GOProud leader LaSalvia promotes gay-friendly policy
Published: Friday, April 22, 2011
Updated: Friday, April 22, 2011 07:04
Jimmy LaSalvia, co-founder and executive director of conservative gay rights group GOProud, last night outlined his wish for a new "gay conservative agenda" in American politics.
At a talk sponsored by Tufts Republicans, LaSalvia spoke to his conviction of a place for inclusive legislation in the conservative political sphere.
"I know that conservative policies are good for all Americans, and that includes gay Americans," he said, citing GOProud's take on gun control, foreign policy issues, health care, estate taxes, social security and gay marriage — each of which he tied back to their impact on the gay community.
LaSalvia said he was inspired to start GOProud following the 2004 election, in which he said 11 states passed legislation to add state constitutional amendments restricting marriage to heterosexual couples.
"I remembered thinking, ‘That's not very conservative, to write social policy into the Constitution,'" LaSalvia said of the state legislation. "To me, that was the antithesis of conservatism."
LaSalvia and co-founder Christopher Barron officially created the organization in 2009 with the aim of conducting political and policy advocacy for gay conservative communities.
"We developed kind of a new gay agenda," he said. "We decided to build an organization that represents gay conservatives and brings the agenda of gay conservatives to every single issue."
LaSalvia described several conservative policies as discriminatory against gay citizens, citing specifically an estate tax rule that forces same-sex couples to file as individuals instead of receiving the exemptions typically offered to heterosexual married couples.
He similarly criticized rules under the new health care bill that disallows same-sex couples from purchasing joint health care policies.
"The government makes you buy a policy and, as a gay person, you have to buy an individual plan, because as we all know, the government doesn't recognize same-sex couples."
LaSalvia said that, apart from some opposition, GOProud has been largely well received by the Republican Party. Audience members at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February booed a speaker who denounced the group, he said.
Controversy surrounding GOProud's appearance at CPAC has proven beneficial to the organization, LaSalvia said.
"It raised our profile some more, and we started to find more and more friends, people who came to support us," he said.
In response to a question about GOProud support of political candidates, LaSalvia explained that the organization supports traditional conservative candidates while attempting to combat bigotry.
"It's important for us as conservatives to talk about other conservatives when they're wrong," he said.
On the group's stance on gay marriage, LaSalvia said the issue should be delegated to the state level.
"We are a federal organization. We only work on federal issues, so insofar as marriage is concerned, we think that the federal government should have no position on that," he said. "We think that marriage and family law issues should be, as it always has been, decided on the state level."
Senior Daniel Heller was skeptical of LaSalvia's positions.
"I thought that it was cognitive dissonance, claiming to be a gay republican," Heller said after the talk. "I think he was simply saying Republican positions and being a gay person. … He's really not advancing a gay agenda, or a gay rights agenda or rights for gay people at all."
Yet Tufts Republicans President Alexandra de Boutray, a senior, said LaSalvia presented a new direction that the Republic Party may be moving.
"I think the point of this is that you can be gay and you can be conservative," she said.
"It was very interesting to hear the gay and conservative perspective, especially on this campus," Jaime Mendal, a junior who attended the talk, said.