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Footnotes From
the Texas Primary

Footnotes From
the Texas Primary


One gay voter's change of heart leads him to a change of party.

To Houston voters, Noel Freeman was just one of hundreds of volunteers who flooded the streets of Harris County, Texas, to turn people out for Sen. Barack Obama on Tuesday night.

"It's been a whirlwind tour here this week," said Freeman, who also served as an official for the caucus.

What people likely didn't realize is that Freeman also wears another hat -- president of the Log Cabin Republicans chapter in Houston.

Freeman had told LCR national that he would be stepping down from his position following the Texas primary. "I'm working on my letter of resignation, and I'm going to submit it to national within the next couple of days," he said Thursday afternoon.

Freeman represents a much-talked-about class of crossover and independent voters that are attracted to Obama. A recent Pew poll found that Obama edges out McCain among independents by 49% to 43% in a general election match-up -- a figure that does not account for Republicans who might also vote for the Illinois senator. The Clinton camp argues that GOP voters will back away from Obama once they are more familiar with his voting record and progressive stances on issues such as gun control.

As president of LCR since the August of 2006, Freeman had been struggling with the idea of changing parties.

"I've thought long and hard about becoming a Democrat," Freeman said, "I believe that of all the candidates out there, Barack Obama is the one candidate who is most sincerely interested in healing some of the partisan damage that has been caused to our nation over the past 12 to 16 years."

And if Clinton is the nominee? "I haven't decided (what I will do), but I won't vote for Hillary Clinton," said Freeman, adding that he doesn't believe Clinton is interested in bridging partisan divides.

Freeman's unique military history also factored into his decision. He spent four years on active duty as an intel analyst in the Air Force and was a ROTC cadet at Texas A&M University before being discharged in 2000 under "don't ask, don't tell."

After leaving the Air Force, he took time off from the ROTC program but returned to find that he was still allowed to be a cadet. "I ended up being the first openly gay cadet in A&M history to go all the way through and complete the Corps of Cadets program," he said.

Despite his recent change of heart, Freeman held off on resigning from LCR sooner so that the transition would be less disruptive to the organization. "I thought it was important for us to get the organization through the primary and set some of the goals for the general election," he said.

At the same time, he has been an avid volunteer in Obama's campaign and has spent his free time canvassing the streets of Houston to inform the people and especially the GLBT community about the importance of electing Obama.

Last Saturday night he helped lead volunteers around the Montrose area, a predominately gay part of town, and told people why he, as a Republican, was leaving the party for Obama.

"The gay and lesbian community has been used as a political football for the last eight years," said Freeman, "If you look at the Texas Republican Party platform, it's been openly hostile to the GLBT community."

The breaking point for Freeman was when he ran for the Houston city council in 2007 and the local Republican Party refused to list him on their website because he is openly gay. They eventually relented, but not without a fight.

"Particularly here in Harris County, they have gone out of their way to make it very, very clear that there is no place in the party for people like me," he said. "It's a whole lot easier to be a fiscally conservative Democrat than a socially moderate Republican."

Freeman adds that part of the local GOP's rigidity is a byproduct of the fact that they have a "stranglehold" on elected positions in the city. In Dallas, he noted, where Democrats have become a real political force, Republicans have been forced to be more open-minded and inclusive of differing viewpoints.

His newfound allegiance has also been a bonus in Freeman's personal life. "My partner is very excited about my switch," he said. "He and I both served as precinct captains for the Obama campaign, and he is a huge supporter of Senator Obama."

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