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Anti-LGBTQ Pols Gordon Klingenschmitt, Lee Bright Tank in Primaries

Bright and Klingenschmitt
From left: Lee Bright and Gordon Klingenschmitt

With their talk of the devil at work in LGBT advances, both had proved an embarrassment to the Republican Party.

Tuesday was not a happy day for a couple of the nation's most anti-LGBT elected officials.

State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt of Colorado, a former military chaplain who has claimed to have cast demons out of gay people, went down to defeat in his primary election for a state Senate seat. State Sen. Lee Bright of South Carolina, who has introduced an anti-transgender "bathroom bill," lost his seat in a runoff election. Both are Republicans; the candidates who defeated them are conservative but may prove slightly less embarrassing to the party.

Klingenschmitt, who regularly excoriates LGBT people on his online TV program, Pray in Jesus Name, surprised many voters in 2014 by being elected state representative two years ago from a district that includes part of Colorado Springs -- a conservative city, to be sure, but Klingenschmitt's anti-LGBT views are far beyond those of most conservatives. He has claimed homosexuality and transgender identity are caused by a "demonic spirit" and that LGBT people are going to hell and wish to take others with them.

He decided to serve only one term in the House and run for Senate this year. But in the Republican primary for Senate District 12, he lost to Bob Gardner, a former state representative, by a vote of 62 percent to 38 percent, The Denver Post reports. Gardner is a solidly antigay conservative -- his campaign website touts his opposition to marriage equality (although it's now enshrined in law nationwide) and his support of so-called religious freedom legislation, aimed at enabling businesses to turn away LGBT customers and others who offend their religious sensibilities. But his antigay rhetoric can't for a moment match that of Klingenschmitt, who has set a high bar in that regard.

Gardner is "someone who is going to represent us well without making crazy comments," Tony Gioia, a Gardner volunteer attending the candidate's victory party Tuesday night, told The Gazette, a Colorado Springs daily. No Democrat has entered the District 12 race, so Gardner appears assured of election on November.

LGBT group One Colorado ran an ad against Klingenschmitt last weekend on Facebook. It "showed Klingenschmitt with dollar signs instead of eyes," The Gazette reports, with the caption "Gordon ChaChingen$schmitt: Making money off HATE."

We wanted to make sure voters in District 12 know what his stance is," One Colorado political director Laura Reinsch told the paper. "He's spent a lot of time attacking LGBT people, rather than fighting for the interest of Colorado Springs."

Klingenschmitt, meanwhile, accused Gardner of running a dirty campaign but also struck a religious note in speaking to supporters Tuesday night, The Gazette reports. "I work hard to establish God's kingdom, not my own, and, as you know, God's will is not always done in this world," he said.

In South Carolina, Bright faced Scott Talley in a runoff for the Republican candidacy in his Senate district, also District 12, because no candidate had won a majority in the June 14 primary. Talley, a lawyer and former state representative with a record of trying to keep taxes low, bested incumbent Bright 52 percent to 48 percent, reports The Post and Courier of Charleston. Talley was favored by business interests and Republican Gov. Nikki Haley; both she and Talley "had been critical of Bright's over-the-top stances," the paper notes. There is no Democrat opposing Talley in the general election.

Haley opposed legislation that Bright introduced in April that would prevent local governments from adopting ordinances that affirm transgender people's right to use the restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities that match their gender identity. It echosed one of the provisions of neighboring North Carolina's infamous House Bill 2, passed last March. When he announced the bill, Bright described transgender women as men who think they're women. The bill is dead for this legislative session.

Back in 2014, Bright unsuccessfully pushed a bill that would allow public employees to opt out of providing marriage licenses for same-sex couples; he has said same-sex marriage is the work of the devil sanctifies "deviant behavior." He also has denounced a university in the state for hosting a performances of a lesbian-themed play.

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