Although the GOP started with a social issue as the only plank of its platform when it split from the timid Whig Party in 1854, Republicans do not have a reputation for stomping all over social issues, at least not until relatively recent times. A few decades ago commentators on both sides of the political aisle remarked along these lines: "When I think of the Republican Party, I think of a strong national defense, sound currency, a strong economy, and low unemployment rates." But that was not the prevailing sentiment in 1854. The Whigs were and always had been strongly anti-tyranny, the reason they adopted the appellation "Whig" and why they were always cautious of a hideously strong central government -- a central government had its place in defense and commerce, but not in people's lives, for historically centralized governments always tend to always end up despotic, or corrupt, or both. However, when it came to the evils of slavery, Whigs tended to step back, to put their purses ahead of their hearts and heads. Thus, the Republican Party came into being, strongly abolitionist, replacing the nearly vanished Whigs; while Republicans saw themselves as champions of rights for all, the Democrats branded them "the Negro Party" while at the same time proclaiming themselves "the White Man's Party," a slogan kept for many decades after the Southern defeat in the War Between the States.
The Republican stance on slavery and the part played by Lincoln in the freeing of the slaves and their subsequent acquisition of citizenship and civil rights, all opposed by the Democrats of the time, led many free Blacks and former slaves to adhere to the new political party, rather than the party of their former masters, a situation that held true for a century; of course, many southern Blacks did become Democrats because it was easier to vote Democrat than get denied suffrage, beat up, or worse.
Although they split from the Whigs over slavery, Republicans did not turn their backs other traditional Whig values, such as providing the country a sound currency backed by holdings of silver and gold, an economic climate in which businesses of all types could prosper, and a strong national defense against such potential aggressors as Britain, Canada, Mexico and Spain in the form, mostly, of a navy so strong other countries would not attack the United States. Those were the guiding principles of both Republicanism and conservatism until just after the middle of the Twentieth Century.
Beginning in the 1960's, or maybe a bit earlier, the Democratic Party sided with the radical left, the Socialist- and Communist-inspired youth (mostly) seeking to overthrow the government by revolution, those who never learned the lesson of history, that all revolutions end badly for the country involved. Of course, they did not slip all the way to the left all at once; it was a long slide which started by adopting many of the socialist goals of the radicals for the fabric of society, and expanding social welfare and debasing the currency. So successful were they that almost all the bomb-throwers and seditionists of that period are now firmly ensconced in the Democratic political machine at the highest levels.
At the same time, the Republicans began their own forays into social engineering. Part of that was in reaction to the Democratic Party ("If they come up with an idea, we have to come up with a matching idea"...which is how you end up with Gingrich and Pelosi all lovey-dovey on a couch, or a Christie-Obama bromance), but part of it was the party being true to its roots, as when, against Democratic opposition, they passed Johnson's civil rights and voters' rights acts. As the Democratic Party started its slide toward radicalism, so the split started and began to widen between Republicans and Conservatives.
Many people are obsessed now about issues that have no place in government -- marriage, health care, abortion, religion, extra-national politics, suppression of civil rights, and financial equality, among others. Both the Democrats and Republicans are heavily invested in social engineering, interfering in the lives of individuals, and suppressing rights and liberties. Whatever good intentions led them to start the journey to despotism in the first place, both parties have learned how valuable these actions are in accumulating and holding power. The actions of the Democratic Party have always been suspect -- they were for slavery before they were against it; they registered the dead to vote before the Zombie Apocalypse became cool; they were for traditional marriage before they were against it, and DADT; they were in favor of commodity-backed currency before they advocated fiat currency and government printing presses running 24/7; they were against minorities before they embraced them; they were for rattling sabers and beating war-drums (Spanish American War, WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam) before they began raising doves; and they were for the country before they issued membership cards to bomb makers.
On other other hand, it was possible to suspect Republican Party actions, assuming you could find any. The thing about conservatism, which was formerly the backbone of the GOP, is that it's mostly about preservation and protection, not change and institution: rights, currency, freedom, national defense, opportunity, jobs, and fairness. By degrees, and much more swiftly now, the Republican Party has turned from its traditional concerns and adopted the concerns of its opponents. Faced with an interrogation by a hostile media, no Republican these days will utter the correct answer: "That is not a power any government should have over a free people."
Americans have always found themselves at crossroads in history, for that is the nature of a democratic republic, always at a forking of the paths -- chose one way, it leads to greater freedom; chose the other and your freedoms diminish, or vanish altogether. But I don't think we have ever been at a crossroads where the paths are so clearly marked with one-way traffic signs. When the Constitution was created in 1787, Dr Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of government the new nation had; he replied, "A Republic, if you can keep it." The cautionary note of that response seems a bit prophetic now that the States' voices have been silenced at the Federal level (17th Amendment); now that Federal government is actively working to make America a country without citizens (if everyone is a citizen, then no one is a citizen); now that the Federal government is promoting inequality under the guise of making some more equal than others; now that the Federal government is suppressing freedom to give its supporters more rights than others have; now that the Federal government is seeking to make America in the image of all the political systems we rejected at our founding as a free country, and dependent upon all the countries from which we declared our independence, both politically (England) and spiritually (all the others). Unfortunately, there is not an individual in these United States who is not directly affected and controlled by the centralized government, and its increasingly dependent State-level sock-puppets, on a daily basis...do you think that is what the founders had in mind when they drafted the Tenth Amendment?
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Standing here at these crossroads in the first part of the Twenty-First Century, there is indeed a decision to make, a path to take. You're told every day by the media, by both political parties, by pundits large and small, by every knucklehead with a keyboard and Internet access, by every non-government group, from the jihadist CAIR to think-tanks of every stripe and color, by an increasingly vocal and violent cadre of activists, and by those for and against government living their lives and assuring their welfare that there are two choices facing you, that you must choose one of the other. How do you know that both roads to not lead to the same place? Think before your choose. There may be other options.