As the Republican Party struggles to broaden its appeal and modernize its outlook, it will make mistakes. Such a blunder was made Friday when the Republican National Committee, unanimously and without discussion, approved a resolution against same-sex marriage. It affirms the committee's support "for marriage as the union of one man and one woman" and calls for the Supreme Court to defend "the sanctity of marriage."
The best that can be said is that the language is vague. (I have no doubt the Supreme Court will agree that marriage is sacred, but it may leave it to the states to define it.) But there is no sugar-coating this, or excusing the temper tantrum thrown by social conservatives (who threatened to bolt the party, whatever that means) to force this through.
Had Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus been on the ball, he might have included language expressing tolerance for other views or affirming states' rights to define marriage. Instead, the RNC made itself an easy target for marriage-equality activists, the press and skeptics of its more-open attitude.
GOP officials will continue to "evolve" on the same-sex marriage issue, and top Republicans (such as Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky) have said this should be an issue for the states. The Supreme Court ruling may make the issue moot, but this was a needless, unforced error. (No one was asking that last year's platform be changed.)
In the long run, it is much more important what Mr. Paul, Mr. Rubio, GOP governors and other party stars do than what a bureaucratic panel of no-names say at a retreat. The leaders, if they really are leaders, will set the pace; the party regulars will follow. Mr. Paul and the others need to keep at it, improving and refining their message as they go.
Good-faith errors in pursuit of inclusion are forgivable; cowering from the threat of right-wing extremists is not.
Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post. Dan Simpson is off today.