It’s All Relative: 8 Prominent Republicans With Gay Family Members


Everyone was on Cloud Nine last week when Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) announced he was supporting same-sex marriage because his son was gay. Of course, he also said he wouldn’t take a leadership role in the fight for marriage equality. And, we can’t forget that he was only to happy to vote for DOMA—and try to ban gay adoption in DC—when he didn’t know he had a homo in the family.

Just how transformative is it to find out you have an LGBT child or sibling when you’re a high-powered Republican? Below, we take a look at eight GOP stalwarts with queer kin and see how they line up with the gay community.



sonny mary bonoSonny Bono/Mary Bono Mack

Chaz Bono was still identifying as a lesbian when her father, former Palm Springs mayor and pop icon Sonny Bono, was elected to the House of Representatives.

Though he was publicly supportive of his gay daughter, he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage. “I’m not homophobic, I’m not a bigot, I’m not pandering to hatred,” he said. ”I simply can’t handle [gay marriage]. It’s nothing else.”

After his death in a 1998 skiing accident, Bono’s then-wife and Chaz’s step-mom, Mary, was elected to his seat in the House.

Fallout: In 2007 Mary married Rep. Connie Mack IV, a noted foe of equality who voted for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. After Mary and Connie were unseated by Democrats in November, she joined more than 100 Republicans in signing a Supreme Court brief in support of same-sex marriage.



Marsha LooperColorado State Rep. Marsha Looper  (R-El Paso County)

Marsha Looper’s son was outted accidentally last summer when her campaign manager forwarded an email praising the Colorado Republican for voting against the state’s civil-unions bill even though she “has a homosexual son.”

Looper was livid, telling The Denver Post she was very disappointed that one of her family members was roped into “policy discussions.” “These are very intimate issues,” she said at the time. “I love my son. I always will. He has said, ‘Mom, I want my privacy.’”

Fallout: Looper lost a 2012 primary to House Majority Speaker Amy Stephens, after a campaign that saw the two fighting over who was more opposed to abortion and civil unions.

Don CoramColorado State Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose)

Yes, there was more than one Colorado lawmaker with a gay kid who voted against the state’s civil-unions bill. (There are allegedly four in all.)

Rep. Coram said he was proud of his gay son but couldn’t go against the will of his conservative constituents. When the bill died on the House floor, Dee Coram told The Denver Post he was disappointed in his father: “There’s always a time to lead and there’s always a time to follow. He was given a time to lead, and he didn’t do it. He could have, and should have, been the deciding vote.”

Fallout: After the November elections saw Democrats take the Legislature, a civil-unions bill passed both houses and is expected to be signed by Gov. Hickenlooper.



newt gingrichNewt Gingrich

When Newt foisted his Contract with America on the American public in the mid-1990s his half-sister, Candace Gingrich, stepped forward as what she called an “accidental activist,” standing as a counterpoint to her reactionary sibling and working with HRC on LGBT issues.

Fallout: While running for president in 2012, Gingrich called same-sex marriage “pagan behavior.” After the GOP had its ass handed to it in November, though, he demurred, saying that homosexuality “is in every family. It is in every community. The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to… accommodate and deal with reality.”

Newt even predicted that  “in a number of American states – and it will be more after 2014 – gay relationships will be legal, period.” Not so much a change of heart as a reading of the leaves.

Meanwhile Candace, who appeared on Friends as the minister who wed Ross’s lesbian ex-wife and her girlfriend, married her own girlfriend, Rebecca Jones in 2009. It’s her first, to Newt’s three.

david-johnsonMaine Rep. David Johnson (R-Eddington)

In November, Johnson resurrected the spirit of his dead gay brother to justify campaigning against Maine’s marriage-equality referendum. “I miss my brother and stay in contact with his partner because I love them both and know many other gay couples and love them dearly as well,” the GOP lawmaker explained. “The fact remains that God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman, and we have no right to redefine marriage. It has taken me a while, but I have finally figured out that God’s plan is better than man’s plan in all aspects of life.”

Fallout: Maine voters passed marriage equality. Johnson probably faced a really uncomfortable Thanksgiving with his parents.


Dick_CheneyDick Cheney
As vice president to George W. Bush, Cheney was part of a presidential administration that supported Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

His daughter, Mary Cheney, is openly gay, though, and by 2004, Cheney’s personal support for gay marriage was at odds with the party’s view.

In 2009, after leaving office, Cheney claimed “people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish, any kind of arrangement they wish. I do believe, historically, the way marriage has been regulated is at a state level. It’s always been a state issue, and I think that’s the way it ought to be handled today.

When Marylanders were voting on marriage equality in 2012, it’s been reported Cheney encouraged several state legislators to support same-sex marriage.


