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Former Duke Republicans Chair Leaves Party

Former Duke Republicans Chair Leaves Party

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The ousted chairman of Duke University's College Republicans chapter has disaffiliated himself with the party after what he alleges was a vicious campaign earlier this month to remove him from the group's executive board because he is gay.

In a Saturday e-mail, Robinette, a 21-year-old junior at the university, also resigned from his position as cochair of the North Carolina Federation of College Republicans, citing his impeachment from the Duke group and the media attention that followed as the motivating factor.

"Following much moral reflection, talks with my family, friends, administrators, and helpful allies at Duke, I cannot in good faith serve the Republican Party of North Carolina at the state level," Robinette wrote. "Please consider this my courteous resignation from the North Carolina Federation of College Republicans and the last of any correspondence with the same organization, my disaffiliation with the College Republicans, as well as with the Republican Party."

First elected chairman of the Duke College Republicans last year, when he was a sophomore, Robinette claims that he was subject to antigay harassment beginning earlier this year, when members of the executive board made offensive and graphic comments about gays in front of Robinette and a gay male friend. "I asked them to stop, and when they asked me why, I told them that my friend is gay and that I am gay as well," Robinette told The Advocate.

In a closed-door meeting April 14, the executive board of the group voted to impeach Robinette on the grounds that he had fixed elections, exhibited unbecoming conduct, and misappropriated funds. Robinette denies the allegations but chose to resign a day later, alleging that fellow members had called him "ironic," "disgusting," and "supportive of the 'faggot center'" -- apparently a reference to the campus LGBT center. Unnamed College Republican members floated a rumor that Robinette was engaged in a sexual relationship with the Duke student government's finance committee chair, Robinette said. He denies the claim.

Robinette also alleges that a member of the executive board chose to conduct impeachment proceedings in a closed-door session for fear that Robinette "would invite his gay cronies to stack the room." Several College Republicans board members did not respond to requests for comment.

The Log Cabin Republicans closely followed the Duke scandal as it unfolded, LCR national spokesman Charles T. Moran said, as did Republican National Committee officials.

"After discussing the situation with the leadership at [College Republicans], and in consultation with an inquiry at the RNC, and reviewing the transcripts from the meetings and communicating with the student government oversight officials at Duke University itself, it was understood that Mr. Robinette's removal from office was not due to his sexual orientation and there was no actual evidence to support such an allegation," Moran said.

An internal audit by the Duke student government and the office for student affairs did not find evidence that Robinette had misused organizational funds as chairman. However, a student judiciary committee ruled last week that Robinette's assertions about the nature of his impeachment were unsubstantiated.

But the student judiciary board and Duke University vice president for student affairs Larry Moneta did not deny that Robinette was subjected to homophobic remarks by members of the Duke College Republicans. "Given Duke's commitment to fostering a learning community where difference is respected, diversity celebrated and inclusion demanded we must also decry hateful language wherever it originates, whether individually or in a group setting," Moneta wrote in a Wednesday e-mail to students.

Robinette said that following his April 14 resignation letter, he asked editors at The Daily Tar Heel, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's student newspaper, to hold off on a story for 24 hours until he was able to come out to his parents (the paper declined his request and ran a story the next day, as did Duke's student paper, The Chronicle).

"My family is very religious, Southern Baptist, so you can probably imagine they didn't have nice things to say," said Robinette, who grew up in Lynn Haven, Fla., near Panama City. "I've always enjoyed being a member of the Republican Party. I wouldn't have run for the [North Carolina Federation of College Republicans] if I didn't feel like I represent the party's ideals. Now I'm not sure how I feel about it."

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