- Associated Press - Thursday, July 14, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Upset with the prospect of a GOP platform that leans strongly the right on social issues, a South Carolina delegate to the upcoming Republican convention said Thursday he’s exploring ways to challenge some policies favored by religious conservatives.

In an interview with The Associated Press, state Sen. Tom Davis said that the committee drafting the Republic Party platform has created a “screed of intolerance” that could lead to the GOP’s downfall. If the GOP adopts a platform heavy on policy positions favored by religious conservatives, he said, “there’ll be no need for an autopsy this time” when the party implodes.

This week, delegates began the tedious process of updating the platform to be adopted at the Republic National Convention next week in Cleveland. Changes adopted so far signal renewed support for religious conservative values.

Republican officials have rejected pleas to back off the GOP’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

Platform committee members are also steadfast in their opposition to transgender people using bathrooms that don’t match their assigned sex at birth. This exposes a rift with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and flies against warnings from inside the party itself that social conservative policies on LGBT rights alienate voters.

Davis, who has represented Beaufort since 2009 and previously served as a convention delegate in 2012, named several reasons for the platform committee to be skewing in that direction. Many delegates were selected months ago, when it still appeared that the convention would be a contested one between Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, Davis said. As such, many delegates share Cruz’s socially conservative policy positions. While Trump is set to formally accept the party’s nomination, Cruz supporters are using the platform committee as a way to ensure their views are represented in Cleveland.

“A lot of Cruz people got involved in the delegate selection process,” Davis said. “It’s a foregone conclusion that Donald Trump is going to get the nomination, so a lot of energies are being directed into the platform than has historically been the case.”

Also, he said, it seems odd that Trump, who has been reluctant to embrace social conservative positions in some cases, isn’t more involved in the platform process.

“It is a bit curious that the presumptive nominee isn’t actively involved in the drafting of the platform,” Davis said. “The message being sent right now by the GOP platform committee to the American people is not a very welcoming one.”

Before he lands in Cleveland on Sunday, Davis - who advocates for libertarian-leaning causes like the use of medical marijuana - said he’s planning to read the platform in full and reach out to other delegates who seem to agree with him that, to survive, the GOP needs to be more inclusive.

“We can’t keep plowing the ground with 1950s social issues,” Davis said. “We need to recognize that the electorate has changed, and that people have changed, and that there is a very strong desire to have individual liberty protected. The GOP can be that party - that’s the most frustrating thing.”


Kinnard can be reached at https://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP . Read more of her work at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/meg-kinnard/

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