Monday, July 30, 2012


Proud, gay, marginalized Republicans plan own bash during Tampa convention

 Thursday, July 26, 2012

  • PHOTO:J. Meric/Getty Images, Photo illustration by The Daily

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    GOProud co-founder Jimmy LaSalvia is finding the silver lining despite some of his party’s anti-gay platforms.
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    PHOTO:Samantha Appleton

    R. Clarke Cooper, of the gay group Log Cabin Republicans, salutes President Obama after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Even if you’re not always invited to the party, it’s fun to show up and dance.

That’s what GOProud plans to do in August at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. The organization for gay Republicans is planning to throw a bash at a Tampa nightclub called Honey Pot, a glass-half-full response to a challenging election cycle for what is perhaps the Republican Party’s most marginalized demographic.

Last year, GOProud was disinvited from the Conservative Political Action Conference following two hard-fought years as a participating sponsor, and in March, it lost one of its key champions when conservative online muckraker Andrew Breitbart died of a heart attack. Moreover, there’s still a dearth of openly gay Republicans in Congress, their party’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, supports the Defense of Marriage Act, and a former Romney campaign spokesman resigned this year, after being besieged by anti-gay voices on the right.

Despite the setbacks, GOProud co-founder Jimmy LaSalvia is finding the silver lining these days. The CPAC snub, he said, has “given us the ability to do other things,” such as the convention dance party and a sponsorship role last fall with the Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas. And R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, the country’s oldest gay GOP organization, says gay Republicans still have plenty to crow about. In 2008, 28 percent of self-identified gay voters said they voted for Sen. John McCain; and 31 percent said they voted Republican in the midterm elections two years ago.

“It is a lot easier for a gay Republican to be gay at the Republican National Convention,” Cooper said, noting that openly gay Massachusetts congressional candidate Richard Tisei has received the full backing of the Republican National Committee, while a number of state GOP parties have done away with anti-gay language in their official platforms — something he and LaSalvia both intend to push for at the national level in Tampa.

“What you’re seeing is change occurring across the board in society and business … the Republican Party is experiencing that change and is part of that change,” said Carl DeMaio, another high-profile gay politician who recently won the Republican primary for the San Diego mayoralty.

Despite Romney’s foot-dragging on gay issues, both gay GOP groups say they are in ongoing dialogues with the candidate’s campaign — although neither would specify the frequency or the content of those conversations. They also argue that, since 2008, they have each gained a bigger foothold within the party apparatus.

Cooper boasts that his Log Cabin Republicans have become “go-to technocrats” in Washington.

“The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ wouldn’t pass without us,” said Cooper. “The House votes that were secured and the Senate votes that were secured were from our direct lobbying.”

The Log Cabin Republicans played in 18 races in 2010, and Cooper said the party has asked for its support in roughly 25 races this cycle.

LaSalvia said there are no signs that Obama’s support of gay marriage has destabilized his organization.

“I haven’t gotten a sense that there is anybody who likes Obama any more than they did before,” LaSalvia said. “They are still just as against big government policies of this administration.”

As for the CPAC expulsion, he said he won’t rule out the possibility of returning to the conservative conference one day, but said that for now, “I am grateful for the relationships we have been able to build.”

Still, GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans are bringing some of their own political baggage to Florida.

The Log Cabin Republicans have yet to endorse Romney and may end up deciding not to.

“It is always a possibility,” said Cooper.

The group endorsed John McCain in 2008, and George W. Bush in 2000, but didn’t make any endorsement in 2004. And it ran negative ads against Romney during the 2008 Republican primary. GOProud endorsed Romney last month, but with only the thinnest of majorities, according to the publication Metro Weekly.

Nevertheless, the burden will largely be on Cooper and LaSalvia to demonstrate the GOP’s gay-friendliness at next month’s convention, considering that the party’s precious few high-profile gay politicians are unlikely to show. Tisei’s spokesman said his candidate isn’t planning to attend and DeMaio told The Daily he won’t either.

Fred Karger, the gay rights activist and long-shot Republican presidential primary candidate this cycle, who has been to the previous nine consecutive GOP conventions, says he’s only “50-50” as to whether he’ll attend this one.

PHOTO: Flickr

GOProud co-founder Jimmy LaSalvia is finding the silver lining despite some of his party’s anti-gay platforms.

PHOTO: Samantha Appleton

R. Clarke Cooper, of the gay group Log Cabin Republicans, salutes President Obama after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

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