513px-Phyllis_Schlafly_by_Gage_SkidmorePhyllis Schlafly
Though she was never elected to any public office, Schlafly has had a prominent role in GOP politics, especially after founding the right-wing Eagle Forum in the 1970s. (She did join “moral conservatives” in the 1960s in opposing desegregation.)

Schlafly opposed the Equal Rights Amendment, in part, because it was too gay-friendly—and later called same-sex marriage and civil unions “[a]ttacks on the definition of marriage… from the gay lobby seeking social recognition of their lifestyle.” She was also influential in getting opposition to marriage equality installed as a plank in the Republicans’ 2004 party platform.

All this despite the fact that her oldest son, John, was outed by Queer Week magazine in 1992. Schlafly acknowledged that John was gay, but insisted “he supports me in everything I do.”

Fallout: Not much. Schlafly, now in her late 80s, still spreads her message of hate among the Republican faithful. And John, a staffer at the Eagle Forum, is her right-hand gay. “Gays have all the same civil and political rights as everyone else,” he told the L.A. Times in 2004. “The rights guaranteed by our Constitution.”

Um, really?

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  • 2eo

    You’d think the older members who were around to lose their fight for segragation, and in the case of Schlafly also voted against suffrage and actively worked with the south in the Civil War.

    I also thought you were bound by international convention to warn people when posting pictures of Sonny Bono.

  • Caleb in SC

    I love how almost everyone of these douche bags came out in favor of marriage equality AFTER they lost their office, or stayed in office and were on the wrong side of the issue, which passed in their jurisdiction. Way to go, GOP!!! Out of step as always, except when it comes to goose-stepping.

  • BJ McFrisky

    Mr. Avery’s statement that “everyone was on cloud nine last week when Sen. Rob Portman announced he was in support of gay marriage” couldn’t be farther from the truth. Go look at the comments on that article, as well as some posted on this article, and you’ll see that no matter how supportive straight people are of us, no matter how much they believe in our basic human rights, there will always be a niche of gay uber-haters out there who cry, “Too little, too late.” Unfortunately, this attitude reflects on all of us, the whole community, and not just those who publicly thrive on such blatant loathing of others.
    It’s nice to embrace Sen Portman and other politicians for their change of opinion, but sadly I feel I’m in the minority.

  • hephaestion

    They left out Michelle Bachmann, whose husband is clearly gay.

  • Caleb in SC

    @BJ McFrisky: I think people’s frustration with these politicians is the fact that Sen. Portman has known his son was gay for a very long time, but didn’t change his view on marriage equality until after he was no longer being considered as Romney’s running mate. Basically, in their minds, political expedience wins out over familial love. THAT is what is disgusting about these GOP politicians.

  • BJ McFrisky

    @Caleb in SC: Well, then, if political expedience is what drives politicians to change their minds on social issues, how do you explain the “evolution” of Barack Obama? My take: He did it solely for political purposes, so doesn’t that put him in the same boat as those “disgusting” GOPers who do the same? Funny how when Obama flip-flops and embraces gay marriage, he’s a hero, but when a Republican does so, it’s purely political and selfish.

  • SGR

    @BJ McFrisky: There’s a few things to keep in mind about the president:
    1. He’s the 1st president to do so
    2. has no gay children or family that we know of
    3. is STILL in office
    4. actually put his money where his mouth is and signed off on swaths of pro-LGBT measures

    So yeah, he’s got more homo street cred than just about any pro-gay GOP member

  • Cam

    You left out Michele Bachman, who’s husband Marcus is gay.

  • unreligious

    @BJ McFrisky: Well said. It’s amazing the number of gay people who criticized the Senator for his support. I read on article where the author said how it took his mother 25 years to support him and gay marriage. He was glad that it only took the Senator two and talked about some like Ms Schlafly who still don’t. The comment section was full of people who then went on to criticize Senator Portman for taking so long. I wonder how many of them are complaining about how just this week Ms Clinton is finally supporting the issue.

  • JRPActor

    These are just the PUBLIC ones. How many have parents like mine, that would do EVERYTHING to make sure our UNITED STATES followed the Bible and not the Constitution? Even with Gay Family members. When I was a kid…I thought I was the only one…I’ve learned that another young man on our block also turned out gay and was shunned…and another lived just a few houses away from where I grew up…and my neighbor, who I played house with, had a gay son. WE ARE EVERYWHERE! So, I married my partner of 26 years and my parents disown US…then they lie and tell everyone I am a drug addict who makes things up…THEY LIED…so DAD DIED and got BURIED on Mom’s Birthday! Hmmmm…

    WHO WOULD MARRY MICHELE BAT-SHIT-CRAZY? It is no wonder he RUNS a CONVERSION THERAPY CENTER for young gay men. While the wifey is away…I am sure he is at play! Would love to know his HIV status!

