North Carolina Newspapers

Gay Republican Addresses State
Conference Despite Rumblings
People attending the recent NC Gay and
Lesbian Conference at NC State University
in Raleigh heard California gay Republican
activist Frank Ricchiazzi urge them to get
involved in politics within their politi
cal parties to help dispel myths and fears
about gays and to work for their civil
The three-day conference convened on
March 30, and drew nearly 100 people from
throughout North Carolina and some from
Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
In addition to the keynote speech by
Ricchiazzi, weekend events included
lectures and workshops by several national
and state gay figures and evening enter
tainment by comic Robin Tyler and North
Carolina musicians.
The keynote speech by a gay Republican
provided the only controversy for the
Conference. It seems that pressure from
David Flaherty, NC Republican Party chair,
caused the original keynote speaker,
Robert Roehr, to cancel at the last
minute. Roenr is president of the Capital
Area Republicans club in Washington, DC, a
part-time fundraiser for the Republican
National Committee (RNC), and a member of
the Reagan-Bush *84 campaign in
In a brief statement released to
conference organizers on Friday, the first
day of the conference, Roehr said confer
ence publicity "misrepresented" him as
appearing as an official of the RNC and
that the publicity caused "difficulty for
myself, the party, and its candidates."
He said he had agreed to speak "as a
private citizen, not as a representative
of the Republican National Party."
In an Interview with the gay newspaper
The Washington Blade, Roehr said that
there “was concern on the part of the
party and at least one of our candidates
down there as to my appearance," but he
said he had no "first-hand" knowledge of
which candidate that was. (The Washington
Blade, April 6, 1984).
J^e Herzenberg and Lightning Brown, two
of the conference organizers, told the
Blade two press releases had been sent out
that included identification of Roehr*s
RNC and Reagan-Bush *84 affiliations. The
information was from a vitae Roehr
provided them.
Brown said he believes the trouble
began when a reporter called Flaherty for
comment on Roehr*s appearance before a gay
group. Brown told the Blade, "My
A rich and diverse selection of
• books • note cards
• newspapers
• used books • postcards
• magazines
A Ninth Street tradition for eight years
Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth Street / 286-2700
presumption is that somehow Mr. Flaherty
t ot Involved and wanted to stop any gay
epublicans from coming into the state to
talk to people."
Flaherty, in a phone interview with the
Blade, said he learned from a newspaper
account that "someone from the RNC and the
Reagan re-election committee was coming to
talk to a gay group." He said he called
the RNC national office and spoke with
chief-of-staff Bill Phillips and "just
asked" for verification of Roehr*s
affiliations. Flaherty maintains he did
not put pressure on Phillips to have Roehr
cancel his speech and did not know that
Roehr was gay.
"If I could have, I would have been
more than anxious to have them think twice
[about allowing Roehr to speak before the
group] because it*s contrary to what our
party position is. We support strong
family values," said Phillips according to
the Blade.
Bill Greener, communications director
for the RNC, said it was "inaccurate" for
conference organizers to portray Roehr as
an RNC official but said It was Roehr*s
own decision to cancel the speech.
Roehr was the second gay Republican to
cancel as keynoter. Former Maryland
Congressman Robert Bauman also declined,
saying his appearance at the NC conference
could hurt the re-election efforts of his
"personal friend" Senator Jesse Helms
(R-NC), who is in a heated contest with
Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt.
In a last-minute scramble for a
speaker, conference organizers secured
Frank Ricchiazzi, chair of the Republican
Party in California's 55th Assembly
District, which includes part of Los
Angeles. He is also vice president of the
Log Cabin Club, an organization of gay
Ricchiazzi spoke of his 1982 race for
the California Assembly. He said he heard
some negative comments as word spread that
he was gay, but through discussions with
party members some people realized "the
gay issue was not the Issue that would
affect that election."
Though he lost the race, he won 32
percent of the vote in a district that is
only 21 percent Republican.
fie said that the California Democratic
party took the gay vote for granted. But
his race showed that if the Republican
Party would offer somebody who would be
open to the gay community, the gay com
munity would not stay in one party."
Ricchiazzi also described the important
influence of gay Republicans in the pass
age of AB-1, the bill which would have
outlawed job discrimination against gays
in California. The state's Assembly and
Senate narrowly passed the bill, but Gov.
George Deukmejian vetoed the measure in
March. Ricchiazzi vowed to secure passage
of the measure again and to again put the
legislation on the governor's desk.
Ricchiazzi reiterated the need for gays
to get involved in electoral politics to
educate and break stereotypes.
"To all of you who are Republican, the
Republican Party belongs to me...and to
you. It does not belong to a Jesse Helms
or an H.L. Richardson. And we're going to
fight them!"
Jere Real, A Virginia free-lance writer
and former member of the Libertarian
(see REPUBLICAN on page 10)

Page Text

This is the computer-generated OCR text representation of this newspaper page. It may be empty, if no text could be automatically recognized. This data is also available in Plain Text and XML formats.

Return to page view