Politics

09.05.12

Gay Republicans on Why They Are Anti-Obama

One party has a platform that endorses same-sex marriage while the other’s platform wants to go back to the days of “don’t ask, don’t tell”—so why are some gay activists backing Republicans? Lloyd Grove talks with GOProud about endorsing based on politics, not emotions.

Cognitive dissonance? What cognitive dissonance?

“What I’m concerned about is the same issue that concerns every other American—and that’s ‘How am I gonna survive next week?’—because we’re all living under economic uncertainty,” says gay Republican activist Jimmy LaSalvia, explaining why he prefers the party that wants to curtail his rights over the party that explicitly supports same-sex marriage. “Look, we know Obama’s record, and that’s what people are going to be voting on.”

The 41-year-old LaSalvia, who’s been making the media rounds arguing for the election of Mitt Romney at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, is cofounder and executive director of GOProud, a Washington-based group of conservative homosexuals that he launched in 2009.

“I think that the [Democratic] platform and all the gay speakers and all the good words from the podium, are nice,” he says witheringly, “but it still does nothing to cover up their record on jobs and the economy. Look, we’re not talking about how everybody is going to get rich; we’re talking about basic survival in the country right now. If we stay on the same track, we’re gonna collapse and gay people are gonna be holding up signs that say ‘Will Work For Food’ instead of ‘Just Got Married.’ ”

Conversely, LaSalvia says he’s not terribly bothered by a socially restrictive Republican platform that would federalize a ban on same-sex marriage, reinstate “don’t ask, don’t tell,” allow such groups as the Boy Scouts to legally discriminate against gay people, and is otherwise gay-unfriendly.

“The platform is a piece of paper,” he scoffs as throngs of Obama-loving Democrats lined the sidewalk a few blocks from the Time Warner Cable Arena. “It has no rights or responsibilities. And the day after, candidates from all over the country distance themselves from it.”

Ironically (as though that word is even necessary), LaSalvia has been strolling around the Democrats’ convention city with openly gay political consultant Richard Grenell, who was briefly famous last April when Romney hired him as a foreign-policy spokesman and fired him a week later under pressure from powerful social conservatives in the Republican base. “I said at the time that Governor Romney should have stood up for him,” LaSalvia says. “First of all, I’m not talking about people, I’m talking about policies. Rick Santorum wears sweater vests, and I sometimes wear sweater vests, but I’m not voting for the man.”

As for President Obama’s declaration that same-sex marriage should be legal, LaSalvia says it leaves him cold. “I’m really glad he came around to my position on that,” he says, “but I have to say, it was so blatantly political, I didn’t have an emotional reaction. My reaction was, I’m glad he agrees with me and Dick Cheney on this issue. Now maybe we can get him to agree on free-market health-care reform, on tax reform, entitlement reform, and every other issue.”

“I think that the [Democratic] platform and all the gay speakers and all the good words from the podium, are nice, but it still does nothing to cover up their record on jobs and the economy.”

LaSalvia, an Air Force brat whose father flew long-range B-1 bombers, started working for some losing campaigns, and then left politics in 1996—around the same time he was coming out at age 25. “I went to work for an opera company. I had never been to an opera, but then, I thought, ‘Well, I’m gay now,’ ” he jokes.

He started GOProud as a conservative alternative to the moderate-leaning Log Cabin Republicans, which refused to endorse George W. Bush’s reelection and only tepidly backed John McCain. “We felt gay conservatives needed a voice,” he explains.

LaSalvia does acknowledge that there are factions in the GOP who actively hate gays. “When we do our work within the conservative moment, we’re able to smoke out those people who really don’t like gay people,” he says. “There are a few groups—the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, the American Family Association—who make their living demonizing gay people, and when we do our work with all the other conservative organizations, that just shows them for what they are.”

On the other hand, he’s close friends with right-wing rabble-rouser Ann Coulter, an opponent of same-sex marriage (which LaSalvia believes is a matter for the states anyway) but a supporter of GOProud.

“I love her,” he says. “There’s a reality show on the Logo TV channel called A-List Dallas. There’s one gay conservative member of the cast, and she and I had lunch with him on the season finale.”

Nothing says love like appearing on a reality show together.