March 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
EXCLUSIVE: Del. GOP executive director attends marriage fundraiser
John Fluharty, Delaware, Republican Party, GOP, gay news, Washington Blade

Delaware Republican Party Executive Director John Fluharty (Photo courtesy of John Fluharty)

WILMINGTON, Del.—The gay executive director of the Delaware Republican Party is among those who attended an Equality Delaware fundraiser on March 15.

“I’m here this evening because I support marriage equality,” John Fluharty told the Washington Blade in an exclusive interview at Timothy’s on the Riverfront in Wilmington. “It’s an issue that’s of personal importance for me as a gay man.”

Fluharty, who describes himself as a gay conservative Republican, spoke to the Blade less than a day after U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) publicly endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples. He applauded the senator’s position in a tweet he sent from his private Twitter account.

“I commend Sen. Portman,” Fluharty told the Blade. “It was an absolutely right thing for him to do.”

Fluharty, who directed ballot access and delegate operations for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign, became executive director of the Delaware Republican Party last May.

He spoke with the Blade ahead of the anticipated introduction of a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot in Delaware.

Fluharty deferred questions about a timeline on the likely debate on the issue in Dover to Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman. Attorney General Beau Biden told the Blade over the weekend he remains optimistic GOP lawmakers will support the gay marriage measure once it is formally introduced.

More than 200 Republican state legislators across the country have so far voted in support of same-sex marriage. Former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, Jr., Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Illinois Republican Party Chair Pat Brady and Meghan McCain are among the Republicans who have publicly backed the issue.

Former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman, Margaret Hoover, former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and GOP strategist Ana Navarro are among the more than 100 Republicans who signed onto an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples in the case that challenges the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8. The justices on March 26-27 will hear oral arguments in the case and another that challenges the Defense of Marriage Act.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Monday found 52 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents who are between 18-49 support nuptials for gays and lesbians. Three-quarters of Republican respondents who took part in a Global Strategy Group survey that Equality Delaware commissioned said same-sex marriage in the First State would not negatively impact their lives.

“Slowly you’re starting to see the Republicans climb on board with marriage equality,” Fluharty said. “There’s no question our party is farther behind than the Democratic Party, but slowly but surely.”

He added he feels supporting the issue is also a politically prudent position.

“It’s good to be on the right side of history and the numbers show this is where the nation’s going,” Fluharty said.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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