The gay marriage debate has played out on Capitol Hill, at the 2012 Republican Convention Platform Committee, and last month at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Last week, Marin County Republicans in California decided to buck the national party platform by expressing tolerance of same sex marriage.

Let me lend a little background on the move, which took place in my neighboring county.

Living in the California Bay Area is quite a lonely experience if you’re a Republican. I was new to California when I was asked to run the Bush-Cheney campaign back in 2000. I didn’t realize that running the Bay Area campaign meant presiding over the most liberal bastions of the USA, including San Francisco and Berkeley.

Then there was Marin County which borders the Golden Gate Bridge. It can be a more challenging area than San Francisco County or nearby Berkeley in Alameda County on any given day.

My boss on the Bush Presidential campaign once said – “If you get anything at all out of Marin – I mean 2, 5, or 10 people to admit they are Republicans – you’re doing well!”

Though Marin is one of the most populous counties in Northern California, its inhabitants lean pretty far left. Seventy-five percent of Marin voters voted to support same-sex marriage when California’s Proposition 8 was on the ballot in 2008. Republican registration has declined for more than a decade. Independents have a larger voter representation than Republicans in the county.

With Marin Republicans low 18.26% voter registration and less than 9% of Republicans elected to county or municipal offices, they decided to do something different that would encourage tolerance and freedom in supporting same sex marriage.

“Voters in the county think we are out of touch with our residents. That’s why we made this part of a five month, long range strategic planning process. We want to do some things as long range initiatives to get us out of the slump we’re in,” said Kevin Krick, who serves as the Marin GOP Chairman and is also an elected Vice Chair of the California Republican Party.

Krick is no liberal. He is a happily married father of two, who considers himself an economic conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan and George Bush. He was appointed and served with distinction in President George W. Bush’s Administration as Senior Adviser for Maritime Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation. In this role, he was the chief policy adviser for seafaring matters including trade at U.S. ports. He currently serves as Captain (Select) in the U.S. Navy reserves and as a Scout Master for the Boy Scouts.

“We saw this as a freedom and tolerance issue. We haven’t been able to define who we are on economic issues because we were automatically pigeon-holed into the view of a polarized Republican Party. We weren’t part of the dialogue.” said Krick.

“This is something that is a county platform. We believe this is good for Marin. It may not be good in other areas of California and they should do what’s good for them. For us, we felt it was important to be on the side of freedom.”

Whether Marin County paves the way for other county organizations to back gay marriage in urban or suburban areas with similar demographics remains to be seen.

The vote does not affect the California Republican Party since local county committees are autonomous. It doesn’t change anything on the national level either, but it is a signal that tolerance for gay marriage is gaining support beyond many Members of Congress and business leaders who have come out forcefully for the freedom of people’s right to marry who they love.

“We couldn’t penetrate on important issues like jobs, economy, and pension reform, because we were pegged as intolerant,” said Krick. “We believe people should have the freedom to marry who they see fit. We are for freedom and the U.S. Constitution.  The real business of the Republican Party is to get people elected. We think this will help us do just that in Marin County,” said Krick.

Kevin Krick has been personally attacked by those on the right who disagree with the decision.

“Some people are saying that I’m not being Christian. I was in church on Sunday and prayed on behalf of everyone involved. Being kind to all is part of being a Christian,” said Krick.

Some Party leaders in California question whether the move was the right thing at the right time. Others in the party who believe in less government and local control say that they disagree with a government mandate that rigidly defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

Whenever I question my own point of view as a citizen Republican, I ask — “What would Reagan do?”

I voted “yes” to support marriage between one man and one woman when Proposition 8 was on the ballot. But I am realistic that the changing tide of politics in America, Republicans have lost their footing in wooing younger voters, a majority of who could care less about this issue. Reagan was very popular among younger voters, in spite of his age, because he sought to bring people together.

I’m still formulating my own thoughts on the matter but I do think that Marin Republicans have the autonomy to make this decision – for good or for bad.

Cross posted in Thoughtful Women.