Live Chat: Jim Kolbe

ByABC News

Aug. 1, 2000 -- — Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona is about to make history. When he takes the stage in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, he will become the first openly gay congressman to address a Republican convention.

Kolbe, the most senior gay member of Congress, is a founding member of the National Advisory Board of the Log Cabin Republicans, the country's largest gay and lesbian Republican organization. Kolbe acknowledged his homosexuality publicly in 1996, shortly before supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, a measure that denies federal recognition of marriages between gay and lesbian couples.

While Kolbe's voting record falls squarely within the bounds of party policy, his role in the convention — and the political efforts of gay Republican groups in general — doesn't sit well with some socially conservative GOP members, one of whom told ABCNEWS, "I think it is a really bad decision." But although George W. Bush opposes many issues on the Log Cabin Republicans' agenda, including gay marriage, he has declared, "I welcome gay Americans into my campaign."

Kolbe joined us following his appearance on Political Points to talk about his role in the convention and the role of gays and lesbians in the Republican party. Look below for a transcript of the live chat.

Moderator at 1:53pm ET

Rep. Jim Kolbe joins us live from our RNC studio in Philadelphia. Thank you for joining us. Congressman Kolbe, what will be the focus of your speech tonight?

Rep. Jim Kolbe at 1:53pm ET

The focus of this evening's speech will be trade. I've worked very closely on trade issues for 15 years in Congress, and I will talk about trade as a sub-theme of tonight's national defense and national security theme.

Moderator at 1:54pm ET

Lee in our audience writes: Last night, Colin Powell spoke on how important it is for the Republican Party to include members from all groups. Do you feel his comments extend beyond racial groups to include gays and lesbians?

Rep. Jim Kolbe at 1:54pm ET

I would hope so. I believe it certainly should, and I believe that I would interpret it that way, yes.

Moderator at 1:54pm ET

Josh writes: Knowing the hostility that much of society holds toward the homosexual community, and knowing the traditionally conservative undertones of the Republican party, were you concerned that your "coming out" could have been a costly gamble?

Rep. Jim Kolbe at 1:55pm ET

No. Certainly I had some concerns before I came out, but those were proven to be completely untrue afterwards. I have been completely accepted by my colleagues in Congress for who I am, as well as by my constituents and the population in general.

Moderator at 1:55pm ET

Steve in our audience writes: How do you reconcile your political views with the attitudes of traditional Republicans/Christian conservatives, when these groups have historically supported legislation that has limited the rights and freedoms of gay Americans?

Rep. Jim Kolbe at 1:57pm ET

My political views are obviously different from those groups, but it is much broader reasons that make me a Republican — my belief in individual rights and individual responsibilities.

In fact, I think my views on homosexual issues are more compatible as a Republican than the religious right's, because I am consistent in believing that government should not interfere in our lives in any way — our personal lives, economic lives, health care — or at least as little as possible.

Julie at 1:57pm ET

How do you justify, especially as a gay man, supporting the Defense of Marriage Act? Is there honestly a valid argument for denying gay and lesbian couples the same privileges of marriage afforded to straight couples?

Rep. Jim Kolbe at 1:57pm ET

My vote on the Defense of Marriage Act was cast because of my view that states should be allowed to make that decision, about whether or not they would recognize gay marriages. Certainly, I belive that states should have the right, as Vermont did, to provide for protections for such unions.

Robin from at 1:58pm ET

Do you have any concerns about Dick Cheney being too conservative... especially in the gay rights sequence? Thank you.

Rep. Jim Kolbe at 1:58pm ET

No, I think Dick Cheney's personality is such that he is just not a man of rigid ideological points of view. He's a very reasonable individual, and I think his experience certainly makes him an ideal for candidate for vice president.

Rick at 1:59pm ET

Congressman Barney Frank has been very visible, speaking on behalf of gay issues. Why have you maintained such a low profile in Congress regarding your orientation and gay issues?

Rep. Jim Kolbe at 2:00pm ET

I wouldn't say that I have maintained a low profile, but a different profile. I led the fight among my Republican colleagues in the House to defeat an amendment offered by one of my colleagues that would have prevented a presidential executive order on nondiscrimination in the federal workforce from being implemented.

The fact is that over the years that I have been in Congress, I have worked on trade, on Social Security and on spending and budget issues as chairman of one of the major appropriations subcommittees. That was the case before I came out, and it remains true today. Those are the issues I have focused on and will continue to focus on.

Daniel C.K. Sproull from at 2:01pm ET

I am thrilled to see an openly gay congressman addressing the RNC. While you opposed gay marriage by voting for the Defense of Marriage Act, would you support civil unions of homosexuals?

Rep. Jim Kolbe at 2:01pm ET

Yes. I support legal protections for people who have a gay or lesbian union.

Moderator at 2:02pm ET

Tom Hermance writes: Congressman, I congratulate you for your honest visibility. As a gay man, why should I vote for a conservative Republican who can easily undo the small protections that our community has worked so hard to achieve?

Rep. Jim Kolbe at 2:03pm ET

The Republican philosophy strongly promotes both individual responsibility and individual freedom. It is because of this philosophy that I have remained a Republican, even though I may not agree with some of the positions taken by the party. We need to bring the Republican party around to a more open and accepting position. You can't do that if you turn your back on the Republican Party.

Jeff Card from at 2:03pm ET

What do you make of Lynne Cheney's comments Sunday to Cokie Roberts about her daughter Mary? I applaud Gov. Bush for his willingness to accept the "risk" that goes with the issue, but at some point (sooner rather than later), isn't somebody going to have to step forward and say, "Yeah, she's gay — get over it."?

Rep. Jim Kolbe at 2:04pm ET

I think I would agree with Jeff that they simply need to acknowledge the matter and move on.

Moderator at 2:04pm ET

Congressman Kolbe, what do you want people to take away from your speech tonight? How do you think it will be received?

Rep. Jim Kolbe at 2:05pm ET

I hope people will take away from the speech an understanding that Republicans support trade because they believe that it is about economic freedom. This economic freedom means that people have choices — more goods, more choices and lower prices. That's why trade is an important political issue, as well as an economic issue about creating jobs.

As far as how it will be received, we'll just have to wait and see the response.

Moderator at 2:06pm ET

Thank you for joining us today. Click here to check out our full lineup of GOP convention chats.

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