In January, I traveled to New Hampshire with more than thirty other students and a handful of professors. We descended upon the Granite State to cover the New Hampshire Republican primary, the start of what would be a semester long class examining the 2012 presidential election.
A large portion of my grade in that class consisted of a team project, which would be presented at the end of the semester. While in New Hampshire, we were expected to gather string for the project—including video, photos, interviews or other contributory data. Before traveling north, we had a 3 day workshop to prepare us for the trip. During that time, I developed an idea to examine the role gay Republicans play in the election.
While in New Hampshire, I found out that GOProud, a gay republican group, was having a breakfast meet-and-greet with hopes of getting their message out there. I invited some other students and we went, interviewing several members of the group. A later discussion with a couple of other students and Prof. Richard Benedetto led to the formulation of our project. While conducting the interviews, we found most people saying it was harder to come out as Republican than it was a gay for fear of being ostracized by the gay community. Prof. Benedetto said that within every civil rights movement, there have been a range of political ideologies from very Democratic to Republican. So I, along with two colleagues, set out to examine what it’s like to be gay in the GOP.
We decided to make our project D.C. focused and I found out about a local gay republican running in a special city council election. The previous council member, Harry Thomas Jr., lost his seat after being convicted of stealing more than $350,000 in federal funds. Tim Day, both the only openly gay candidate and the only Republican running, was actually one of the first people to bring Thomas’ illegal activity to light.
Our project, titled Grand Old Gays, is divided up into three parts—an audio story focusing on the role of gays in the Republican party (and highlighting Tim Day’s campaign), profiles of local gay Republicans and an interactive timeline of the gay rights movement in D.C.
On Friday, May 11, our story aired on WAMU, the local NPR affiliate. The station’s website also published our interactive timeline. It was great to hear something we had worked so hard on go beyond the walls of American University to a broader D.C. audience.
Update: Tim Day lost the election to Kenyan McDuffie