North Carolina voters will be given the opportunity to vote into office an openly gay Senator next year, should the candidate in question follow through with his current plans.

Democrat Jim Neal, who says he will challenge Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole for the seat, surprised many last weekend when he outed himself during a discussion on liberal blog, BlueNC.com.

At one point, another participant in the discussion asked Neal if he was gay.

The former investment banker’s reply: “I am indeed. No secret and no big deal to me, I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think otherwise.

“I’m not running this race to make some social statement,” he added.

“I’m running to lead in the Senate for the voters in N.C.-something Senator Dole has not done.

“When people meet me, they’ll see beyond the labels and into my character.”

How have people responded so far? Pretty well, if online chatter is any indication. Of the handful of comments made on USA Today’s website, for instance, most were positive.

“Good luck to Jim Neal on his quest, but having been born and raised in the ‘Ole North State’ I can testify that there will be plenty of opposition from homophobes, so-called Christians and hard-core conservatives,” one said.

“This group is terrified that a ‘homosexual agenda’ (whatever the heck that is) will somehow compromise their precious moral high ground in spite of the ‘compassion’ and ‘judge ye not’ edicts directly derived from Christ’s teachings that they so glibly overlook.”

Added another reader: “I don’t care if he is gay or not. I would welcome anyone that can change the politics as usual and start to reclaim the U.S., which we have lost sight of for many years now.”

Bryan Ochalla © 2007 GayWired.com; All Rights Reserved.