A growing push to get Republicans to alter their position on same-sex marriage could put some of the party’s major donors and political strategists in conflict with social conservative activists who make up a large part of the GOP at the grassroots level.

The debate illustrates a wider rift between Republicans who believe their party is on the wrong side of history on gay rights generally and those who feel the GOP is marginalizing the social issues that inspired millions of evangelical Christians — a large Republican voting bloc — to enter politics.

The bipartisan Respect for Marriage Coalition has already released a pair of ads seeking to sway Republicans in favor of gay marriage, including a commercial featuring supportive comments from former first lady Laura Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Bush has asked for the footage of her, taken from a 2010 interview with CNN, to be removed from the ad.

More than 130 Republicans signed an amicus brief advising the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8, California’s popularly enacted ban on gay marriage. This number includes several senior advisers to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, including top aide Beth Myers. Romney opposed gay marriage during his run for the White House.

Social conservatives nevertheless say that the Republican movement for same-sex marriage is exaggerated. Most of the Respect for Marriage Coalition members are, according to their website, liberal interest groups. This includes the AFL-CIO, the American Civil Liberties Union, High School Democrats of America, the National Council of La Raza, and Stop the Deportations.

Brown argued that many of the Republicans who signed the anti-Proposition 8 amicus brief aren’t especially conservative either. “Two Republican congressmen and a bunch of folks who aren’t going to run for office again?” he said. “Christine Todd Whitman? Give me a break.”

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