Updated at 3:59 p.m. EDT to include link to petition and at 5:18 p.m. on March 23 to add information about H.B. 335 and homosexual "bullying."

COLUMBUS, March 22, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Republican Party of Ohio has appointed as its executive director a registered lobbyist for the group that is actively campaigning to redefine marriage in the state, deepening the conflict between voters and the party elite. The move triggered swift backlash, as a coalition of 80 conservatives from across the state issued a letter warning party bosses they “will not support them” in the future.

The new GOP leader is Matt Borges, a lobbyist for Equality Ohio, the group pressing to overturn the state's constitutional amendment against same-sex “marriage.” Borges was hand-selected by retiring state GOP chairman Bob Bennett, who has led the party since 1988 with a brief interregnum, and is seen as Bennett's heir apparent. Bennett retires May 31. The Associated Press describes Borges as the party's "chairman-in-waiting."

“With this letter we put the party bosses on notice that we reject their betrayal of the party platform and our conservative values,” said Tom Zawistowski, the executive director of the Portage County Tea Party. “We will not support them going forward but will instead support those who are true to our cause."

The letter represents the views of a broad coalition, “not just liberty group members and social conservative voters, but rank and file registered Republican voters,” it states.

"Some of our Republican officials seem hell-bent on alienating conservative voters and volunteers, which reduces voter turnout," said Lori Viars, Vice President of Warren County Right To Life, who also serves as Vice Chair of the Warren County Republican Party. “They ignore the GOP platform, choosing to put themselves outside the mainstream of our party base.”

That's bad politics in a bellwether state.

"Never have I been more concerned for the direction of our state and country – largely due to a failure in leadership,” said former State Representative Seth Morgan, who now heads the Conservative Coalition. “Why would the Republican leaders put themselves at odds with sound public policy and the platform of their own party?"

Governor John Kasich and every statewide Republican elected official signed a letter supporting Borges. He also has the support of former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell and former Ohio Right to Life leader Mike Gonidakis, now a Kasich appointee to the state medical board.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Kasich said through a spokesperson that he still opposes redefining marriage and creating civil unions.

Borges faces troubles aside from his opposition to the Republican platform on marriage. His role as a lobbyist has raised eyebrows, given Kasich's strong denunciations of their wheeling and dealing influence.

Previous charges of unethical behavior are also an issue. In 2004, Borges pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of using his office to grant political favors to campaign donors of his boss, then-State Treasurer Joe Deters. Borges rebuffs the concerns, replying that he paid a $1,000 fine to have his record expunged.

Borges' selection comes as much of the Republican establishment seeks to change the party's stance on affirming marriage. 

Jennifer Thieme, director of finance and advancement at The Ruth Institute, told LifeSiteNews.com that too few politicians are asking the most important questions: what is marriage, and what is best for society?

“Those who favor redefining marriage seem to believe that marriage is nothing more than romantic feelings that the government incentivizes with tax breaks and federal benefits,” Thieme told LifeSiteNews. “The conservative view is that marriage is based on two things: the biological fact that sex between men and woman makes babies, and the social reality that children are entitled to their mothers and their fathers. This is an objective view of marriage, one that is also pre-political.”

“This view serves children best,” she said. “The other view serves adults best.”

Anyone may sign the petition to the GOP by following this link.