Gay marriage pushes GOP strategist to come out

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Even gay marriage is enough to push a closeted, high-level Republican operative in Atlanta to come out as gay. Just don't tell his gay-hating friends like Erick Erickson.

James Richardson – a former communications advisor for former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, as well as the Republican National Committee and College Republican National Committee – is now editor of Georgia Tipsheet and vice president of public relations at Hynes Communications. And early Thursday, he came out publicly as gay in a powerful op-ed for the Washington Post, “I'm a senior GOP spokesman, and I'm gay. Let me get married.”

It’s not always easy to love Georgia, or love in it. Our state constitution explicitly forbids same-sex unions, and the local economy remains defiantly sluggish. Yet in spite of its blemishes, my would-be groom and I are deeply committed to our community, one whose values of faith and family we share.

Richardson takes his lumps, opening the essay with an admission his progressive detractors were likely to point out if he didn't.

The federal government’s number crunchers believe some 21,318 same-sex couples call Georgia home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent accounting, and new research forecasts that as many as half would jump the broom within three years if allowed by their government.

I’m one-half of one of those aggrieved couples — denied, for more than five years, the social stability and legal protections of marriage. And, as a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee and adviser to prominent party figures, I’m also a professional political operative who’s helped install in government those who perpetuate marriage bias in America.

But hey, Richardson is now a gay ally. He's been one all along, but now as a Republican operative who is gay, his call for marriage equality carries some additional heft. Having a partner apparently helped his push out of the closet. They always do.

But this isn’t, or at least shouldn’t purely be, a discussion of wages and government revenue. That confines broad ethical and constitutional questions to one merely about utility. Instead, this is a debate about individual Americans and the dignity their unions are necessarily due from their government. My partner and I are envious subscribers to the conventional, conservative family model; yet together, as two men wishing to grow grey and ornery in matching rocking chairs, we are consigned to “cohabitation” as a consequence of law. That’s unjust, and it’s uniquely painful.

Richardson and Creative Loafing got gay married in 2012, when the progressive paper enlisted him to talk about Mayor Kasim Reed's gay marriage problem. (Which Reed solved a few months later.) And four years before that, he was espousing pro-gay views to a gay paper in North Carolina.

So, given his penchant for supporting gay issues and preppy pink shirts, we asked Richardson in 2012 if he's gay. He didn't want to chat about that. Fortunately, he does now. It'll be curious to see how his pal, and anti-gay pundit and WSB radio host, Erick Erickson, reacts.

[photo via]


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