BY CURTIS TATE, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS
WASHINGTON -- A quiet transformation is taking place in the Republican Party, which has begun to embrace openly gay candidates – and among gay Republicans, who now feel more comfortable speaking out in a party that may have accepted them but didn’t always show it.
While differences still exist, the party is on the cusp of a generational shift in which the longtime foes of gay rights are replaced by younger party leaders who are more accepting.
“It’s an exponential change from a few years ago,” said former Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe. “It’s happening, and it’s going to continue to happen.”
Kolbe, who represented the southeast corner of Arizona from 1985 to 2007, was one of only two openly gay Republicans ever to serve in Congress.
There are issues on which many gay Republicans differ with their party, not the least of which is same-sex marriage. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other party leaders oppose it, and that stance is embedded in the party’s platform. While they may have welcomed President Barack Obama’s support of same-sex marriage last week, on other issues – such as taxes, regulation and the size of government – gay Republicans are as steadfast as any other party member.
There are only four openly gay members of Congress now, all Democrats. But that could change this year.
“You’ll elect at least one gay Republican for Congress this year,” Kolbe said.