DENTON, Texas (UNT) -- The year was 2000, and a personal friend of then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush – Charles C. Francis – was breaking a barrier for gay-rights advocates by holding a meeting with the governor and 11 other gay Republican men and women. It was the first time a Republican presidential candidate had ever formally and publicly met with a group of openly gay and lesbian individuals. On the agenda for the group known as the "Austin 12": a frank conversation about gay and lesbian issues, sharing personal stories as gay and lesbian Republicans and a discussion about Bush's presidential candidacy.
Now – nearly 15 years to the date of that meeting on April 13, 2000 – Francis has donated his entire collection of materials from that historic meeting of the "Austin 12" to the University of North Texas Libraries.
The Charles C. Francis collection contains documentation of the meeting, internal materials and memos from the Republican Unity Coalition. Started by Francis after the Austin 12 meeting, the coalition is a gay and straight advocacy group and political action committee dedicated to making sexual orientation a non-issue within the Republican Party.
Additionally, the UNT libraries will receive correspondence between Francis and prominent Republicans such as President George W. Bush, Sen. Alan K. Simpson, President Gerald R. Ford and Mary Cheney, as well as materials detailing press coverage that documents the struggle of gay Republicans to influence the direction of the GOP within their party.
"Gay and lesbian involvement with presidential campaigns and the American presidency has traditionally been deleted from history and mainstream memoirs, or it has been just sealed in presidential libraries," said Francis, who took an active role in Bush's 2000 presidential campaign after the Austin 12 meeting. "With this gift to UNT, students and researchers will have access to these documents so they may study how gays and lesbians and LGBT advocates interacted with the Bush campaign and the Bush White House and how we failed to make homosexuality a non-issue for the Republican Party. Students and historians will also have the materials to understand how the Austin 12 and the Republican Unity Coalition efforts were redeemed by an optimism for our cause that eventually prevailed as Americans came to support full civil equality for LGBT Americans."
"This collection is significant because it documents a pivotal moment in state and national politics between 2000 and 2004, which had a great and lasting effect on gay Republicans," said Morgan Gieringer, head of special collections at the UNT Libraries. "We anticipate high research interest in this collection from scholars across the country."
This collection will be added to the LGBT Archive at the UNT Libraries. A detailed finding aid for the Francis collection is available online. The collection is open to the public; however, researchers should contact special collections in advance to ensure availability of the collection.