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Delegation members speak out, perform community service

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Robert Hayes knows that starting an organization of gay Republicans could scuttle his chances of being a delegate to the national convention in the future but says he has to speak out.

``I think if the (party leadership) had known (he was gay) they wouldn't have let me come this time,'' said Hayes, one of dozens of Oklahomans attending the event Tuesday in New York City.

Hayes told The Oklahoman that the enthusiasm at the convention has motivated him to help get a chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans off the ground in Oklahoma, even though he believes it won't be well-received.

There are several gay Republicans in Oklahoma who are afraid to speak because they fear ostracism in a party they believe shares most of their political ideologies, Hayes said.

``I oppose the gay marriage amendment,'' he said.

State Republican Chairman Gary Jones said the party welcomes diversity, including gay members.

Jones said he wasn't aware that Hayes was gay, but didn't think it would have made a difference in his election.

Elsewhere on the convention floor, Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., gave President Bush a ringing endorsement as he cast Oklahoma's 41 votes for President Bush.

``Oklahoma has voted for a Republican candidate the last nine presidential elections,'' Nickles said.

``I have every confidence that after comparing John Kerry to President George W. Bush, Oklahoma will make it 10 in a row.''

Outside convention hall, 20 Oklahoma delegates took some time to sort food and pack boxes in Hillside, N.J., as part of the Republican National Committee's community service program.

``This was really an eye-opening experience,'' said Trey Bryant, a delegate from Durant. ``It was a great opportunity to see a side of food banks that you normally don't get to see.''

The New Jersey organization provides food to 11,500 charities in 18 of New Jersey's 21 counties.
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