GOProud co-founders Chris Barron and Jimmy LaSalvia spoke at the International Students for Liberty Conference this morning in back-t0-back sessions, “Homocons: The Rise of the New Gay Right” and “Why Does the Left hate gay people?”
I doubt the left would agree.
The two sessions really went hand-in-hand, the first being Barron and LaSalvia’s personal experiences “coming out” as a conservative and why the left no longer has a monopoly on the gay vote. But it was the “Why Does the Left hate gay people” session which got to the real reasons why the left shouldn’t have a monopoly on the gay vote.
Barron and LaSalvia are great in front of a crowd—they’re both charismatic and engaging and have an ability to connect with an audience filled with college aged-students. They used a chart, which was extremely helpful to see where they were going with their points. Though the sessions were fairly well attended, I was surprised the room wasn’t more full.
The theme wasn’t necessarily that the left hates gay people, but that they aren’t focusing on the big picture. Barron stated, “the left takes on ‘feel good issues’ that only impact a small group of people.” Both he and LaSalvia agree the bigger issues gay conservatives are concerned with are ones the gay left generally ignores: taxes, healthcare, the debt problem and foreign policy.
“The greatest threat to gay people is the spread of radical, fundamentalist Islam,” LaSalvia said matter-of-factly, when discussing foreign policy. He went onto explain how gay people are treated within radical, fundamentalist Islam and it’s not a pretty picture. Gay men are being killed simply for being gay. The left has been largely silent on that. Barron cited President Obama’s “A New Beginning” Speech in Cairo as an example. There was no mention in the President’s remarks about gay people being killed for being gay.
Barron and LaSalvia talked about the tax code being the largest single inequality that exists, that “gun rights are gay rights” (a direct quote from LaSalvia) and that the left’s tactics on bullying, namely the It Gets Better project, are ineffective. Barron agrees the videos are a nice idea, but they don’t actually stop bullying. They advocated giving parents a choice to pull their children out of schools where they’re being bullied to either homeschool or use vouchers to send them to school elsewhere. Again, the left is silent on this, they claim, due to their strict loyalty to the teacher’s unions.
When they turned to the audience for Q&A, Barron fielded the inevitable question about supporting GOP candidates that have a quite harsh stance on homosexuality. Though Rick Santorum’s name was never uttered, everyone in the room knew precisely what candidate they were talking about. Barron has publicly stated he doesn’t believe Santorum will actually win the nomination, and today voiced he’s a fan of former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. But Barron explained you have to look at ALL of the issues and “gay issues” also include taxes, healthcare, social security and the like.
The question of civility came up–specifically if they (Barron and LaSalvia) believe it’s missing in today’s society. Barron responded bluntly, saying civility isn’t much of a concern and you have to be loud enough to get through the 24 hour news cycle, even if it means ruffling some feathers. “I want to see policy changes, I want to see the lives of gay people improved, I want to win, ” he said simply.
Summing up their goals was LaSalvia, “We want to show that not all conservatives are bigots.”