Departure of gay Romney aide 'bad signal' to party


THE RESIGNATION of an openly gay spokesman for the US Republican Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney has frustrated some Colorado Republicans and given Democrats a political cudgel.

“We were disappointed to see others in the coalition who had a strong and, I think, inappropriate reaction to it. We think it is a loss to the Romney campaign, and we think it sends a bad signal to Republicans,” said Alex Hornaday, a Denver lawyer and an openly gay Republican.

Mr Hornaday said the excitement that he and many of his fellow Log Cabin Republicans felt about Richard Grenell’s appointment was quickly dashed.

Mr Grenell stepped down from his position as Mr Romney’s foreign policy spokesman just two weeks after being appointed. In a statement, he alluded to the party pressure he felt for being an openly gay man.

Mr Grenell noted: “My ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign. I want to thank Governor Romney for his belief in me and my abilities and his clear message to me that being openly gay was a non-issue for him and his team.”

At a news conference on Tuesday, Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio, who is openly gay, said the incident reveals “a clear contrast between parties”. Democrats, he said, are open to people regardless of sexual orientation, while Republicans had “forced [Grenell] out”.

“It highlights the intolerance generally that pervades the GOP [the Republican Party],” Mr Palacio said.

Colorado, a swing state for November’s presidential election, has a conflicted history regarding gay rights issues, but it is unclear how reaction to Mr Grenell’s resignation will play here. Voters banned gay marriage in 2006, but this year, lawmakers, supported by the Republican group Coloradans for Freedom, are trying to pass legislation to allow civil unions.

Voters in the 2nd congressional district have elected an openly gay congressman – Democrat Jared Polis.

While some speculated that Mr Grenell’s decision may have been a combination of factors – including the criticism he fielded for some comments made on his Twitter page – Republicans such as Mr Hornaday seem to think it was clearly about his sexual orientation.

Mr Hornaday argues that Mr Romney deserves credit for appointing Mr Grenell in the first place.

“Unlike Democrats, who need to have high-profile gays and lesbians, he picked the best man for the job,” said Mr Hornaday. “Would I have liked to see Romney stand up more forcefully? Yes, that’s true. But he took a bold step in the appointment originally.”

Independent political analyst Eric Sondermann does not foresee this incident bearing huge weight in the election.

“In the end, it’s just an indicator of the distance that Republicans still have to travel to deal in this modern, diverse culture that we all operate in these days,” Mr Sondermann said.

“People that will be terribly moved by this story weren’t going to be Romney voters in the first place.”

Kelly Maher, a Denver-based conservative blogger, supports civil unions and sees this incident as a distraction.

“I am saddened by it. At the end of the day, I feel like Republicans in general are doing a very poor job of talking about what’s really critical right now. People keep jumping on all these red-herring issues,” she said.

“The thing is we keep falling for it.”

Ms Maher is frustrated by what she says is a hijacking of the conversation by nonessential issues.

“It’s disappointing to me because it’s another on the long list of things to distract us,” she said. “The thing is that if we talk about what people really care about, we win.” – (Denver Post/ New York Times service)