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Republican Party
Elects First Black Chair

Republican Party
Elects First Black Chair


The Republican National Committee Friday elected as its chairman Michael Steele, Maryland's former lieutenant governor and chair of the state party.

The Republican National Committee Friday elected as its chairman Michael Steele, Maryland's former lieutenant governor and chair of the state party. Steele, who nudged out a conservative South Carolinian 91-77 on the sixth round of voting, is the first African-American to hold the position and is viewed as a relatively moderate Republican.

Log Cabin Republicans welcomed the choice as a potential turning point for the party. "After two straight election defeats, it was clear that more of the same was not the answer. I'm excited that members of the Republican National Committee understood this fact," said Log Cabin president Patrick Sammon. "Steele is an inclusive leader who will bring a new energy and a new vision to the GOP at a critical time."

But some activists noted that Steele has made indifferent remarks regarding LGBT issues and promoted his share of homophobic causes.

Steele opposes gay marriage, and in January 2005 he joined socially conservative religious leaders for a rally in Baltimore calling for a statewide constitutional ban on same-sex unions. "We are here to affirm that marriage is only between a man and a woman," he said, according to The Baltimore Sun. "We need to make it clear where Maryland stands." The measure failed, though state law currently prohibits gay marriage.

Steele has shown some ambivalence around the Federal Marriage Amendment, telling the Christian Broadcasting Network last December that he does not personally favor the idea but would support it if he was chosen to lead the GOP.

"As chairman of the party, it is in the platform. We will support it, and if members of Congress introduce the bill, then we will be the advocates for that legislation," he said. "Personally, I do not like messing around with the Constitution. I really don't, and I'm conflicted by it and I really appreciate the idea of wanting to put something like that -- same with the pro-life issue, same with gay marriage -- but I really believe we are a federal government."

Perhaps not surprisingly, the National Stonewall Democrats cast a suspicious eye on Steele's record.

"Although there were candidates that were not selected for RNC chair with stronger anti-equality credentials than Michael Steele, which shows hope for the party, we should carefully consider his record as the Republican Party moves forward," Jon Hoadley, executive director of Stonewall, said in a statement. "The Republican Party has a troubling history of anti-equality activism. Unfortunately, Michael Steele has been a part of that record. Each time that he has promised voters a new tone in politics he has also taken steps to solidify the anti-LGBT positions of his own party."

On seizing the chairmanship, Steele announced "the dawn of a new party" and made clear that he plans on expanding the base of the white-male-dominated GOP.

"We have been misdefined as a party that doesn't care, a party that's insensitive, a party that is unconcerned about minorities, a party that is unconcerned about the lives and the expectations and dreams of average Americans," he said. "Nothing could be further from the truth." (Kerry Eleveld,

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