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GOP Leader Leaves Gaines Campaign After Anti-LGBT Posts

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Houston Gaines.

A prominent Athens Republican has stepped down from state House candidate Houston Gaines’ campaign after an Atlanta magazine reported that she posted several anti-LGBTQ comments on Facebook Tuesday, the second anniversary of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

According to Project Q, Joan Rhoden shared a photo on Facebook of pride-themed clothing at Target and accused “homosexuals” of spreading propaganda. She also characterized homosexuality as a disease and an “alternative lifestyle,” criticized a New York bill that would add a third gender option to birth certificates and a cartoon featuring drag queens, defended Chick-Fil-A (a company that has taken anti-LGBTQ stances) and said that LGBTQ people’s aim is “to annihilate free speech and dismantle the established facts of biology.”

Rhoden is president of the Conservative Republican Women of Northeast Georgia. Her husband, Gordon, is chairman of the Athens Republican Party chapter.

Gaines listed both Joan and Gordon Rhoden as members of his “leadership committee” when he announced his campaign in February. But as of this morning, Joan Rhoden’s name had been removed from his website.

“Recently, we’ve seen local campaigns—including my opponent’s—run on divisiveness and symbolism instead of focusing on the hard work our constituents deserve,” Gaines told Flagpole. “The statements made by Mrs. Rhoden are not reflective of my campaign, and we agree that her stepping down from my leadership committee will prevent any distractions from accomplishing our singular goal of winning back this seat.”

Gaines is in a rematch with state Rep. Deborah Gonzalez (D-Athens) after Gonzalez defeated him in a special election last year to represent House District 117, which includes parts of Clarke, Oconee, Barrow and Jackson counties.