ST. PAUL, Minn. - The two-term chairman of the Minnesota College Republicans on Wednesday became the latest from his party to support legalizing gay marriage in the state.
Ryan Lyk told The Associated Press he wants people to know that not just Democrats support gay marriage. He released a statement of support in conjunction with Minnesotans United, the political group pursuing a gay marriage bill that could get a vote later this spring at the Capitol.
Lyk has twice been elected to the top post of a group with 20 chapters statewide and several hundred members. He is the highest-ranking state GOP leader so far to break with the party's official stand against same-sex marriage.
"A lot of Republicans share my view about this," said Lyk, a 21-year-old political science major at the University of Minnesota and a former intern for U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann. "I don't think it's the government's responsibility to dictate who can marry who. People can make that decision on their own."
Lyk, who is straight, said his own views on the issue have evolved since he became politically active. He said his fellow College Republicans are still split on the issue, but he believes an increasing number support gay marriage, reflecting national polls that have shown younger Republicans more supportive than the party as a whole.
So far, only one Republican in the Minnesota Legislature — Sen. Branden Petersen — has come out in support of legalizing gay marriage. Such support still holds risks for elected Republicans; in Minnesota as in most states, the official Republican Party platform opposes legalization of gay marriage.
The National Organization for Marriage, a Washington-based group fighting gay marriage, has vowed to spend $500,000 to help end the political careers of Republican lawmakers who vote for the Minnesota bill.
Lyk, whose second term as chairman ends soon, plans to graduate this spring and isn't seeking another term. But he predicted that more and more party members would come around on gay marriage, reducing the risk in the process.
"It's not a career-ender anymore," Lyk said.
A Star Tribune poll released Wednesday showed gay marriage supporters still have work in winning over Minnesota residents. The poll of 800 adults found 38 percent of respondents support legal gay marriage, 53 percent are against it and 9 percent are undecided.