By Beth Clayton
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–After the controversial Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposiation 8 in California, Stephanie Petelos, the Chair of the College Republican Federation of Alabama, spoke publicly in support of universal treatment under the Constitution.
Petelos had once been touted as a “Rising Star” by the Alabama GOP, however now many believe that she is under attack by the Party’s leadership.
In her statement following the Supreme Court rulings, Petelos said, ““The College Republican Federation of Alabama agrees that all people should be treated equally under the law, as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The CRFA does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of religion, race, or sexual orientation and we are proud to embrace members from all walks of life, opinions, and beliefs.”
Petelos told AL.com in an interview that she felt same-sex marriage was reasonable because “we’re governed by the constitution and not the Bible.”
ALGOP Chairman Bill Armistead took a different stance on the Supreme Court rulings, calling them “an affront to the Christian principles that this nation was founded on.”
Now, a proposed bylaw change would require Petelos, the daughter of the Mayor of Hoover and a Jefferson County Judge, to publicly rescind her statements or be removed from the ALGOP steering committee.
The proposed bylaw change states, “Notwithstanding anything herein to the contrary, no person may continue to serve as a member of the Steering Committee in the event such person publicly advocates a position in his or her official Republican capacity which is contrary to the most recently adopted platform at the Republican National Convention, without the prior approval of the Steering Committee. In the event any such person is removed from the steering committee for advocating a position in his or her official republican capacity which is contrary to the most recently adopted platform of the Republican National Convention, such person may only be reinstated by publicly rescinding the previous public statement in writing and by receiving the approval of the Steering Committee to return as a voting member. Any member of the Steering Committee may also be removed in accordance with the provisions of these Bylaws and the Bylaws of the organization he or she is representing.”
The change is sponsored by Don Wallace, an accountant from Tuscaloosa and Bonnie Sachs, a fourth grade teacher from Double Springs.
Petelos said that she thought that many young Republicans did not hold strong opinions on equal marriage anymore.
“I think a lot of people would be actively for it if they didn’t live in fear of backlash from party leaders,” said Petelos. “We don’t want to go against the party, we love the party. We’re just passionate about a whole list of other issues. That’s why we’re involved.”
While Petelos is not able to comment publicly about equal marriage issues anymore, as per her agreement with the Party leadership, other young Republican leaders are speaking out on her behalf.
“As a Young Republican, it’s hard to see this as anything other than a personal attack on the Chairwoman of the College Republicans for speaking her mind on a sensitive issue,” said Warren Greene, the Chair of the North Jefferson Young Republicans, in an interview with Alabama Political Reporter.
“I can’t see how an amendment like this could do anything but stifle the growth of our party, particularly among the young, at a time when we need it most nationally,” Greene said.
Green continued that the bylaws change is one with which he fundamentally disagrees, regardless of the issue at hand. “Putting aside this specific issue completely, I find it a bit troubling both as an Alabamian and a Republican that we are basically surrendering our right to disagree with the national party on any position it might vote to take,” he said.
Young Republicans Federation of Alabama National Committeewoman Jackie Curtiss spoke on the equal marriage issue with Alabama Political Reporter in early July.
“Our members have very diverse views on family and marriage. Some of our members support traditional marriage only, some support gay marriage and others support civil unions for all,” Curtiss said.
This issue comes only two and a half months after the College Republican National Committee released a 95-page report on what went wrong with young voters in 2012. The report was the result of extensive polling and focus groups, which ultimately concluded the Republican Party was in a “dismal present situation.”
In the report includes a conclusion on the Republican position on gay marriage. “On the ‘open-minded’ issue … [w]e will face serious difficulty so long as the issue of gay marriage remains on the table,” the report says.
Curtiss added that she hopes that the proposed bylaws change “does not push any conservatives away from the Republican Party. If anything, I hope the Republicans who see this and do not like what is going on with ALGOP get more involved with the Party.”
“In a state where women, minorities, and young people have worked so hard to help elect Republican candidates and grow the Party, this does not look good for ALGOP’s inclusiveness. That is why I hope the Chairman will come out and publicly say that he does not support the proposed bylaws change,” Curtiss said.
The College and Young Republicans in Alabama seem to be embracing the ideas of newer generations. A recent Washington Post-ABC News study showed that 81 percent of young voters support marriage equality.
“Our state party should be a place where ideas and fresh solutions are created, not where they are imposed,” Greene said.
The Alabama state party will vote on the change to the bylaws next week.