A North Carolina State Senate candidate who opposes marriage equality once worked as a drag performer in a gay bar and identified as gay at the time, the Winston-Salem Journal reports.
Steve Wiles, a 34-year-old real estate agent who is running for office as a Republican, worked at the now-defunct Club Odyssey in Winston-Salem in the early 2000s, the club's former owner told the paper in a story published Saturday. He performed in drag under the name Mona Sinclair and emceed a drag show there, and also was a promoter of regional pageants within the Miss Gay America system, the paper reports.
For the past three weeks, the media has been questioning Wiles about his alleged drag past, and his responses "have ranged from categorical denial to tacit admission," the Journal reports. This week he told the newspaper, "I have already apologized to the people who matter most to me for the things I did when I was young" and "I do not condone the things I did when I was young."
Voter records show that since 2008, Wiles has changed his political affiliation from Democrat to unaffiliated to Republican, according to the journal. He voted in the Democratic presidential primary in 2008, but in 2012 he worked in the campaign for Amendment One, which wrote a ban on same-sex marriage into North Carolina's constitution.
"Why would you want to get into that knowing your past?" said Randy Duggins, the former co-owner of Club Odyssey. "He's a hypocrite."
Wiles told the Journal that he didn't see why his work at Club Odyssey and for the amendment is "even an issue."
He elaborated on his past a bit more to the website Business Insider, discussing why he quit performing in drag. "I think that everyone has their own choices to make and I'm fine with everyone making their own," he said. "For me, from a religious standpoint, just for my life, for me, it just was not something that I wanted to continue. Of course it was an embarrassment, but you know, you move on. You live life, and you change, and you make yourself what you want yourself to be. And that's where I am now."
Asked if he considers himself "ex-gay," he told Business Insider, "I really won't make any comments on that." When Business Insider asked if he left the Miss Gay America system because he objected to "the gay lifestyle" (the website's wording), he said that was indeed the reason. The Journal, however, reported that he was suspended from the organization for misconduct.
He also told Business Insider that supporting the marriage amendment doesn't mean he's antigay and that he has no intention of stopping his campaign, although the Journal reported that his campaign website had been taken down. He blamed political rivals for the Journal article.
Additionally, he posted a message on Facebook Saturday, later taken down, in which he apologized for having held an "embarrassing" job and saying he would be glad to discuss his political views with any gay or Democratic friends.
The North Carolina primary will be held Tuesday. Wiles is one of three candidates seeking the Republican nomination in Senate District 31, including incumbent Joyce Krawiec, appointed in January to replace Pete Brunstetter, who resigned to take a job in the private sector. John Motsinger is the only Democrat running for the seat.