The GOP’s unconventional speaker – Brief Article
Governor Bush may cover all his bases by asking openly gay representative Jim Kolbe to speak at the Republican convention
There may be an openly gay speaker at the 2000 Republican National Convention, being held in Philadelphia this summer. The question, though, is whether anybody will know it.
During an April 13 meeting between Texas governor George W. Bush, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, and a dozen gay and lesbian Republicans, Washington, D.C., city councilman David Catania suggested that Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) be the first openly gay person to address a GOP convention. According to several others at the meeting, Bush said he would consider the request.
In some ways Kolbe, who supported Arizona senator John McCain during the GOP primaries, appears to be an odd choice for the job. Since identifying himself as gay in 1996, he has said little publicly about his orientation and has proved to be a reluctant though quietly effective gay rights advocate. His reluctance in turn has led some to wonder if a Kolbe convention speech would even broach gay rights issues. (Kolbe, who has declined repeated interview requests from The Advocate, has not said whether he would accept the invitation were it offered.)
“For Log Cabin, Jim Kolbe comes as close to a god as any living person can,” says Kevin Ivers, a spokesman for the gay group Log Cabin Republicans. “Because he supported McCain, we think he would be a particularly good choice. In combination with substantive progress on gay-related policy, having a gay speaker could be a devastating blow to the Democrats.”
“In an ideal world the speaker would talk about the importance of gay equality of opportunity,” Catania said. “But at this point we still have a journey ahead of us in terms of raising the party’s consciousness. Kolbe would be a step in the right direction.”
Talk of the convention dominated the 90-minute meeting between Bush and the gay Republican leaders. Bush promised that his campaign would work to avoid repeating the mistakes of the 1992 convention in Houston, at which antigay signs and slogans often dominated the floor. “We judge people on their heart and soul,” he reportedly said. “That’s what this campaign is about.”
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