Jack Finger

LGBT Republicans Brave Hostile Convention Firestorm


Jack Finger
San Antonio activist Jack Finger protests the state GOP’s newly proposed language on “ex-gay” reparative therapy.  Patrick Michels

LGBT people — especially the transgender community — are under attack from Republican state leaders again at this year’s Texas GOP convention.

But members of the first-ever LGBT Republican group to sponsor a booth at the convention said Thursday they were receiving a relatively warm welcome.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Metroplex Republicans were handing out “Hillary Wipes” — packaged wet napkins stapled to a card alleging Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton has been “sanitizing the truth since 1992.”

“You can use it to clean evidence off your hard drive or sanitize your hands,” volunteers at the booth told passers-by.

The stunt appeared to be a hit: Nearly half the group’s stock of 10,000 was gone by noon on the convention’s opening day.

“Nobody’s really said anything negative,” said 20-year-old Colter Kethley, a Metroplex volunteer. “You can pretty much unite the Republican Party by not liking Hillary. We’re not trying to be overly in-your-face.”

In fact, the only indicator that Metroplex is an LGBT group appeared on fliers stacked nearby stating that they’re “open to everyone regardless of race, creed, color or sexual orientation.”

Kethley, who’s straight and identifies as Libertarian, said working with Metroplex is his “way of trying to fix the party to make it something my generation can get on board with.”

Dale Lundberg, 55, who chose not to serve as a delegate for the first time in a decade so he could volunteer at the Metroplex booth, reported only one negative interaction. He said a man approached the booth saying, “You’re the guys who are destroying the party.”

Lundberg’s a longtime Dallas police officer who’s also straight. He says he replied: “ Well, I guess we are.’ But we’re here to expand the party, not destroy it. The party’s going to go away if it keeps going the course it is.”

Metroplex Republicans Vice President Rudy Oeftering, who’s vying to become the first openly LGBT national GOP delegate from the South in party history, said one visitor to the booth told him he could “change [his] lifestyle.”

“I said, ‘Do you mean by moving from the city to the country?’” Oeftering quipped.

Metroplex President Rob Schlein said the group had received more publicity than any other vendor at the convention, thanks to a flier sent out by Houston anti-LGBT activist Steve Hotze, attacking state GOP chair Tom Mechler for allowing the booth.

“We’ve only gotten a few sneers,” Schlein said. “I was expecting some protests.”

Hotze, meanwhile, was distributing another flier attacking Mechler at the convention Thursday — this one alleging he’s supported by donors who also give money to “pro-amnesty, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual Democrats.”

Hotze, who’s backing fellow anti-LGBT activist Jared Woodfill for party chair, told the Observer he opposes Metroplex’s presence at the convention because the group supports “the homosexual political movement.”

“Our party platform opposes that movement, so having them in would be equivalent to having Planned Parenthood here promoting abortion,” said Hotze, who also compared the Metroplex booth to one sponsored by the Communist Party. “They want to bring about moral anarchy in our country.”

[Follow live updates from the 2016 Republican Party of Texas convention here.]