Openly gay Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger is kicking off his campaign in Utah, hoping to raise awareness surrounding issues of bullying and acceptance of queer Utahns. Karger is one of two actively campaigning Republicans left on the ballot and will face-off against Mitt Romney on June 26 in the primaries.
While Karger acknowledges that Romney has clinched the nomination, he’s staying in the race to make a statement, and Utah will play a pivotal role in his campaign.
“I beat Ron Paul in Puerto Rico after a lot of hard work. I beat Michele Bachmann in New Hampshire,” Karger said at a press conference on June 8. “I am going to be on the ballot, it’s a Mitt Romney and Fred Karger showdown at the OK Corral – we’re the last two standing.”
While in Utah, Karger is also requesting a meeting with Thomas Monson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Karger said he is working on finding common ground and working to change the stance of the Mormon Church concerning gays and lesbians. Much like the change in policies allowing black members of the church to be full and participating members, Karger said he hopes that gays and lesbians will also be accepted.
“Thirty-six years ago, in 1978, the Mormon Church changed its policies and allowed blacks into the priesthood. I hope to meet with President Monson to discuss a similar change now,” Karger said. “I hope to find common ground and I know many people have been working very hard in Utah and around the world to affect that change and I would love to be a part of that.”
Karger is no stranger to politicking with the Mormon Church; in 2008, shortly after California passed Proposition 8, Karger filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission saying the Mormon Church spent more than the $2,078 it had originally reported in the ‘Yes on Prop. 8’ campaign.
By November 2009, the Mormon Church amended its filings to show in-kind contributions totaled more than $190,000, contradicting previous claims of no wrongdoing. In 2009, Karger held a press conference in Salt Lake City and launched Mormongate.com to begin a nationwide boycott of groups and companies that supported the Mormon Church and the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign.
The FPPC found the Mormon Church guilty on 13 counts of election fraud from the original 2008 complaint.
“LGBT Mormons need to be treated with dignity and respect and they need to live their lives openly and honestly,” Karger said. “Gay teens are far less happier and 92 percent of Utah teens say they have heard negative messages about being gay. We need to change that. We are not in a society where we want anyone to be bullied.”
Utah’s Republican primaries are closed, which means only registered Republicans can vote and Karger isn’t the only Republican visiting Utah. Presumptive nominee Romney is holding fundraisers in Davis and Summit Counties this weekend.