One way to separate the Goldwater/Reagan conservatives from the Christian right is the issue of gay marriage; a conservative would be in favor, a religious right type against. I can list 3 reasons an old-line conservative would support gay marriage:
1. Individual liberty. The quintessential conservative position is that all rights reside in the individual, and the state must come to the individual hat in hand begging to be granted some power. This is why it sets the teeth of a conservative on edge to hear someone speaking about government giving us the right to do this or that- a citizen’s rights are inherent, and limited only by covenant with fellow citizens. It is clear in every document of our founding fathers that a citizen’s rights may only be curtailed by the most immediate and pressing of social needs- and the burden of proof is on those wishing to curtail those rights, not on the citizen wishing to retain them. The proposed federal marriage amendment is an especially grievous violation of these inherent rights, as previous federal law already gives the states the right to refuse recognition of a marriage conducted in another state if it violates their own laws.
P.S. That law is, in my opinion, a violation of the “full faith and credence” clause in the Constitution. Suppose your state does not have “common law” marriage- would you then revoke marriage rights from couples now residing in your state because they haven’t a piece of paper from their state of origin?
2. Economics. A couple- of whatever sort- save a lot more money than do two singles; one of this country’s greatest economic weaknesses is the low rate of savings. Couples tend to have less personal debt than two singles, and high credit card debt is another of our problems. Couples are more likely to buy, as opposed to renting, than two singles (not counting property purchased as investment), and are more likely to spend money improving the property.
3. Social factors. Having a second person around the house to nurse you when you’re sick, help cover when someone must be home for repairs or installations, and listen to your rap when you’ve had it up to there will make you miss fewer days at work and be more productive while you’re there. It reduces medical costs if insurance needn’t pay for home visits, not to mention postponing (possibly eliminating) the day when you must enter a nursing home- I have seen couples where both had mild Alzheimer’s, but between them they made one functioning adult.
This is not to say that the debate is one sided- balanced against the conservative principals of individual liberty, economic gain, and greater social stability is the irrefutable fact that it makes millions of people feel icky. But for a Goldwater conservative, the issue of individual liberty alone would be enough to say “So go get married already, it’s no skin off my nose!”