Republicans to consider softening party's official language on LGBT

With the Republican National Convention less than two weeks away, moderate Republicans are drafting an amendment that would soften the GOP's official position on gays and lesbians, CBS News has learned.

The party's official stance on LGBT issues will be debated during next week's meeting of the RNC's platform committee, a 112-member group of Republican activists from around the country.

Outside Republican groups have been publicly pushing the party to modify its stance on same-sex marriage for over a year, but multiple sources told CBS News that the effort has officially taken hold among a group of platform committee members who are furiously polishing their amendment ahead of the party gathering in Cleveland.

It's unclear if Donald Trump, the party's likely nominee, supports the changes or is actively involved in shaping the platform.

Perhaps more surprising than the effort itself is the fact that staunch social conservatives from the Midwest and South are prepared to accept rhetorical tweaks.

Currently, the language adopted during the 2012 platform calls the "redefinition of marriage" by state courts an "assault on the foundations of society." It's unclear whether or not this language will be eliminated. But the compromise that some delegates are expecting is the addition of "equality language."

"Equality for all people," is how one member of the platform committee described the language to CBS News. "That would be a hard thing for Republicans not to vote for."

"The compromises are going to end up in the same place where it's pretty much been, just to keep the fighting at a minimum. But there are ways to say things that show we are a party that believes in fairness for all Americans," the delegate added.

Trump has positioned himself as a pro-LGBT candidate, especially since the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando in June.

"Ask yourself who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community. Donald Trump with actions, or Hillary Clinton with her words?" Trump said after the shooting, during a speech on terrorism and national security in New Hampshire, a state that has legalized same-sex marriage.

His self-described ties to the gay community pre-date the 2016 election, by virtue of decades of socializing in celebrity circles and doing business in New York City. Nevertheless, Trump has opposed same-sex marriage since he first dabbled in presidential politics in 2000.

Jim Bopp Jr., a conservative Indiana delegate on the platform, said the old platform language on same-sex marriage is no longer appropriate since last year's landmark Supreme Court ruling that allowed same-sex couples to marry nationwide.

This won't change the core of the issue, Bopp told CBS News. He also said that adopting friendlier language toward gays and lesbians should not be perceived as a major concession by conservatives.

"Trump has stood with the victims of Islamic terrorist who murdered gay people because they are gay but so did I - that's not being gay friendly, that's being human friendly," Bopp said. "If the question is should they murdered, of course not. But if it's whether or not we should have gay marriage, it has nothing to do with it. They weren't killed in Orlando because they couldn't get married, they were killed because they are gay. And we oppose that."

According to members of the committee, the moderate faction does not have the numbers to completely overhaul the language on gay marriage, and campaigning from outside forces such as Republican donor Paul Singer's pro-LGBT Super PAC has tapered. And then there's the promise from the candidate himself.

"Trump has indicated he won't do anything to the platform, so we don't anticipate any changes," said David Barton, a delegate on the committee from Texas who has spoken with the Trump campaign. "I'm taking Trump at his word."

Barton added that you never know what the candidate's operatives will try to lobby until the session commences, but Trump just wants the process "to work out."

But Barton, who opposes same-sex marriage, conceded that there every four years brings rhetorical changes to the platform, in keeping with issues of the time and cultural changes afoot in the country.

"There may be some rhetorical changes in how it's communicated, but I don't think support for natural marriage will diminish at all," Barton added.

Changes to the platform, a document that will not be released to delegates until orientation on Sunday afternoon, are a product of input from delegates, surveys, and input from various groups over the course of several hearings conducted by Trump's staff.

Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming will chair the panel, along with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, a triad that reassures social conservatives skeptical of Trump's leanings.

One delegate who is pushing for the most conservative grassroots platform says that if Trump decides to steer the platform away from socially conservative interests, it might revive the movement to unbind committed delegates who might not be inclined to back Trump for the nomination.

But this same delegate was open-minded on the idea of equality language.

"We are equal, we all have equality because of the 14th amendment," the platform delegate said. "I don't believe in making a protected class of Americans because I look at us as all equal. Shame on us if we are not treating people that way, no matter what their lifestyle. It'll be interesting, I wouldn't be opposed to it but I don't expect it to change," she said.