A gay Republican may seem like a contradiction in terms to some, but four public figures said that they have no trouble identifying with being both.
They discussed their experiences as conservatives in a predominantly liberal gay community during a panel discussion sponsored by the Princeton LGBT Center in McCormick Hall on Monday.
We have been called selfish and self-hating, said University of Minnesota law professor Dale Carpenter, who specializes in civil rights and civil liberties. My first reaction was anger. Many of us have devoted much of our time to the cause of ending discrimination.
Some of the discrimination, however, comes from an unlikely source.
James Kirchick, an assistant editor for The New Republic, said he has experienced more hostility in social settings from other members of the gay community than he has from conservatives.
They compare us to Jewish Nazis, he said.
The upcoming election was a pressing topic during the discussion, and most of the panelists said they had strong hopes for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., because he may be the best candidate gay Republicans have had in years.
John McCain is the most pro-gay GOP presidential candidate that we have ever had, though I realize that is not a very competitive category, Carpenter said.
The panelists said they placed more emphasis on other factors when deciding on a candidate, though, because of both candidates official platforms.
John McCain may not support gay marriage, but neither does [Sen. Barack] Obama [D-Ill.], Kirchick explained.
Though conservatives arent known for fighting for gay rights, the panelists said that they felt there was much more worth fighting for as a Republican.
I hate that our government spends so much money on stupid stuff, said Jimmy LaSalvia, director of programs and policy for Log Cabin Republicans, an organization of LGBT Republicans. John McCain isnt where I want him to be [on] a lot of stuff, but I cant support Barack Obama because there are so many issues he wont follow through on.
The panelists also noted that many people have trouble wrapping their minds around the idea of a gay Republican.
Its just how I am; its just me, LaSalvia explained. It wasnt a conscious decision to be either, gay or conservative. I knew from a young age that I was gay, and as I grew up, I realized I was conservative. Its just how I turned out.
The panelists also noted that people tended to associate gay people with more liberal views.
The fact that I differed on opinions such as the war in Iraq and was still gay seemed to bewilder people, Kirchick added.
Though gay conservatives remain a puzzling minority to many, LaSalvia said that their opinions add to the public discourse and sometimes help secure additional rights for homosexuals.
I can use my conservatism to win equality for gay people, LaSalvia said. I think a lot of gay conservatives help humanize other conservatives to gay people. Were bridge builders.
Chris Douglas '88, who founded the Indiana chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, added that gays have a very important role in the Republican Party. The more gays abandon the Republican Party, the more damage I think is done.
Some students who identified themselves as strongly liberal said they attended the discussion to try to better understand the conservative political views within the gay community.
Im liberal, and as far as this election goes, I wanted to know what would make someone who is gay vote for John McCain, Thanithia Billings, a sophomore, said. The panel didnt rally answer the question for me, but it was interesting to see their point of view.