Tyler Deaton stands by a doorway outside Fathoms, a hotel patio lounge in this coastal town in the Deep South.
Deaton, 27, is a strong believer in low taxes, fiscal responsibility and civic involvement. He attended a Christian liberal arts school. He is a Republican.
He's also gay.
He's been in a relationship for several years, having met his partner at Wheaton College, a Christian institution outside Chicago. Raised in Alabama, Deaton moved to New Hampshire because it approves of same-sex marriage and has no income tax or sales tax.
This evening, Deaton is helping host a reception to raise interest in same-sex marriage issues among Young Republicans, who are gathered in Mobile for their national convention. Deaton is campaign manager for the young conservatives' arm of Freedom to Marry, a national gay rights group.
On Deaton's side of the doorway, things are going well. Deaton and his colleagues have collected more than 50 e-mail addresses -- about a sixth of the total number of conventioneers, he says.
But there aren't so many on the other side. All told, perhaps two dozen people made their way to the outdoor patio, munching on the abundant food and cashing in their drink tickets.
Even among the visitors there are those who do not seem completely comfortable; one man, after exclaiming how great the party is and his hopes for more approval of same-sex marriage, declined to give his name and hustled away at the sign of a reporter's notebook.
It hasn't been much different at the convention as a whole. Despite Freedom to Marry statistics that indicate most Republicans under 50 approve of same-sex marriage, the group hit some roadblocks with convention organizers.
Deaton's group wanted a panel discussion of LGBT issues on the official convention agenda. That request was turned down. It wanted to be a sponsor of the convention. That was also rejected. After deciding to have a reception and booking a slot, the scheduling ended up clashing with gatherings of various state groups.
It's OK, says Deaton, neatly dressed in suit and tie, in a voice that hints of his Southern upbringing.
"We're not in this to make enemies or to fight," he said. Progress, he admits, will take time.
It's a lesson he hopes the GOP is learning.
"The GOP has become too much of a club that defines itself by who it's leaving out," he says. "And I think the GOP has to do a better job of defining itself by its ideas, and letting anybody who shares those ideas come in and be a part of it."
A 'get off my lawn' attitude
The Republican Party is in a race with the future.
Though it holds power in the House of Representatives and a majority of statehouses, its demographics, for now, are going the wrong direction.
The country is becoming more urban and diverse, two details that favor Democrats. In 2012, blacks and Hispanics overwhelmingly went for the president; Obama also got 55% of the women's vote, 60% of voters under 30 and almost 70% of the vote in cities with 500,000 people or more.
Worse than the numbers is the impression they make. In a recent study, another young GOP group, the College Republicans, put it bluntly: the GOP is seen as "closed-minded, racist, rigid, (and) old-fashioned."
The Young Republicans cut a somewhat different figure than today's national GOP. They're not just younger -- members range from college age to 40 -- but less doctrinaire as well, preferring to focus on economics and civic involvement.
The YR -- the full name is the Young Republican National Federation -- describes itself as "the premier Republican grassroots organization in the nation." Formerly an arm of the Republican National Committee, it's now an independent, all-volunteer group, though it still provides campaign support for conservative causes and Republican candidates.
A number of noted politicians, including current House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-California, and former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist, have come from its ranks. Volunteer executive director Soren Dayton estimates 70,000 people belong to YR chapters across the country.
Much of the group's work is in civic affairs. "It's not just social networking," says Dayton, who works as a media and public affairs consultant. "It's people who serve."
The group includes young professionals in their 20s and 30s and reflects a shift into more libertarian territory.
John Head, a Chicago-based business development consultant, is an example of the new breed.