Openly Gay Congressman Speaks at Convention

ByABC News
August 2, 2000, 4:28 PM

— -- In what gay Republicans described as a symbolic moment, U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe, theonly openly gay Republican in Congress, has addressed Republicans at their nationalconvention in Philadelphia.

By Julia CampbellABCNEWS.comAug. 2 U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona took the podium at the Republican National Convention tonight to stress the importance of international trade.

But there was no question his four-minute speech before hundreds of Republican delegates gathered in Philadelphia had a very different meaning: It was the first time an openly gay member of Congress has addressed a Republican convention.

He is speaking about trade, but the symbolism here is undeniable, said Kevin Ivers, a spokesman for the Log Cabin Republicans, the nations largest and most visible gay and lesbian group in the GOP.

Silent Protest: Heads Bowed in Prayer

And the impact of his speech in the First Union Center, site of the GOP convention, was evident if subtle. Some delegates from Texas, the home state of the presumed Republican presidential nominee, George W. Bush, bowed their heads in silent prayer, holding their cowboy hats in their hands or over their hearts. One delegate in the crowd held up a sign that read There is a way out.

I guess any time is a good time for prayer, said Texas Lt. Gov. Rick Perry, who placed Bushs name in nomination on Monday, shrugged off the low-key protest. He came to talk about an issue thats important to all of us and thats trade, so I dont have a problem with him coming and speaking.

Since becoming the partys top choice this spring, the Texas governor has met with several gay Republicans but refused to meet with the partys more conservative members of a coalition of traditional family groups. It is an interesting time for Republicans and the partys attitudes toward homosexuality. In addressing the issue, Bush must tread lightly, observers say, as he strives to keep the support of conservatives while appealing to voters from the center.