    What a shame to read that about Sonny Bono. He had to know his daughter was a lesbian before he died.

    We must PROMOTE SAME SEX MARRIAGE…because it is healthier than SAME SEX VARIOUS PARTNERS! If you had a gay neighbor, wouldn’t you want them to be a couple, a part of the community, not a “tramp” with a revolving door (NOT SAYING ALL GAY PEOPLE ARE LIKE THAT)…


    But listen to the children…OUR FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT…with each new generation acceptance gets bigger and bigger…and those who oppose WILL LOSE!

  • Teleny

    I think all of this means that the GOP is trying to present a more “tolerant” facade. But that’s all it is… The bulk of these people hate glbt, blacks, non-Cuban Hispanics and Asians. They are just tring to fool the moderates.

  • brent

    @Caleb in SC: Oh, don’t tell me you don’t think democrats would not do the same thing. Obama has been rather cold to some of his relatives who are fighting not to be deported.

  • brent

    @SGR: You left out when he became president, his justice department fought the log cabin republicans in there lawsuit to overturn DADT. Then what happens when the log cabins are successful. Obama then changes his position and the liberals give him all the credit, and ignore the 6 years the log cabins spent fighting the lawsuit. But that’s not surprising, since most liberals get there info from the New York Times and msnbc, places that only present one point of view.

  • brent

    @Teleny: You claim the GOP hate asians, you ignore that the governors of SC and LA are asian. the governors of NM and NE are hispanic. Also the senate leader Mitch McConnell is married to an asian. And you know the new senator from SC is black. The first two black sec. of state were by Bush.

  • SGR

    @brent: cool your jets bro lol. LCR’s are a pretty weak plank to even attempt to bring up. They heroically fight an awesome case to get DADT repealed only to go endorse candidates that believe in passing a const. amendment to define marriage as strictly hetero. I can’t speak for liberals at all, but from what I understand, most consider Obama as the Darth Vader of gay rights anyway.


    @Caleb in SC:
    Very true. They are against equality if they think that it will be good for them politically, but then they flip-flop. It makes you wonder how sincere they reall are.
    BTW: I loved Dick Cheney’s cop-out–leave it up to the states.

  • hephaestion

    Founder and President of the Media Research Center Brent Bozell’s gay son committed suicide due to his father’s hatred of gays, I believe. At least “some sources say” that, as they always say on Fox News.

  • dbmyers

    @unreligious: This is only the first time that Hillary has made a statement of support for gay marriage, Her support of basic human rights for gays and lesbians is not new. As Secretary of State she made an historic proclamation that LGBTQ rights are human rights around the world in her Dec. 7th, 2011 address to the UN General Assembly. This was a golden moment in the history of the gay/lesbian rights movement. Here is a link to her historic and amazing inspirational speech:

  • Joel J

    @BJ McFrisky: Obama has never been a gay-baiter like some of the others. In the case of Schlafly, have a gay son come out was poetic justice.

  • Caleb in SC

    @BJ McFrisky: I was only speaking about the GOP.

  • BJ McFrisky

    @Caleb in SC: Of course you were only speaking of the GOP. Liberals never have (nor will they ever) acknowledged their own faults or weaknesses.
    note: Being from SC, I have to wonder at how conflicted you must be regarding Tim Scott. I mean, since liberals see the entire world through a prism of race, that’s got to be a plus, but him being a Republican . . . I don’t know, can a liberal hate a man for his politics but at the same time love him for his skin color? If Tim Scott announced he has a gay son, would that alter your perception of him, or would he still be “a douchebag whose political expedience wins out over familial love”?
    @dbmyers: In 2004, Hillary Clinton publicly and adamantly stated she was against gay marriage, but was in favor of civil unions. She has changed her mind for political reasons, period.

  • EGO

    We just have to keep plugging on, educating people about gays. There will always be a few religious fanatics but most are learning to move ahead and recognize LGBT as part of humanity. I have been with my partner 51 years and married 9 years. I am a Navy Vet and a retired software engineer. We have owned three homes, paid our Federal, State, Social Security, Medicare, and property taxes. Our constitution gives us equal rights and we must keep pushing for them to be recognized by our legal system.

  • brent

    @hephaestion: I think it was his father who committed suicide, maybe his son did too

  • Little-Kiwi

    you guys, go easy on McFrisky – his republican family hates having a gay son, and doesn’t support him. it’s messed him up.

    it’s just so sad that Republican parents don’t love their gay children enough to actually want to make the world better for them.

Comments are closed.