September 15, 2015 at 12:39 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Gay executive director of Delaware GOP to step down

John Fluharty, Delaware, Republican Party, GOP, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Delaware Republican Party Executive Director John Fluharty on Sept. 15, 2015, announced that he plans to step down by the end of the year. (Photo courtesy of John Fluharty)

The gay executive director of the Delaware Republican Party on Tuesday announced he plans to leave his post by the end of the year.

John Fluharty told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview that he wants “to move on and try new things.”

“I have no specific plans,” said Fluharty. “I’m casting my net far and wide.”

Fluharty, 47, became executive director of the Delaware Republican Party in May 2012. He had previously directed ballot access and delegate operations for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Fluharty told the Blade that he was able to make the Delaware Republican Party more open and inclusive during his tenure.

“I’d like to think that I’ve begun to send a signal there’s this group of people for everyone,” he said. “We find where we do agree and work on those issues. Politics is like a train, some people get on at some stops, some people get off at some stops, but we’re generally headed in the right direction.”

Fluharty added he has also been able to raise the party’s profile in Delaware, most notably inviting Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina to speak at its annual fundraiser in May.

“We’ve been able to bring Carly Fiorina to our convention, which was a big success,” said Fluharty.

Delaware lawmakers during Fluharty’s tenure approved a bill that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. A second measure that added gender identity to the state’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes law took effect in 2013.

The Delaware Republican Party last year approved a resolution that criticized state Democrats for “preferring” to focus on social issues at the expense of the economy.

Fluharty came out during Equality Delaware fundraiser

Fluharty in March 2013 came out as gay during an exclusive interview with the Blade at a fundraiser for Equality Delaware, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, and their efforts in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples in the state.

“I’m here this evening because I support marriage equality,” Fluharty told the Blade during the Wilmington event. “It’s an issue that’s of personal importance for me as a gay man.”

The executive committee of the Sussex County Republican Committee less than a month after Fluharty came out to the Blade approved a non-binding resolution calling for his dismissal over his support of nuptials for gays and lesbians.

A spokesperson for the Sussex County Republican Committee told the Blade at the time the resolution had nothing to do with Fluharty’s sexual orientation.

Fluharty on Tuesday said it was “the pro-freedom wing of the party that supported me.”

“This includes a large number of straight people,” he told the Blade. “It says something about Delaware.”

Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman in a short statement to the Blade praised Fluharty.

“John is a friend, and exhibited extraordinary personal bravery during the campaign for marriage equality,” said Goodman. “I wish him well.”

Vincent Ryan, managing partner of King Street Strategies, a Delaware-based Democratic consulting firm, also praised Fluharty.

“As an openly gay man in a party full of people and politicians who oppose the LGBT community and causes, John set a brave and remarkable example: As citizens of the world shaping and participating in political discourse and processes it is our responsibility not to settle for the status quo, but challenge it,” Ryan told the Blade.

Robert Turner was the executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee until January when members elected Jose Cunningham as their next chair. Log Cabin Republicans in February announced the formation of a new Maryland chapter with Michael Estève as its leader.

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

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