A gay former Republican member of the U.S. House is calling on GOP leaders to condemn Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) in the wake of a recent report that he opposes party money going to gay congressional candidates.
Former congressman Jim Kolbe, who served in Congress from 1985 to 2007, told the Washington Blade via email that Forbes’ statements against candidates like Richard Tisei and Carl DeMaio are “outrageous” and merit a response from House leadership.
“They represent everything the party is trying to get away from,” Kolbe said. “Both candidates have very good chances of being elected. Forbes, apparently, would rather lose the two seats and further jeopardize our chances of holding the majority. I am pleased that Cong. Walden was quick to say the NRCC would support whoever was nominated, but I would like to see all of the leadership condemn such bigoted remarks as those made by Forbes.”
On Wednesday, Politico reported that Forbes, a Virginia Republican with a strong anti-LGBT record in Congress, has engaged in “a lengthy crusade” to convince the National Republican Congressional Committee it shouldn’t back gay candidates. The report prompted immediate criticism from gay Republican groups as well as congressional Democrats.
Asked during his news conference on Thursday whether he thinks Republican money should go toward gay Republican congressional candidates, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) replied simply, “I do.”
In response to Kolbe’s call for condemnation of Forbes, the only member of Republican leadership to respond immediately to the Blade’s request for comment was Boehner. Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesperson, said, “The Speaker addressed this issue yesterday. I have nothing to add.”
Although Kolbe and Forbes served together in the House Republican caucus between 2001 and 2007, Kolbe said the two didn’t have a strong relationship.
“I hardly knew Forbes,” Kolbe said. “I think we only served one term together. He seemed OK, but we were never socially close. Obviously, he knew I was gay so I guess wouldn’t have sought me out as a personal friend.”
Kolbe came out as gay in 1996 shortly after his vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act. Since he left Congress, he’s been active in LGBT activism.
The Arizona Republican was among the signers of a Republican friend-of-the-court brief against California’s Proposition 8 and testified before the Senate in favor of including a provision for bi-national same-sex couples as part of immigration reform. In May, Kolbe married his longtime partner, Hector Alfonso, in D.C.