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Openly Gay Republican Delegate on Party's Platform: ‘The Worst Kind of Silence’

Rachel Hoff

While Rachel Hoff accepted that changing her party’s stance on marriage equality would be tough, the 15-year openly gay Republican was still shocked by the GOP’s unwillingness to tackle LGBT rights.

Rachel Hoff choked back tears as she addressed the Republican platform committee.

"We are your daughters," she said, "we are your sons, your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues, the couple that sits next to you in church. And one day, when I hope to marry the woman that I love, it will be me."

Hoff spoke for an amendment to the party's platform that would add more inclusive language on same-sex marriage. The amendment failed.

"I tried to be earnest," she told Out. "I tried to explain why I thought this was the right thing to do--why this was the best thing to do politically and why it was important to me personally."

A Republican for 15 years, Hoff was the first openly gay party member to attend the platform committee. She guarantees, though, that she is not the only gay person who has served--or serves today.

"There's something significant about being open," she said. "That's what helps change hearts and minds."

She joined the Republican party as a teenager and became active in college.

"I was drawn to its founding principles," she said. "Freedom against injustice, the abolitionist movement, Lincoln. I believe in American leadership in the world, a strong military, free trade, and peace through strength. I think that approach can create a better world and a freer America, and the Republican party has aligned with those principles."

After the platform committee adjourned, however, that faith in her party was shaken.

"The last two days, I have actually thought about leaving the party, which is something I've never thought about before," she said. "I've always known Republicans are opposed to marriage equality. But I was surprised by so much opposition to standing up for human rights in the platform."

Hoff referred to amendments in other subcommittees asking to recognize LGBTs specifically as victims of terrorist attacks and hate crimes--such as the shooting in Orlando, which occurred exactly one month prior.

"People found clever ways to disguise the fact that they just don't want to talk about LGBT people in our platform," she said. "Delegates said they didn't want to mention specific communities because terrorists hate everyone. It was really just a creative way to get around the fact they just don't want to say LGBT in the platform."

Hoff does want others to know that she never received an unkind word, that no one rose up to declare homosexuality a sin, that no one condemned her to hell. In fact, many of the opponents to her amendment came up to her later and thanked her, hoping that she would stay in the party.

After some thought, she's decided to stay in the Grand Old Party.

"I have decided I'm not leaving," she said. "I think leaving would concede defeat to people who never want our party to evolve into a more inclusive party."

While Hoff wants to take part in that evolution, she worried how younger Republicans--who have become more open to LGBT rights--will continue to support the party.

"We're certainly not silent on marriage. But on Orlando and on human rights? It's the worst kind of silence," she said. "I had this lovely, kind, welcoming reception at the committee. But the LGBT community wasn't in that room with me. And the message they have now--the message the platform we passed sends to that community--is basically please don't vote for us."

Watch Hoff's remarks to the committee at C-SPAN.

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