Passaic County GOP Chairman John Traier has been part of the Republican Party for many years. He was a youth coordinator during the Reagan administration and served as the acting banking commissioner under Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. But he recently wrote that he did not feel at home in his own party as an openly gay man. Traier told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he believed the Republican platform was harsh on gay issues but is hopeful that members of his party will evolve in their views.
Traier said the Republican platform — not necessarily Gov. Mitt Romney — was harsh when it came to issues of gay Americans during the last presidential campaign. He said he believes the platform “spoke to a day that is no longer here” and wasn’t inclusive.
“It’s very, very important for gay Americans to feel as though they’re part of the process. It took President Obama four years to evolve on the issue of gay marriage and my hope is the Republican Party will start that evolution as well,” Traier said.
He is concerned that Republicans have written off groups of people during recent elections, including the entire Northeast and West Coast. “I think that’s not good for the party,” Traier said. “There are clearly a number of Republicans and Independents who favor the Republican Party have just been left out of the whole process.”
In Passaic County, Traier said demographics come more into play than gay rights issues, with large Hispanic and Arab populations. “We don’t even compete in the cities any more. African-Americans we’ve totally written off and we need to change the way we view our citizens,” he said. “We’re at the point where our suburban voters can’t come anywhere close to matching the numbers that come out of the urban areas.”
Traier was elected to his post with fellow Republicans knowing that he is gay. “I think my party looked at my experience and what I could bring to the table. And yes they were open minded enough to say, ‘Hey listen this person is a gay Republican but most of all he’s a Republican who’s had experience and can help us reach our goals,'” he said.
Gov. Chris Christie, who is running for reelection, does not support same sex marriage, but is still quite popular. Traier hopes he changes his mind. “I don’t agree with Gov. Christie on this issue, but I hope that he evolves on that issue because it’s an issue that’s generational and it is turning off a lot of younger voters who see gay marriage as a natural point for the Republican Party,” he said.
Traier said it’s important for residents to reach out to legislators and Christie’s office on the issue of same sex marriage. He also suggested a study on the effectiveness of civil unions. “As a CPA, I know firsthand that certain states recognize marriage performed in other states and other countries but they don’t recognize civil unions as a unit,” he said.
While Traier said civil unions should be investigated, he wouldn’t be satisfied with just having civil unions as an option. “I think we should have equality,” he said. “And I think civil rights is just a fundamental issue. And it’s what started the Republican Party back in the 1800s.”
When asked if he’s optimistic that the next Republican presidential candidate will be someone he can endorse and believe in, Traier said, “I’m very hopeful because I think there are so many people who believe as I do.”
Traier said he believes that message has been drowned out by ultra conservatives from the South, West and Midwest who don’t share the values. “We’ve always been an area of the country that believes very much in the right of the individual. And that’s what the Republican Party should stand for,” he said. “I respect people’s religious views but please don’t impose your religious views on the rest of us. And I think that’s very important.”