortion and gay marriage. Tisei is married to a man.
Conservative activists see the language as part of a shift toward traditional values among State Committee members, which gained steam in 2012 when a number of new conservative members were elected. The 80-member committee has had an influx of activists who work for groups that tried to stop gay marriage in Massachusetts a decade ago and that have sought greater influence over promoting candidates and steering public policy. Massachusetts Republican Assembly President David Kopacz said 17 of its members won election to the committee in 2012, some replacing more moderate Republicans. Before, the group had just a handful of members on the committee.