In an interview with the Huffington Post Saturday morning, Christopher Barron, co-founder and board chairman of the gay conservative advocacy group GOProud, clearly laid out the group's position vis-à-vis Democrats and what conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart has labeled as, "the activist gay left." "Generally 95% of our hate mail and our criticism comes from the left," says Barron, "the tolerance and diversity crowd on the left has absolutely no tolerance for diversity of ideological views."
This "diversity of ideological views" according to GOProud and Barron, extends to conservative issues not traditionally placed under the banner of "gay rights." "We think gay rights includes taxes and things like the fair tax, and free market health care reform, personal savings accounts and social security and fighting the spread of radical, anti-gay Islam," Barron says, "the left may not like them or think that they're gay rights issues, but we think they are."
When asked why he believed most people, gay and straight, associate gay rights issues with liberals, Barron placed the blame more on messaging than policy. "I don't blame people for thinking that liberals are the only ones who are pro-gay," Barron says, "because there's been no effort before by gay conservatives to stand up and say that there's a different way forward."
Despite popular beliefs on the left-leaning politics of the many gays and lesbians, Barron points to the diverse political make up of the GLBT community as evidence that the conservative message has resonated with them in the past and can do so in the future. "The gay population really isn't monolithic and we see these swings in the gay vote," Barron says, citing that the percentage of gay voters voting conservative has been "as low as 17 or 18 percent in 2004 for President Bush's reelect, all the way up to 31% this past time and in fact, in '94 during the Republican Revolution, it got as high as 40%."
The question of what issues and policies are defined as "pro" or "anti" gay has been key to GOProud's message and what Barron views as the group's ultimate mission. In contrast with many better known gay rights organizations, Barron claims that GOProud is "not looking for fairness and inclusiveness and equality and tolerance and all this." He defines the group's goal as more concrete and more political, saying "we want to make it clear that conservative policy solutions are good for gay and lesbian families [and] that they would improve their everyday lives."
Despite the rising profile of both GOProud and gay conservatives, questions of tolerance and inclusiveness have arisen mainly in regard to conservatives, in the wake of decisions by well-known conservative organizations such as the Family Research Council, Heritage Foundation and Concerned Women for America to boycott CPAC due to GOProud's sponsorship of the event. Here Barron says, it's important to draw a distinction between those, such as conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who have "strong" but "honest" policy disagreements with GOProud, and those who take a "we don't want to be in the same room as the gays" approach. Those conservative groups which do oppose GOProud on anti-gay grounds, Barron says, are "dressing up their position that they don't want us [GOProud] here, in the window dressing of protecting marriage."
When asked about the possibility of common ground between liberal and conservative members of the GLBT community, Barron seemed skeptical, saying "I don't know. The left thinks that common ground is, especially the gay left, 'Here's what we think and we welcome you to come and agree with us.' That's not our idea of common ground." Barron cites the specific example of a lack of Democratic support for allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines, which he says would benefit gay couples in states without strong domestic partner benefits, as evidence of gay liberals "follow[ing] blindly whatever the Democratic Party tells them to do. Why else, Barron asks, "would the gay left oppose something as common sense as that?"