Gay GOP House candidate urges party to embrace marriage equality

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A gay Republican running for Congress warned that his party must evolve on LGBT-rights or face extinction.

Richard Tisei, who is again seeking to unseat Massachusetts Rep. John Tierny (D), told the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference during a March 15 speech in Nashua, N.H., that the GOP is in danger of losing its own history as a champion of individual liberty and, in turn, the country. 

“We’ll never be a 21st century party if our platform is stuck in the 19th century,” Tisei said, noting the party’s opposition to marriage equality.

“It’s in our party’s DNA to champion freedom and champion liberty. It’s in our party’s DNA to be a beacon of hope. Yet, while our party has remained consistent on matters of economics and foreign affairs, some have abandoned our principles on matters of civil rights and individual freedoms,” Tisei said. “The Republican Party must promote freedom in our personal lives and among other things that means the freedom to marry the person you love.”

Tisei served 26 years in the Massachusetts State Legislature and narrowly lost to Tierny in 2012, 47.1 percent to 48.3 percent. Endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Tisei is one of three gay men seeking to become the first out Republican ever elected to Congress. 

According to Tisei, who married his husband last summer, the GOP is especially at risk of losing younger generations of Americans

“If we’ve made ourselves unacceptable to millions of people, particularly younger Americans, the light of our message can’t shine as brightly as it should,” Tisei said. A poll released by the Pew Research Center earlier this month found 61 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners under 30 support same-sex marriage, opposed to just 27 percent of Republicans 50-years-old and older.

Tisei will also boycott this weekend’s gathering of Massachusetts Republicans in protest of the state GOP’s socially conservative party platform.

“I don’t want to go and be seen in any way to be endorsing that,” Tisei told The Boston Globe. “I don’t really feel comfortable being at a convention where the platform takes the party backward, rather than forward, as far as appealing to a large group of Massachusetts voters.”

The platform, which opposes same-sex marriage and abortion, was adopted by state party officials last month. Tisei supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

[Photo: Richard Tisei, courtesy of Richard Tisei for Congress.]

Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's political editor and White House correspondent. He can be reached at jsnow@metroweekly.com.

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