“We all have been called bigots and homophobes because of the R next to our names, but we’re just not in a position to set policy yet,” said one swing-state operative who is supportive of gay marriage but won’t speak out publicly for professional reasons. “We’re the ‘elephants in the closet.’”

Even a casual survey finds that the vast majority of the Republican establishment under the age of 40 — the professional communicators, strategists and policy wonks — are all quietly supportive of same-sex marriage.

And while some of the “elephants” are coming out — Brad Dayspring, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a former aide to House majority leader Eric Cantor, publicly voiced his opposition to bans on gay marriage after the Portman announcement — it’s equally true that Republican candidates and elected officials have been slower to move on the issue than the people who work for them.

But a growing caucus of Republican operatives isn’t so sure, pointing to demographic trends. “I don’t think we need to see Republican elected officials pull a Portman and change their minds,” said one operative. “I think you will see less of an effort to talk about marriage, less of a need to push legislative actions on the floor, more tolerance for differing opinions on the issue. In the long term, Gen Y and millennial Republican candidates are going to be for it.”