David Badash

In CPAC's Conservative Circus, Are Gays The High-Wire Act?

Filed By David Badash | February 24, 2010 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Clayton Morris, conservative politics, CPAC, Fox News, gay Republicans, Jason Mattera, Jimmy LaSalvia, marriage equality, Mike Pence, Republicans, Ryan Sorba, Steve King, Tucker Carlson

Last week was the perfect storm of Conservative carnival cacophony.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Children of All Ages...." should have been the rallying cry, starting on Valentine's Day, when homophobe Tucker Carlson did a spot with Clayton Morris of "Fox And Friends," discussing a new right-wing "study." It went like this:

Carlson: "College students are more liberal... on certain social issues, gay marriage, abortion, capitalism... College students become more liberal after four years of college -- we know that."

Morris: "And so, what is the answer, how do we fix this, if degrees are making graduates more likely to support same-sex marriage, abortion... How do you fix this?"

How do you "fix" the fact that facts makes people smarter and less ignorant? I don't know. How do you take back smart and install stupid?

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!

Then, on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. the Cato Institute, that self-described libertarian think-tank that is funded by billionaire Progressive (?) George Soros, yet boasts Fox's Tucker Carlson as a Senior Fellow, hosted an event called, "Is There a Place for Gay People in Conservatism and Conservative Politics?" It featured a debate which pitted Andrew Sullivan against Maggie Gallagher (though, not long enough!) and a speech by gay British MP Nick Herbert (also not long enough).

Herbert, a Conservative, actually shared that in British politics, gay has become OK, and boasted that their conservative party will have more openly-gay elected officials than their liberal party. (Anyone feel like moving?)

But the "really big shew," the "big top" (although certainly not a "big tent," as the Log Cabin Republicans thought was coming) was CPAC -- the 37th annual Conservative Political Action Conference. And boy, did they put on a show.

From homophobe Jason Mattera, who mocked the halls of liberal educational institutions, proclaiming a "feminist new black man" is "a crossover between RuPaul and Barney Frank," to homophobe (and domestic-violence restraining order recipient) Ryan Sorba, the man who for years has been claiming to be writing a book titled after his lecture, the "Born Gay Hoax," who denounced the entire conference for allowing a gay Republican group to co-sponsor the event (and was booed!) to homophobe Rep. Mike Pence's call for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, to homophobe Rep. Steve King, who has tried to repeal his state of Iowa's same-sex marriage law, and who actually included not only (the expected) "Liberals and Progressives" as the "enemies of America," but "Che Gueverians, Castroites, Socialists, Trotskyites, Maoists, Stalinists, Leninists," and, wait for it... yes, Marxists too, the call rang out loud and clear: if you're queer, get out of here.

But the promise of hate speech like that -- unsurprising from the CPAC crowd -- didn't stop GOProud, Jimmy LaSalvia's new gay Republican group, from showing up. Although months ago Liberty Counsel threatened to pull out if GOProud pulled into town, they stayed.

Gay blogger "Gay Patriot," was at CPAC too. He claimed he was welcomed with open arms (Ryan Sorba, Mike Pence, Tucker Carlson, Jason Mattera, Steve King, Tom Tancredo, et al, not withstanding) by the CPAC conference.

Now, I'm sure GayPatriot thinks he was welcomed, just as I'm sure Jimmy LaSalvia thinks he was welcomed. And I'm sure the more libertarian attendees there did welcome them. But they're not the CPAC base. This is the CPAC base. Tell me who among the list of co-sponsors or exhibitors would support us, support repeal of DOMA and DADT, support passage of ENDA? Pretty much nobody.

It's clear the majority of America's right-wing hates the LGBTQ community. So what do we do? I, for one, have been calling them out on their lies, hatred, and disgusting accusations full-time for well over a year now.

To be honest, I have a hard time with the idea of anyone in our community supporting that part of America -- in this case, CPAC -- that hates the LGBTQ community. And I'm very comfortable classifying their overall treatment of the LGBTQ community as "hate." I'm also very comfortable classifying their treatment of the LGBTQ community as "oppression."

(Let's not forget, David Mixner calls the federal government's treatment of the LGBTQ community "Gay Apartheid.")

As a matter of fact, it turns out, gays do think Republicans hate us. Just a few weeks ago in the wake of the Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll which found, for instance, that 77% of Republicans think same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry, I took a poll. 47% of respondents believe "Republicans hate us," while an additional 41% said, "hate is too strong a word, but essentially, yes."

So, while the Democratic party hasn't lived up to its obligation or promises, we certainly have more to gain selectively supporting Democratic politicians than Republican ones. (And let's not forget the 39 steps the Obama administration and the DNC have taken against the LGBTQ community!)

But what do you do when "they" are actually "us?"

Many of us have been struggling with our relationship with gay Republicans for some time now. I've given it a lot of thought and have decided this.

First, there's enough evidence to suggest that, just as people are born, not made, gay or straight or bi or trans, so are Republican and Democrats. Yes, biology plays a large role in which way we lean politically. So, it's equally unfair to ridicule someone for being gay as it is for being Republican. And I suppose it could be very hard being a gay Republican.

On Twitter, I had a productive conversation with blogger and CPAC attendee GayPatriot. Here's an excerpt:

davidbadash: .@GayPatriot How you can support the very organization that thinks who you are is a threat to the American family is beyond me.

GayPatriot: @davidbadash There is no one here at CPAC trying to write me out of the Constitution. They are being open, kind & friendly.

davidbadash: .@GayPatriot So, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is friendly?

GayPatriot: @davidbadash I'm getting a better reception at CPAC than I EVER have with my gay friends or at gay-centric events. TRUTH.

Perhaps. Though what some say to your face and then behind your back can often be different, as Jimmy LaSalvia found with NOM.

But I believe it's critical that the LGBTQ community does not take the wrong stance, or think that the tide has turned, and that CPAC, the GOP, the RNC, or Republicans or conservatives in general support us.

Here's what happens when we make that mistake:

Jimmy LaSalvia and his GOProud group strongly endorsed then-candidate for Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. On February 5, just days after taking office, McDonnell slashed gays out of that state's anti-discrimination policy.

So, did we gain anything by GOProud and GayPatriot (and other gay bloggers, like Chris Geidner) being at CPAC? Well, I don't know.

Geidner, who blogs at Law Dork, and now writes for D.C.'s MetroWeekly, this week, in, "A Gay New Yorker in the CPAC Court," quoted Craig Held, an openly-gay New York City college student who went to CPAC:

''...I think the reaction to GOProud has been good. I think the Republican Party is definitely going in a more open direction. I think they've realized they need to stop alienating people,'' he said, ''Being gay doesn't mean you can't be a Republican. True conservatism is for individual rights; it has nothing to do with gay marriage - with not allowing gay marriage.

''I think that's the direction the Party need to go in. And, I think it's slowly getting there. Baby steps."

Bruce Carroll writing at Bretibart calls this year's CPAC a "Milestone Weekend for Gays," and says:

"Last week at CPAC we saw the many years of work by dedicated conservative gays and lesbians standing up for their values and the principles of freedom and liberty finally pay off. There was a tipping point for gays in America last week at CPAC. It happened because they have been coming out to their parents, friends and relatives over time... as American conservatives who just happen to be gay."

I'm not so sure. There's too much hate there for me to agree. Maybe that's starting to slowly change. Only 1% of CPAC straw poll voters chose "stopping gay marriage" as their top political issue. But those voters were mostly the 18-25 set, only 2395 of CPAC's reported 10,000 attendees, and they're also the ones who gave Ron Paul the landslide win as their choice to be the next Republican presidential nominee.

But here's what I do know.

On the road to full equality, there are many vehicles. Maybe which ever arrives first is the right one, but we have no idea which will be the one that brings us into the future. Maybe, collectively, we need to ride them all. If gay Republicans want to hang out with other Republicans, maybe, just maybe, it will help us change hearts and minds a little. We can't afford to eliminate anyone who might help us win equality. (Not sending them money until they start voting for us, however, is the right thing to do!)

There are many roads to reach our success. I will not fight anyone for trying. I will for not.


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As an LGBT person and member of a minority religion I have always considered education to be my biggest friend in this world.

Representative King just announced that the UK and Spain are enemies Of America....Guess that I am an enemy alien now...

You see, both nations have socialist governments.

Isn't it human nature to have discomfort regarding groups of individuals we have been told negative things about? In my opinion, in many cases once individuals have interaction with and see members of the LGBT community as people their viewpoints are changed.

They call themselves "Homocons". If that doesn't tell you all you need to know about gay conservatives, an entire book won't.

People are Republicans for a number of reasons, and being gay only changes a couple of them. If, at some point in the future, people are generally ok with LGBT people, we'll generally go back to conservatism at the same rate as society in general.

I think the Dems know that, which might be why they are reticent to bring about that time.

I think it's intellectually lazy to suggest people are born liberal or conservative. Almost everything about us is a combination of nurture and nature. The Nurture vs Nature debate is over. We know it's a combo.

I'm not liberal because I'm gay or any inborn thing. But because I have seen the evils of class.

Liberals want to get rid of classes that divide us--gender classes, race classes, economic classes.

It should not be surprising that most LGBTs are liberal because as a community we blur class boundaries all over the place. We are propelled to the left because we turn class into community.

Conservatives think of class as the building blocks of society. They believe getting rid of classes will cause anarchy and lead to the fall of society. I don't think they are necessarily evil for thinking this...just wrong.

That is the root difference between liberal and conservative. And you might think, well any gay person has witnessed how class structures can be oppressive...well no, we all haven't.

I'll bet you that most conservative gays don't think of they're gayness as a class, but only as an individual trait. So when they're marginalized, they don't process it as having been marginalized because they're in a class, but because of an individual trait. Most of them are comfortably white and upper class. So they've mostly benefited from the class structure as is.