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Decision to Come Out as Gay Was ‘A Long, Long Process’ Says Former YDA President

Rod Snyder
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
Aug. 13, 2013, 3:10 p.m.

Dur­ing his three years as pres­id­ent of the Young Demo­crats of Amer­ica, Rod Snyder traveled to Egypt, served as a board mem­ber for the Amer­ic­an Coun­cil of Young Polit­ic­al Lead­ers, and cam­paigned for Pres­id­ent Obama.

But he still had some un­fin­ished busi­ness be­fore he handed over YDA’s reins on Sunday. So, in one of his fi­nal e-mails to the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s more than 150,000 mem­bers last week, Snyder an­nounced he is gay.

“I just real­ized later in life look­ing back, if I hadn’t taken that op­por­tun­ity, “¦ I think some day I would have re­gret­ted that,” Snyder said. He ad­ded that he thought an­noun­cing while he was still with YDA made it “more im­pact­ful.” “I also thought it was im­port­ant to have a West Vir­gini­an stand up and say, ‘ “¦ We have a lot of work to do on this.’ ” 

Snyder, 33, said that com­ing to terms with his sexu­al­ity and de­cid­ing to go pub­lic about it has been “a long, long pro­cess,” but he said his fath­er, West Vir­gin­ia state Sen. Herb Snyder, is a “long­time ad­voc­ate for LGBT rights,” which made the step easi­er for him.

Snyder said the e-mail marks the first time he has pub­licly come out. “My fam­ily has been aware for about a year,” he said, adding that he has also told his closest circle of friends.

Al­though Snyder doesn’t have any im­me­di­ate plans to do LGBT ad­vocacy, he ex­pects op­por­tun­it­ies to come up in the fu­ture. And Snyder, who has nine sib­lings, said that one of his sis­ters has be­come in­volved with LGBT ad­vocacy since he came out to his fam­ily. Snyder called it “a show of sup­port from her that I couldn’t have ex­pec­ted.”

Snyder now works as the pub­lic policy dir­ect­or for the Na­tion­al Corn Grow­ers As­so­ci­ation and has been in­volved in ag­ri­cul­ture policy in Wash­ing­ton since 2002 — a nat­ur­al fit for him, as his moth­er’s fam­ily is made up of dairy farm­ers. He com­mutes daily to the city from his home in Shen­an­doah Junc­tion, W.Va.

In 2004, Snyder fol­lowed in his fath­er’s foot­steps by mak­ing his own of­fi­cial for­ay in­to polit­ics, but he lost his bid for the West Vir­gin­ia House of Del­eg­ates. He was also named as a pos­sible Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate for West Vir­gin­ia’s 2nd Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict seat, which will be open with Rep. Shel­ley Moore Capito run­ning for the Sen­ate in 2014. But Snyder ruled out a House bid, say­ing that he “was a little con­cerned” about be­ing able to “over­come some neg­at­ives” as a na­tion­al-level Demo­crat in a con­ser­vat­ive state like West Vir­gin­ia, where Obama won less than 36 per­cent of the vote last year.

Snyder was elec­ted as YDA pres­id­ent in Ju­ly 2010, after work­ing his way up as pres­id­ent of the West Vir­gin­ia Young Demo­crats from 2007 to 2009 and serving as dir­ect­or of YDA’s mid-At­lantic re­gion. Snyder said when he be­came pres­id­ent, it was “on the tail end of a pretty sig­ni­fic­ant eco­nom­ic down­turn,” and fund­ing had “dried up sig­ni­fic­antly.” Now YDA is back in the black, after be­ing about $300,000 in debt. The group helps pro­mote youth vot­ing across the coun­try, and $300,000 can be a year’s op­er­at­ing budget, Snyder said.

“We ba­sic­ally had to raise money to keep the lights on while also pay­ing down the past debt,” he said.

But Snyder has an­oth­er strong in­terest out­side of polit­ics: He de­scribes him­self, in the same e-mail that caught so much at­ten­tion last week, as a “sing­er-song­writer.” He even au­di­tioned for Amer­ic­an Idol in Au­gust 2004 in Wash­ing­ton, mak­ing it to the “Hol­ly­wood Round,” which in­cluded a trip to Los Angeles. He went on to re­lease a self-pub­lished pop al­bum, titled “Leav­ing Hol­ly­wood Be­hind,” in Ju­ly 2006. But Snyder, who has been singing since he was a child, said that his fo­cus re­mains on polit­ics. “Even with Amer­ic­an Idol, it was very much in the middle of my ca­reer stuff.”

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