Liberty Counsel Chairman Mathew Staver says marriage is the No. 1 domestic issue in the United States, and he will be looking to the Republican presidential field for an articulate champion of traditional marriage and American values.

Staver’s comments come in the wake of a new Gallup survey suggesting Republican voters are softening in their opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage. Thirty-seven percent of GOP voters now say they believe same-sex marriage ought to be legal, up from 30 percent a year ago.

The poll also shows 51 percent of Republicans see same-sex relations as morally acceptable, an increase of 11 points from last year. For the first time, a plurality of Republicans (40 percent) believe gays and lesbians are born that way, while 36 percent see it as a result of upbringing and environment.

Since the polls started heading in the opposite direction on same-sex marriage in the past few years, Republicans have made it less and less of a campaign issue. Staver said that cannot happen in 2016.

“From a domestic standpoint, there’s nothing more important than this issue,” he said. “If a candidate does not address it, the candidate is ignoring the most critical domestic issue of our time.”

“Obviously, radical Islam, Israel, the Middle East, all that’s important,” he said. “That’s from an international and national security perspective. They need to address that as well. But if they run from this issue, they’ve ignored the issue of our time.”

Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Mathew Staver:

Staver said he is not only looking for GOP candidates to stand on the side of traditional marriage but to be a passionate spokesman for why the institution must remain only for the union of one man and one woman.

“It is the cultural battle of our time,” he said. “[Same-sex marriage] is something that deconstructs the family. There’s consequences to that, and it has a direct collision with religious freedom. We need somebody to articulate it. Once you get somebody to articulate issues like Ronald Reagan did and communicate it in a way that people understand it, rather than run from the issue, make a distinction between you and the other candidates in the field, I think the people will resonate with that.”

As for the Gallup poll, Staver isn’t buying the supposed Republican surrender on the issue of marriage.

“I don’t have any stock in that particular poll,” he said. “If you look at 31 states that passed marriage amendments by the people, from conservative states to not-so-conservative states, in every single one of those instances marriage passed. In every single instance, it always under-polled by a minimum of five percent.”

He added, “No poll – none – was ever accurate in predicting how the marriage amendments were going to pass. They all under-reported the percentage, and all of them were wrong. This particular poll is certainly no exception to that.”

Who’s to blame for the demand for same-sex “marriage”? Paul Kengor’s “Takedown” argues that extreme-left radicals are attacking America’s families in their pursuit of “fundamental transformation.”

Beyond the numbers, Staver said most Americans know the truth in their own hearts and minds.

“It is ontologically the union of a man and a woman,” he said. “People inherently know that the sexes are made for one another in a way that two people of the same sex are not and that children do best when they’re raised in a home with a mom and a dad.”

Even if Staver thought the poll numbers were accurate, he said it wouldn’t change anything.

“Frankly, it wouldn’t matter whether a poll said that people believe that the earth was flat with respect to whether or not they believe that homosexuality, was something with which you are born,” Staver said. “There is no evidence that homosexuality is something with which you are born. You’re not wired that way. It is environmental. It is developmental but it certainly is not genetic.”

To be sure, the Republican Party platform firmly defines marriage as the union of a man and woman. The vast majority of Republicans in Congress support traditional marriage. Four sitting senators and a handful of representatives have publicly declared support for same-sex marriage.

At the same time, party leaders have grown increasingly quiet on the issue. Mitt Romney largely avoided it in 2012. Last year, many GOP candidates did the same, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said marriage was not a top-tier issue for Republicans. Earlier this year, as the debate headed to the Supreme Court, House Speaker John Boehner said most Republicans in Congress would not file briefs to lobby the court on its decision.

If the GOP were to stop defending traditional marriage, Staver predicts it would be tantamount to electoral suicide.

“If the party or the presidential candidate for the Republican Party ultimately goes the wrong way on marriage, the Republican Party will look at a splinter group, that will ultimately no longer support the Republican Party. There’d be no reason to. If Republicans become just like Democrats on social issues, there’s no reason to support that party,” Staver said.

“That is not just a matter of threat. I can tell you personally, I would not support the Republican Party. I wouldn’t support the Republican nominee if that person did not believe in marriage as the union of a man and woman.”

Staver is nowhere near the point abandoning the GOP. In fact, he is greatly encouraged that party leaders and most Republican presidential candidates are clear in their defense of traditional marriage.

“The good news is, that not only from the chairman of the Republican Party but also the majority of the candidates, they all are clearly outspoken on the issue of marriage as a man and a woman,” he said. “There may be some that are stronger than others but there’s some that might ultimately waffle on this issue.

“But the vast majority of this fairly broad field supports marriage as the union of a man and woman. You’ve got Bobby Jindal. You’ve got Mike Huckabee. You have Sen. Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz. You just go on and on and name the list, but they’re strong supporters of marriage as the union of a man and woman.”

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