By Pat Sherman/GSD Editor
The founders of fledgling gay conservative group GOProud—in town this month to take advantage of Doug Manchester’s cash and in-kind peace offering—said they had no problem hosting their event at the Manchester Grand Hyatt on July 31.
Prior to their event, GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia and Board Chair Christopher Barron met with Gay San Diego in their Manchester Grand Hyatt suite, paid for with $10,000 in hotel credit from Manchester Financial Group.
LaSalvia and Barron discussed their reason for breaking the “Gay Inc.” boycott against the hotel and for accepting Manchester’s money when other LGBT organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, Equality California and the Log Cabin Republicans—which LaSalvia and Barron left to form GOProud—refused Manchester’s overtures.
A picket of the GOProud event was organized not by members of the LGBT community but by a local labor union, LaSalvia said.
“Even though Mr. Manchester has apologized for his support of Prop. 8 and is funding gay organizations, they’d rather stick with the unions than their own interests,” he said. “We’re talking about the whole coalition of the left. ‘Gay Inc.’ won’t talk about conservative policies that benefit gay people because their coalition partners in the DNC (Democratic National Committee) won’t let them.”
Barron said he believes Manchester sufficiently apologized for his antigay contribution—though not for his opposition to same-sex marriage—and that LGBT people should see this as progress.
“It should be a tremendous victory for the gay community,’” Barron said. “Instead of us embracing a win, the community is out there saying, ‘No, no—it’s not good enough.’
“I’m not a big fan of boycotts,” Barron added. “I can understand at the beginning if the objective was to attempt to get him to change on this—and he did, so why isn’t the gay part of this boycott over?”
Neither LaSalvia nor Barron said he has have met Manchester in person, nor did they recall if he was invited to their event, which Manchester did not attend.
LaSalvia and Barron left the employ of the national gay group Log Cabin Republicans early last year, dissatisfied with the direction the organization was headed.
“We’d had a lot of conversations internally about wanting to change the direction that the organization was headed in and start focusing on the issues that gay conservatives cared about,” Barron said. “Somewhere between 1.3 and 1.7 million openly gay people voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008. That’s a huge number, and the entire time we were at Log Cabin … we couldn’t figure out how come we’re not reaching all these other people. We believe strongly that it was because we weren’t talking about the issues that gay conservatives care about.”
Barron said the LCR has largely the same agenda as progressive, Democratic-leaning LGBT organizations, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“There are lots of organizations doing work on those issues in D.C.,” Barron said. “If you’re a gay person who cares about free market healthcare reform, Social Security reform or tax reform, there was nobody out there working on those issues.”
Instead of “preaching to the choir,” Barron said, gay conservatives should be working with heterosexual legislators on mutually beneficial issues.
“One of our goals is to make the case to gay people that conservative policies and conservative principles are good for the gay community,” Barron said. “Another one of our goals is to convince the conservative movement that gay people can be full partners in the conservative movement and that gay people are conservatives and part of the conservative coalition.
“You know, gay people are not just impacted by ENDA and hate crimes,” Barron said. “In fact, I would argue that ENDA and hate crimes impact almost no one. … . The average gay family … is talking about the special challenges that they face as gay couples with healthcare, with retirement security, with taxes, any number of issues.”
GOProud received some flack when it reached out to fellow conservatives, cosponsoring the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C., which was boycotted by Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Counsel in response to their participation
“We actually had a young man denounce us from the stage at CPAC and that made national news,” LaSalvia chimed. “We attracted a lot of attention.”
GOProud is attracting more attention this month, booking archconservative pundit Ann Coulter to headline its first annual “Homocon” event, Sept. 25 in New York City.
“The gay left has done their best to take all the fun out of politics with their endless boycotts and protests,” Barron wrote on GOProud’s website, following his visit to San Diego. “I can’t think of any conservative more fun to headline our inaugural party than the self-professed ‘right-wing Judy Garland.’”