01.15.14 5:24 PM ET
The Gay Conservative Quitting the GOP Over ‘Bigotry’
Eventually even Sisyphus gets tired.
Jimmy LaSalvia is a lifelong conservative activist. He likes low taxes and limited government and refers to the political party that disagrees with these views as the “Democrat” Party. He’s also gay and for years has been leading the fight for a place in the Republican Party for fellow gay conservatives; LaSalvia even started an advocacy group called GOProud when he found the Log Cabin Republicans to be far too liberal. But, on Monday, LaSalvia finally threw in the towel and changed his registration to be an independent. On his blog, he wrote “So, now I feel huge sense of freedom. I am an independent conservative. (That sounds much better than ‘gay Republican.’)”
In an interview with The Daily Beast, LaSalvia explained why he left the GOP. “I came to the realization that the leadership of the Republican Party just doesn’t share my principles and my values” said the conservative activist. “I am a limited government conservative and they’re big government people. I do not tolerate bigotry in any form and they do. So I came to realize that they are wrong and I can’t continue to defend them or to let them stain my reputation any longer.”
LaSalvia went on to cite examples large and small of how the Republican Party had continued to spurn gay conservatives. He noted big issues like social conservative Ken Cuccinelli becoming the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee in Virginia in 2013 and as a Romney campaign “paralyzed with fear of anti-gay forces in the party.” LaSalvia also cited more small-bore examples as well, including that he was given possibly the worst seat available at the 2012 convention, “way up in the upper deck and behind the stage.” He didn’t seem to quite mind the location but avoiding sitting there, for fear someone would write a story about “where they sat the gays.”
The saddest thing for LaSalvia was that he had so much hope for the GOP after the 2012 election. In the aftermath of Romney’s loss, the RNC commissioned an autopsy to study what went wrong and to make fixes so the GOP could win the future. But the former GOProud head found that while the Republican Party was taking some positive steps, “the one thing that they are not doing is addressing the bigotry in their ranks, they continue to tolerate it.”
Now, the former Republican activist is planning to continue his work as an independent. He touted statistics that 42% of Americans identify with neither of the two major political parties and was overwhelmed by the positive response he had received. In LaSalvia’s opinion, “most people are turned off by both parties. The left wing of Democrat Party simply doesn’t live in reality and the Republican Party is tolerant of bigotry and that just isn’t acceptable to most Americans.” He thought that he could continue to work with people who shared his beliefs outside the two party system. He did caveat this by noting that this didn’t make him a centrist——after all, he still insisted that he was a limited-government conservative and that most Americans are right of center. LaSalvia simply wasn’t a Republican anymore.
Yet, through his hope and optimism about his new role as an independent and the outpouring of support he received, LaSalvia still seemed hurt that it had come to this. “I’ve spent my whole career working to create an atmosphere where gay conservatives be open and honest about how they are and work within the conservative movement” he reminisced. “Straight conservatives can publically support gay Americans and civil marriage for gay couples and I thought that accomplishing that would help to melt the bigotry and make it unacceptable. The truth is it has not happened fast enough and it’s too late.”