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Originally published January 20, 2012 at 8:10 AM | Page modified January 20, 2012 at 8:12 AM

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Dunn riles GOP circles by backing gay marriage

Republican Attorney General candidate Reagan Dunn's support of gay marriage has created a backlash from some GOP leaders.

Seattle Times political reporter

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Republican attorney-general candidate Reagan Dunn is facing a backlash from some GOP leaders and activists over his decision to come out in support of gay marriage.

In the last week, Dunn has been disinvited to big Republican dinners in Whatcom and Franklin counties, and faces a new conservative rival in the attorney-general's race.

"That's the name of the game. There has been some blow back," said Dunn, a Metropolitan King County Council member.

Dunn roiled GOP circles last week when he voted for a county measure supportive of the gay-marriage legalization efforts now before the Legislature — a position at odds with the official GOP platform.

The Whatcom and Franklin County GOP organizations responded by rescinding Dunn's invitation to speak at their Lincoln Day fundraising dinners next month.

"We just thought it probably would be best if he did not come," said Luanne Van Werven, chairwoman of the Whatcom County Republican Party. She said the dinner was meant to emphasize party unity and that Dunn would be a distraction.

Curtis Mohr, chairman of the Franklin County Republicans, said the GOP platform is clear in defining marriage as between a man and a woman. "We wish to send a strong message to those that oppose our political philosophy," he said.

Dunn isn't entirely alone. Four Republican state legislators have endorsed legislation that would make Washington the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage.

But most Republicans remain steadfastly opposed and Dunn's position could dampen enthusiasm for his presumed November matchup with Democratic King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson.

Last week, conservative Everett attorney Stephen Pidgeon announced he'll join the race for attorney general.

In an interview Thursday, Pidgeon called Dunn's gay-marriage stance "the straw that broke the camel's back" in terms of his decision to run.

Pidgeon has previously worked with groups that unsuccessfully tried to overturn the state's domestic-partnership law. On Monday, he filed a proposed ballot initiative that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.

While emphasizing he'll be campaigning on more than just gay marriage, Pidgeon said the issue "is a litmus test for many conservatives."

It's not clear how much support Pidgeon can muster.

He contends President Obama is a Muslim who is determined to destroy the United States as we know it.

In an interview with a conservative radio show last year, Pidgeon claimed that Obama, if re-elected, will lock down the U.S. border. "You will not be able to escape this country," he said. "You will be locked into this country, and you will be under the tyranny of the iron fist of an Islamic caliphate."

Washington State Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur said Dunn's stance has sparked an emotional reaction from many. But he said Dunn has 10 months to convince Republicans he's on their side on most other issues.

"Reagan is an experienced politician. Can he handle it? We'll see. I think he can," Wilbur said.

Dunn said his position on same-sex marriage is consistent with the Republican philosophy of less government interference with personal freedoms.

"Allowing same-sex couples to live how they want to live is a legitimate viewpoint that exists — or should be allowed to exist — in the Republican Party," he said.

But, Van Werven said, "it's definitely going to hurt him in the general election," as some conservatives may simply refuse to back Dunn.

She said that won't stop her and other GOP leaders from trying to rally support in November if Dunn is on the ballot against the Democrat Ferguson.

Mohr agreed, noting that Ferguson has supported gay marriage for years. "We would prefer a Republican with the same faults as opposed to a Democrat," he said.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @Jim_Brunner.

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