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Delegate Joshua Higginbotham, R-Putnam, has come out as gay. He made the announcement in a short video on social media over the weekend.

“I’m Joshua Higginbotham, and I’m gay,” he said. The three-term delegate, who was first elected when he was just 19, said he would have come out sooner, but “there were some people in [his] family who didn’t know yet ... and, frankly, they weren’t really ready to know.”

But he said he and his family have now decided to be more open about it and to make it public. “There’s nothing wrong with it. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not embarrassed by it. It’s just part of who I am,” he said.

At first, I leaned against saying much, if anything, about it on “Talkline.” One’s sexuality is a personal matter. Additionally, we have come a long way in acknowledging and accepting people regardless of their sexual orientation, so is it even worth noting?

However, I then leaned the other way. I played Higginbotham’s statement on “Talkline” and talked about it for a couple of reasons.

He posted the information on social media and people were talking about it. Many of the comments were supportive, but not all. I received a text Sunday night from the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, accusing Higginbotham of pretending to back the Republican Party platform in West Virginia and calling for his resignation.

Higginbotham describes himself as a conservative Christian Republican. There are a lot of those folks in West Virginia and not all are going to believe that Higginbotham shares their values. He addressed that in his statement.

“I am still a Christian. People think that gay people can’t be Christians. I believe God loves me no matter what,” Higginbotham said. “I’m still a conservative Republican. That’s rare, I know, but you can be gay and Republican. You can be gay and conservative.”

The more I watched and listened to his statement, the more news value I found. This is a human-interest story, as well as a political story. A young office holder feels strong enough, confident enough, to be his true self before the public.

Politicians are typically risk averse, but here is a guy taking a risk. That takes courage. We want our public officials to be courageous, to make decisions and take positions not just because they are popular, but because they are right.

Perhaps, one day, when a public figure decides to reveal his or her sexuality, it won’t be worthy of discussion. Or better yet, that same person will not feel it is even necessary for the public to know their sexual preference.

We are not there yet, at least not in West Virginia, especially when the individual is a conservative Republican.

Hoppy Kercheval hosts “Talkline,” on MetroNews.

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