TAMPA, Fla. — Former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), who’s gay, offered his “qualified endorsement” of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday, saying the candidate’s business background makes him a good choice for president. Kolbe noted that Romney needs to come along further on LGBT issues.
“I think based on the economic issues, yeah, I think my endorsement would be a qualified endorsement,” Kolbe said in an interview with the Washington Blade. “I think he’s clearly the better of the two candidates, but we have a long ways to go to bring him around on this [LGBT rights] issue.”
Kolbe, 70, spoke with the Blade following remarks he delivered at the ”Republicans Out to Win” event co-hosted by the Log Cabin Republicans and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund at the Oystercatchers bar at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. Other speakers included R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin’s national director, and Jeff Spitko, senior vice president for external affairs at the Victory Fund.
The former lawmaker, who served in the U.S. House from 1985 to 2007, said he wishes Romney were “further along in the development of his thinking” on LGBT rights, but added it’s one of many issues and said Romney ”has a much better background in business and economics” than President Obama.
“I think he’s much more likely to turn the country in the right direction on fiscal matters,” Kolbe said. “To me, that is the existential issue that we face today, and for that reason, I support Mitt Romney.”
Romney has built up a significant anti-LGBT record over the course of his campaign. The candidate has signed an agreement with the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage pledging to back a Federal Marriage Amendment and defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. Romney’s last stated position on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is that he opposes the legislation, although he once said he’d co-sponsor the bill as a U.S. Senate candidate in 1994.
Kolbe emphasized that a bi-partisan approach to LGBT rights is necessary and he expects the Republican Party to change on the issue over time because “it’s clearly, clearly a generational issue” and younger members of the GOP are more progressive.