So this is interesting:

Billionaire industrialist David Koch, who is helping steer millions of dollars to elect Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans, on Thursday told POLITICO he disagrees with the GOP’s stance on gay marriage [sic]. . .

Koch told POLITICO “I believe in gay marriage [sic]” when asked about the GOP’s stance on gay rights.

Romney opposes gay marriage [sic], as do most Republicans, and when that was pointed out to Koch, he said “Well, I disagree with that.”

At first I thought, awesome! But then I thought about it more, and I started to get suspicious. (In fairness, I’ll pretty much always be suspicious of anything with the Koch name on it; I have a hard time believing that these guys do anything with pure intentions.)

Okay, so here’s what I’m thinking. Bear with me: the current Republican Party is clearly beholden to its crazy anti-LGBT extremist wing (see the Richard Grenell debacle, John Boehner and House Republicans defending DOMA, and the approval of the most anti-gay party platform in history, to name just three examples). At the top, though, the party leadership and their wealthy puppetmasters can tell which way the way the wind is blowing. They know that the clock is running out as far as the whole anti-gay thing is concerned, they just won’t admit it publicly.

Because public opinion is moving so rapidly in favor of marriage equality, Republican leaders know that their party will inevitably have to evolve on the issue if they wish to remain relevant. At the same time, they know that this will lead to a nasty divorce between the GOP’s fiscally and socially conservative wings, but they’d like to postpone that for as long as possible. So they’re faced with the unenviable task of preparing their reluctant followers for this glacially-slow evolution and looking for ways to dip their toes into the equality pool without upsetting the apple cart too much. Talk about a balancing act!

This balancing act turns into a treacherous tightrope walk thanks to the Religious Right. Any major national-level Republican politician coming out for equality would immediately lose the organizational and financial support of social conservatives, who would also begin fielding candidates for a primary challenge at the earliest possible opportunity. For GOP elected officials, the political risk of supporting equality is still far too great.

But having a major figure coming out in support of the freedom to marry also has its advantages, especially in an election year. For one thing, it would serve to insulate the party against charges of homophobia (“See? We don’t hate gay people. If such-and-such important person thinks gay people should have equal marriage rights, then we’re clearly not anti-gay.”) and perhaps even enable the GOP leadership to convince themselves that they’re blunting President Obama’s clear advantage with allies of the LGBT community. It would shore up the GOP’s credibility with younger voters uncomfortable with casting a vote for an overtly homophobic party and allow them to create the illusion of forward progress on LGBT issues while simultaneously reassuring their socially conservative base, with a wink and a nod, that nothing’s really changed.

In order to do this, you need an important person with widespread name recognition, but who will never have to go before the voters.

You need someone like David Koch.

Of course, this may not be any kind of planned “baby step” at all. After all, as a noted patron of the arts, I’d bet every penny of David Koch’s fortune that he has LGBT friends, enjoys and funds the talents of LGBT artists, and serves on nonprofit boards of directors with LGBT people. So he could just have been engaging in a moment of unscripted candor. But since very little about the Kochs appears to be unscripted, I’m just a little skeptical.

Thoughts, everyone? If it turns out that I’m wildly off-base and David Koch’s evolution on marriage turns out to be genuine, we’ll just pretend this post never happened. But if I turn out to be right, or nearly right? Well, folks, you read it here first.