1038998752Called the civil rights issue of our time, the question of marriage rights for same-sex couples has been at the center of many heated public debates. And though staunch disagreement, especially along partisan lines, has stunted progress on the issue across the country, recent developments have made the outlook of the movement more promising.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) declared his support for marriage equality this month; Karl Rove recently conceded that the next Republican presidential candidate could conceivably be pro-same-sex marriage. And on a perhaps humbler, yet more relatable, playing field, the College Republicans of the University of Pennsylvania broke from their party’s traditional position and endorsed same-sex marriage.

The College Republicans at Penn set an important example for other political student groups across the country. Though separated by the confines of their individual campuses, Republican clubs at colleges represent a sizeable part of the Republican party — and a part considered generally more receptive to more progressive social initiatives. And with this membership comes an opportunity to support positive change. While an official stance by a university student club carries little weight in the legislative process, such a gesture — especially when compounded across campuses — sends a powerful message to the Republican party, as well as to the American public, that those who have more conservative values do desire a modern, more tolerant society.

It is difficult to move forward with the type of large-scale institutional shift that will be required if an organization like the Republican Party is to change its official view on a core issue like marriage equality. But this change will only start if significant institutional subsections — like the College Republicans at Georgetown — do their part.

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