Jimmy LaSalvia, who runs gay conservative group GOProud, attended a College Republicans event to debate and discuss the future of gays in the GOP.
Temple College Republicans President Barry Scatton first met Jimmy LaSalvia on Feb. 18 at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington D.C. During a speaking event, Ryan Sorba, of the California chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, condemned CPAC for inviting GOProud, a gay conservative organization for which LaSalvia is executive director.
“Jimmy’s organization GOProud was the first gay conservative organization ever invited to CPAC so we thought it was important to get in touch with him,” Scatton, a senior political science major, said. “We wanted to make sure he felt welcomed at the conference, and we also wanted him to know that there are Republicans who support gay issues.”
Last Tuesday, TCR hosted LaSalvia as a guest speaker on Main Campus.
Despite a small turnout, the event drew individuals, gay and straight, from all ends of the political spectrum to discuss political ideology and policy and sexual orientation.
“Our purpose is to serve as a voice on the federal level for the gay conservatives in this country, bringing our unique perspective to the debates,” LaSalvia said of GOProud.
GOProud came out of the gay Republican organization Log Cabin Republicans, which had a network of local chapters around the country, but has had no national executive director for about 15 months. When LaSalvia and a few members were no longer working for LCR, they formed GOProud.
The TCR event featuring LaSalvia addressed many issues surrounding gay rights and the Republican party. Topics ranged from GOProud’s stance on transgender issues — a population it doesn’t mention specifically, but still supports — to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and hate crimes legislation, to the future of gays in the Republican party.
At the event, LaSalvia said the battle for gay rights is a question of priorities.
“The premise of my whole discussion and the premise of the existence of our organization is that HRC and the gay left don’t speak for everyone,” he said. “Their priorities aren’t necessarily the priorities of everyone in the gay community.
“If the No. 1 issue for gay and lesbian voters was hate crimes and ENDA, then 1.3 million gay people would not have voted for John McCain, because he did not support those pieces of legislation,” LaSalvia added.
LaSalvia explained most gay conservatives would argue that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the policy banning gay and lesbian military members from serving openly, should be a higher priority as opposed to ENDA and hate-crimes legislation, which he said affects relatively few people. He cited bigoted employers looking for loopholes to fire gay people, and hate crime cases being prosecuted as reasons for this sentiment.
This drew criticism from junior political science major Donald Hopkins, who said this was a lack of knowledge and awareness of queer needs, especially for those of low incomes.
“If there is a place for queers in the Republican party, it’s an invitation only extended to wealthy gay people,” he said. “I can’t help but feel to a certain degree that this is a politically cynical attempt to get queer people to support traditional extreme right Republican positions.”
TCR member and freshman journalism major Shauna Mulligan said a majority of Republicans are too socially conservative to back gay rights.
“I think a true supporter of ‘small government’ would realize that a government that tells people who to marry is a government with a scary amount of control,” she added. “I hope that someone like Jimmy, who not only sees this but lives it, can help open the minds of those within the Republican party and possibly change the minds of those outside of the party that see all Republicans as homophobic bigots.”
“The Republican party can no longer ignore these issues and it is only through collaborating with organizations like GOProud that we will get Republican politicans to take gay issues seriously,” Scatton said.
“I think the overriding message that I can say to straight voters and straight political activists, particularly conservatives, is to remember that there are gay people who agree with you,” LaSalvia said. “When there is anti-gay rhetoric and politics being played, it’s their responsible to stand up and call it out when they see it, so we can move out of the politics of division.”
Josh Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.