By JOE HARRIS
The late Hunter S. Thompson would have felt comfortable lurking in the wings of Ybor City’s Honey Pot nightclub last Tuesday night, with a surreal, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”-esque vibe to the gay bar and the several hundred Republicans-and-their-besties who had gathered for a night of “booze” (in the words of co-organizer Jimmy LaSalvia, who noted that, “This is the largest event hosted by a gay group at a Republican convention, not that size matters.”) and talking points.
To underscore just exactly who was “coming to dinner” (or in this case, drinks), the RSVP email was clear: “Homocon 2012 is not a clothing optional event! We don’t care what you wear, but you do have to wear clothes.” LaSalvia, who co-founded GOProud, a group for gay conservatives, orchestrated Homocon 2012 to be an evening of strippers (who honestly weren’t all that stripped-down—in deference, I’m sure, to the Romneys, who were just down the road) and party stalwarts. And even if Ann Coulter wasn’t in attendance (as she had been in 2010), former Romney foreign policy spokesman Richard Grenell (who was reportedly squeezed out of his Team Mitt gig because of pressure from social conservatives) was.
LaSalvia’s GOProud is the only gay group thus far to endorse the Romney-Ryan ticket. The larger Log Cabin Republicans have yet to give the running mates their blessing, although the organization’s DC chapter voted last week to endorse the ticket and recommended that the national organization do likewise, with acknowledgment made for the group’s differences with Romney over points of LGBT civil rights, including marriage equality.
But for LaSalvia, it was a Big Gay Tent, with same-sex marriage taking a back seat to matters of economic policy. “Before you can get married, you have to have a date,” noted LaSalvia, perhaps a little too glibly. “And everyone knows you can’t get a date without a job.” In keeping with the upbeat dynamic, LaSalvia—perhaps with diplomacy in his mind—failed to note that GOProud itself was prohibited from attending this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (C-PAC).
There was also no mention made that after the Obama administration announced that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal court, it was Republican House leaders (under Speaker John Boehner) who took up the slack, with gusto and glee (no pun intended). Nor that the 2012 GOP Platform calls for enshrining DOMA as an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, forever defining marriage between a man and a woman.
By way of e x p l a n a t i on—or possibly apologia– Sarah Longwell of Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry told NPR, “Well, the main thing that we want to communicate is that the freedom to marry is really consistent and in line with the conservative ideology of individual liberty, personal responsibility, family, and freedom. And so I think that conservatives tend to respond to that language. They understand that they do want to minimize government’s role in people’s lives, maximize freedom.”
Maybe they’ll be more responsive— and more inclined to “maximize freedom”—in 2016.