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Why these gay Republicans are voting for Trump

Gay urban Republicans — socially liberal but fiscally conservative — say the brash presumptive GOP nominee is a better fit than you might expect.

THEY'RE HERE, they're queer, and they're voting Trump.

Donald Trump's legion of supporters in Philadelphia include a small band of openly gay voters who say the brash presidential candidate and the GOP represent their interests best. Indeed, the New York billionaire's LGBT backers are ready to throw shade on the media or anyone who says Republicans are a party of old, homophobic white guys.

"Donald Trump isn't playing this game just to be pushed around by the liberal media," said Dr. Seth Kaufer, a delegate at this year's Republican National Convention and an openly gay GOP leader for Philadelphia's Second Ward.

A frequent guest on cable news, Kaufer believes that mainstream networks unfairly stereotype Republicans, and he's happy to see Trump fight back. "He's not taking it. It's about time, and I personally appreciate that."

Others view Trump as someone who speaks to a portion of America that both parties have generally left behind in past elections, including gay Republicans.

"I think he's speaking to people that everyone else has forgotten," said Jacquelynn Kane, 58, of South Philly, who is openly bisexual and is voting for Trump.

Brendan Kissam, 30, of South Philly, agreed.

"I know quite a few gays who are supporting Trump," said Kissam, who is openly gay and voting for Trump. "In fact, if you were a fly on the wall in 100 to 120 gay voting booths this November, I bet you'll see two or three dozen Trump votes."

Still, some may wonder why any urban minority, including LGBT voters, could stand behind someone who has called Mexican migrants "rapists" or made disparaging remarks about women.

But Trump hasn't made any offensive innuendos or comments against the gay community, at least not publicly. In fact, he once said gays were "fabulous."

His praise of Elton John's same-sex marriage in 2005, his defense of civil unions dating back a decade, and his more recent statement that Caitlyn Jenner should be able to use any bathroom are proof to gay Republicans that The Donald is on their side.

"People forget that Trump was the one who said transgender people could use whatever bathrooms they wanted in his establishments," said Albert Eisenberg, another openly gay Republican, who works as head of communications for the Philadelphia Republican Party. He declined to comment further on the presidential race.

People like Eisenberg and Kaufer may seem like a walking paradox by belonging to a GOP that on the national level has opposed ideas like same-sex marriage or transgender rights with a religious zeal.

But Philadelphia's gay Republicans present the face of a newer - and younger - Republican Party based in urban areas. Generally, they are socially progressive, are fiscally libertarian, and are over being asked how it's possible to be gay and Republican.

To Eisenberg, it's simple. Just because he's for gay marriage doesn't mean he's for taxes or big government. "I'm not one of those old-school Republicans and I resent being treated as a monolithic voter," he said.

Philadelphia's Democrats, on the other hand, argued that Trump and his Republican Party's beliefs are out of touch with the realities for LGBT voters.

"There is something about the life experiences of the average LGBT person that should teach you a sense of empathy for those that are marginalized, and the Republican Party is doing a very good job at marginalization," said openly gay State Rep. Brian Sims, a Democrat. "Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to register with some gay Republicans."

Former State Rep. Mike Fleck, who represented Centre, Mifflin, and Huntingdon Counties before coming out as gay in 2012, said he will have a hard time voting for Trump in November, even if the candidate has a decent record on LGBT issues. "He hasn't really put out an economic plan, and what's worse, people really don't care," he said.

Fleck is no longer in politics and is still registered as a Republican, but he's contemplated switching sides and registering as a Libertarian as a result of Trump.

"He has said positive things about the community, sure, but I'm also the person who won't vote for the gay person just because they're gay," he said. "It's scary. When they talk about making America great again - ugh - it was never great for the LGBT community."

Fleck said that Trump isn't emblematic of the Republican Party he grew up with, which was more geared toward families and fiscal responsibility - not one-liners. He said that Trump's remarks were only damaging the party and that his poor fiscal policies would ruin the economy.

And the city's LGBT advocates said that Trump's isn't a voice that is aligned with the gay community.

"If the only person Donald Trump has mentioned is Caitlyn Jenner, it's a pure example of how out of touch is," said Helen "Nellie" Fitzpatrick, director of the city's Department of LGBT Affairs. "If that is his only knowledge of the gay community, it just shows his lack of understanding or empathy around who LGBT people are."

Gay Republicans in Philadelphia, though, said it's time people start looking at Trump as a good businessman who doesn't play politics and disrupts the political machine.

"I've watched Trump's career," Kaufer said. "I met and listened to every candidate. He fights back against the lies and misinformation that Democrats and liberal media spread. I like having a fighter at the top of the ticket."

215-854-2928 @JosephJaafari