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Congressman urges Republican colleagues to reject gay candidates

Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes is encouraging his Republican colleagues to deny support to some of the party’s gay congressional candidates.
Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 30, 2011.
Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 30, 2011.

Rep. Randy Forbes is telling his Republican colleagues they shouldn't back some gay congressional candidates. 

According to a story first reported by Politico, the Virginia Congressman told the National Republican Congressional Committee to deny support for gay candidates.

"The definition of marriage is an issue with widely divergent opinions passionately held by both sides," Forbes said in a statement released to NBC News after the initial story broke. "This is true of the Republican Party, as it is of society as a whole. Our goal is to make certain every individual has the right to express his or her belief, while no one is compelled to support financially or otherwise, those who disagree with them.  It is my belief that we are trying to strike this balance and we will continue to work to accomplish this goal."

Forbes' comments come nearly a year after the Republican National Committee autopsy on the 2012 election that called for the party to reach out to the LGBT community and demonstrate that “we care about them too.” 

Forbes' denial of support affects two openly gay candidates competing against Democratic incumbents in 2014—Richard Tisei, who after narrowly losing in 2012 is running again in northeastern Massachusetts, and Carl DeMaio in San Diego.  

“GOP leaders can do whatever they want to do,” Forbes told Politico on Wednesday.

The congressman said he is much more concerned about House members being asked to contribute to their campaigns, although many senior House Republicans have given to both Tisei and DeMaio's current campaigns. 

Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday he believes the Republican party should back gay Republican congressional candidates with a simple response, "I do." Boehner also traveled to Boston to fundraise for Tisei in the summer of 2012. 

"There would be a different situation if they tried to force other members to give money," said Forbes.

"Our decisions on the Republican nominees we support will not be based on race, gender or sexual orientation but will be based on the strength of their candidacy and their ability to defeat Democrats," the NRCC said in a statement to NBC News. 

Because DeMaio has not won the Republican nomination yet and the NRCC does not become publicly involved in primaries, the group has not yet backed the candidate. 

The Forbes approach "will help the Democrats take back to the majority, and we owe great gratitude to Randy Forbes for that," Colorado Congressman Jared Polis, who is one of six openly gay House members, told NBC News. "If Republicans want to be a majority party they need to support their candidates just as we support ours."

Forbes has lobbied against the LGBT community for some time. In 2007, the congressman argued that protecting gay people from being fired would "destroy the institution of marriage" and voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Forbes is also one of the co-sponsors of the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act,” which would provide a license to legally discriminate against same-sex couples for all businesses with a religious affiliation. He co-sponsored a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman and would ban same-sex marriage throughout the entire country.