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Gays & GOP

| Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, 8:51 p.m.

The seemingly impossible has happened. A Republican representative of a rural district in central Pennsylvania, who describes himself as a conservative and a Christian, has become the first openly gay member of the state Legislature (“Central Pa. GOP lawmaker tells newspaper he's gay,” Dec. 2 and TribLIVE.com).

Rep. Mike Fleck's decision to come out will likely have lasting implications for the party he represents. I hope his announcement will also highlight the presence of a largely ignored demographic: gay men and women who lean right.

Despite his opposition to gay marriage, exit polls reveal that Mitt Romney was supported by almost a quarter of voters who identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Believe it or not, there are people within the LGBT community who appreciate the importance of fiscal responsibility, tough national security strategies and the creation of innovative jobs, not just those considered “green.”

Until the next election cycle, the GOP has the opportunity to broaden its base by improving its standing among all gay Americans. With Fleck as an example, party leaders who are more accepting of gays will inevitably emerge. Until that time, Republicans would be smart to embrace this important faction that can help them win elections.

Ryan Navarro

Altoona

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