“I’m embarrassed to call myself a Republican right now,” Jimmy LaSalvia, co-founder and president of the gay conservative group GOProud, said at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., on Thursday. The gay Republican was referring to GOProud’s exclusion from participation at CPAC for a second year in a row, banned as an official sponsor. LaSalvia attended CPAC as a guest of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a sponsor of CPAC which hosted a panel Thursday on which LaSalvia appeared, “A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition, Bringing Tolerance Out of the Closet.”
At the packed panel, attended by younger CPAC members, including quite a few conservative gays and lesbians, conservative commentators and activists on the panel who support marriage equality, including CNN pundit Margaret Hoover and Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, made the case for gay marriage as a conservative value. Earlier in the day Senator Marco Rubio, criticized those who would call him a “bigot” for not supporting same-sex marriage, underscoring the tension the issue continues to cause among conservatives. LaSalvia, for his part, however, agreed with Rubio, making a similar statement during the panel discussion and getting applause from the audience. (Scroll down to listen to the full interview)
“It’s truly about what people think conservatives think of gay people,” LaSalvia said in an interview on my SiriusXM radio program. “Kicking us out of CPAC doesn’t help. People aren’t going to vote for you if they think you hate their family and friends.”
“How do we have a winning coalition in the future, in a world that has gay people in every single family,” LaSalvia continued, a day before GOP Senator Rob Portman reversed his position and came out for marriage equality because his son had come out as gay. “It’s broader than marriage equality. It's about, 'Do you support my loved ones?' I think that a lot of the establishment leaders are out of touch with America and with their own base. There are a few folks in the establishment that don’t like gay people.”
Asked why GOProud endorsed candidates like Mitt Romney, who supported an constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, said that was old news.
“Mitt Romney is as relevant as Mike Dukakis is now,” he said. “So let’s not talk about the past. I know that it’s embarrassing to call yourself a Republican right now. I’m embarrassed to call myself a Republican right now. The question is, 'Are we going to be able to build new coalition that can win, that includes gay people, or not? Are they going to become the Dixiecrats or are they gong to go on and win elections?'”
Listen to the interview with LaSalvia below: