Last week, I had the opportunity to go to Washington, DC for the Young Republican Leadership Conference. It was great to meet and talk with young people from all over the country who believe in the foundations of limited government, personal responsibility and freedom. In between meeting Congressmen, like Rep. Aaron Schock and Rep. Renee Elmers, on the Capital and participating in trainings provided by the Leadership Institute, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jimmy LaSalvia, co-founder of GOProud, the leading conservative organization for gay conservatives and their straight allies. LaSalvia, originally from Kentucky, has worked on Republican campaigns and party organizations in South Dakota and Kentucky, including serving on the campaign staff of former South Dakota Governor Walter D. Miller. He was also Director of Programs and Policy at the Log Cabin Republicans. In 2009, he and fellow co-founder Chris Barron, decided to form GOProud to “challenge conventional wisdom, smash stereotypes and fight like hell for what we believe in.” As La Salvia puts it, “We are gay and straight Americans who seek to promote freedom by supporting free markets, limited government, and respect for individual rights. We work on the federal level to build strong coalitions of conservative and libertarian activists, organizations and policy makers to advance our shared values. By demonstrating our common ground with others on the right, we can build support for policies that will help to improve the lives of all Americans, including gay Americans.” LaSalvia was welcoming, warm and engaging and agreed to answer a few questions for us here at C4P.
LJ: Being a member of GOProud, you’ve worked with many conservative activists and proponents of the Tea Party (like Tammy Bruce, Andrew Breitbart, etc), so what do you think Tea Party Patriots can do to make sure their message stays forceful and relevant in the national debate and upcoming election?
Jimmy: GOProud was founded in 2009 at about the same time that Tea Party movement was gaining momentum. The message of the Tea Party, a message of limited government and fiscal responsibility, really resonates with our members, and I think that most GOProud folks consider themselves Tea Partiers too. The issue confronting the Tea Party leadership now is that some big government theocrats want to use the Tea Party to push their own agenda – an agenda that has absolutely nothing to do with limited government. The Tea Party movement should not be used as a political football by the culture warriors. The movement has always been – and should remain – focused on restoring Constitutionally limited government.
LJ: Sarah Palin in 2011 appeared to be very supportive of including GOProud at CPAC, saying everyone should be able to provide information and allow for healthy debate so people can make up their own minds about issues. That libertarian streak is why there are many prominent gay conservatives who support her. What are your thoughts on why Sarah Palin continues to be a leading voice in the conservative movement?
Jimmy: Governor Palin is very popular among our members. She is a leading voice in taking on the establishment and challenging the status quo. That’s certainly something that gay conservatives have in common with her. I can’t think of a national political figure who is in a better position to hold the Washington political class accountable and keep the conservative movement focused on rolling back the size and scope of government. I am so glad that she is staying engaged and remains and important voice on the national stage.
LJ: Dan Savage made news recently with his inflammatory anti-Christian comments. What would you say to those conservatives who keep trying to find a path towards supporting and accepting gays, but when confronted with liberals like Savage, find that his kind of rhetoric just confirms their worst fears?
Jimmy: GOProud was the only gay organization in the country to condemn Dan Savage’s anti-Christian tirade last month. His comments did more harm than good to advance gay rights in this country. There is nothing incompatible between being a Christian and believing that all people should be treated equally, and Dan Savage’s attacks on Christianity only fuel those on the extremist fringe who oppose gay rights.
Check out more on GOProud here.