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October 5, 2012

He’s Here. He’s Queer. And He’s A Black Republican.

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Written by: Rachel Huggins

Robert Turner is the president of Washington, D.C.’s chapter of Log Cabin Republicans. Photo by Timagnus D. Traylor.

Texas, Travis County. If you were black you were a democrat,” he says frankly. “That’s what I saw. That’s what I heard. That’s what I thought.” He realized his stance on lower taxes and limited government was right-winged during senior year in high school, but felt awkward siding with the minority. His breakthrough came senior year at the University of Texas, when he joined College Republicans and became active in George H.W. Bush’s re-election campaign in 1992. “That’s when I decided to call myself a Republican,” he exhales.

Through it all, his grandmother has always remained by his side. “She’d say, ‘you’re going to do what you want to do, just make something of yourself.’ That’s all she ever wanted. Even when I put my Republican signs in the front yard.”

Washington, D.C. Life

After earning a bachelor’s in economics from the University of Texas, Turner packed up his belongings 17 years ago and moved to Washington, D.C. He landed his first political job as a Computer Systems Administrator for Congressman George Radanovich (R-CA). Now serving his third term as president of D.C.’s Log Cabin Republicans, Turner is also president of The Turner Group, a D.C.-based government relations firm. He loves D.C., from the bustling political scene, dirt-cheap happy hours and crowded Metro system, “they can’t get rid of me,” he chuckles.

His life in the nation’s capitol is completely opposite of his church boy upbringing. He DJs, plays poker and smokes cigars regularly.  “If I ever quit smoking, I’ll kill someone,” he blurts out. “That’s my passion.” Smiling proudly, he gushes about the form of stress relief he picked up 20 years ago.

When he needs to unwind from the pressure of politics, he lights up a Romeo y Julieta Churchill cigar at his favorite spot in the city, a bench on the tidal basin overlooking the Jefferson, Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., memorial.

He used to smoke up to 2-3 times a week, but he’s cut it down to once a week due to health concerns.

These days, Turner considers himself a spiritual Christian — rather than religious — whose core values are rooted in the church. “I never found a church in D.C. that I liked. So I watch Joel Osteen on TV,” he giggles.

But he gets fired up in a heartbeat at churches that vehemently oppose same-sex marriage.

“If you’re going to talk about how gay sex is bad, let’s talk about how premarital sex is bad,” he lashes out, his voice rumbling like a southern preacher yet gentle as a therapeutic counselor. “If you’re going to talk about saving traditional marriage, let’s outlaw annulments before you say I can’t get married. But we don’t talk about that because it’s allowed by the straight community.”

What gets him riled up is how fundamentalists pick and choose which parts of the Bible to focus on. Yes, the Bible condemns homosexuality, he says. But eating shell fish, having a tattoo on your arm and committing adultery are abominations, too.

Turner has been viciously fighting for gay rights for years and he’s not about to stop. Some like what he has to say. Some don’t. “To that I say, so sad, too bad. I know that God made me in His image. He didn’t create me simply to condemn me to hell from the get-go.”



About the Author

Rachel Huggins
Rachel Huggins
Rachel Huggins is a USA TODAY online editor and freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @HugginsRachel to see her trail of digital breadcrumbs.


Photo Courtesy of Flickr/takasci75

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