A wave of local and state Democrats throughout the U.S. are leaving the party due to controversy over its leaders’ support for “gay marriage,” as well as concerns about religious freedom and the defense of the unborn.
“There comes a time when you have to stand on what you believe in,” said Greg Waggoner, sheriff of Leake County, Miss. “And I can no longer have any connection with the Democratic Party if that’s the route they’re going to take.”
Waggoner was one of seven local Mississippi Democrats who formally switched his party affiliation to Republican on May 30.
He said that the Democratic Party took an “extreme left turn” when its national leaders “endorsed same-sex marriage” in recent weeks, presenting a direct conflict with his faith and allegiance to Christ.
Firmly committed to the belief that marriage is a union “between a man and a woman,” he realized that his views were better reflected in the Republican Party.
According to the Mississippi Republican Party, more than 50 Democrats in the state have switched their affiliation since “Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama have taken over the national Democrat party.”
Other states – particularly those in the South – have had a similar experience, as Democrats are exiting the party at a significant rate. The shift is being attributed to increasingly liberal stances by leaders of the Democratic Party.
On May 9, U.S. President Barack Obama voiced his official endorsement of “gay marriage,” becoming the first president in the country’s history to do so.
His announcement came just days after Vice President Joe Biden said that he was “absolutely comfortable” with “gay marriage.”
The move immediately sparked controversy, with critics arguing that it does not reflect the will of the people. In every state where the issue has been put to a vote of the citizens, marriage has been upheld as the union of a man and a woman.
In recent weeks, several prominent Democrats have called for support of “gay marriage” to be added to the party platform at the convention in North Carolina this September.
The suggestion has been controversial both within and beyond the party, especially in light of North Carolina’s recent adoption of a constitutional amendment to protect marriage.
This support for “same-sex marriage” was a concern for Rick Murphrey, mayor of Kings Mountain, N.C., and prominent Pennsylvania committeewoman Jo Ann Nardelli, both of whom were lifelong Democrats before they recently switched their party affiliation to Republican.
Nardelli, a Catholic, told the National Catholic Register that she had watched the party drift away from her values and her faith. She pointed specifically to statements by Biden and Obama endorsing “gay marriage” as motivating her decision to leave.
Several former Democrats also criticized the party’s continuing support for abortion, as well as religious freedom concerns sparked by a mandate issued recently by the Obama administration.
The Health and Human Services mandate will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
Texas state representative J.M. Lozano switched parties in March, citing his “pro-life” values as one reason for doing so.
Former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, a Democrat who had previously supported Obama, revealed in a May 29 blog post that if he were to run for office again in the future, “it would be as a Republican.”
Davis explained that the party’s agenda has changed, particularly since Obama took office, and said that he no longer feels aligned with its positions.
Among the reasons he cited for cutting ties with the Democratic Party was the contraception mandate, which contradicted his belief that “faith institutions should not be compelled to violate their teachings because faith is a freedom, too.”
In explaining his decision to leave the party, Sherriff Waggoner said that ultimately, he believes his choice was in the best interest of the nation.
“We have to make a return to the morals, to the traditional values that this country was founded on,” he said. “If we’re going to preserve our country, we’re going to have to preserve our families. And we’re not going to preserve our families going the route that they want to go.”