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The very first Republican officially to declare his candidacy for president is gay. Fred Karger, who has worked on several presidential campaigns, including Ronald Reagan's, has been indicating his intention to run for some time, but many in the Republican establishment don't want him to. His filling with the Federal Elections Commission Wednesday will help Karger pry his way into the primary debates.

Though most of the country has become accepting of gays--more than half now find gay relationships morally acceptable--gay rights issues are still extremely controversial within the Republican Party. Barely more than a third of Republicans think same-sex relationships are morally acceptable. As the national public opinion has changed, the debate has grown more intense within the GOP. Key conservative groups boycotted Conservative Political Action Conference, one of the biggest GOP events of the year, because a gay organization, GOProud, was participating.  And several likely candidates for the 2012 nomination have said they'd repeal the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell--even though huge majorities of Americans think gays should be able to serve. Sarah Palin's single retweet of a vaguely pro-gay tweet started an online frenzy over whether the Alaskan was coming out for gay soldiers.

And as that party-wide debate has raged on, Karger is fighting his own battle with the Republican party, Mother Jones' Stephanie Mencimer reports. The Republican National Committee has put James Bopp in charge of the 18 primary debates. Bopp represents several groups fighting same-sex marriage in the courts. "Many of those lawsuits have been inspired by Karger himself," Mencimer reports, thanks to his work fighting California's Prop 8, which ended same-sex marriage. Bopp has subpoenaed Karger, claiming Prop. 8 donors were threatened after Karger revealed their names in a boycott.

Karger wants Bopp out becaue of the conflict of interest, but Mencimer thinks it's unlikely the RNC will dump a social conservative to placate a gay candidate. Still, Karger getting a warm handshake for RNC chair Reince Priebus is a start.

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