GOProud Seeks Audience with Bachmann

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday July 19, 2011

Gay conservative group GOProud says it would like a meeting with anti-gay politician Michele Bachmann in order to address controversial statements about GLBT Americans that Bachmann and her husband, Marcus Bachmann, have made, CNN reported on July 18.

GOProud, CNN noted, "supports traditional conservative issues such as limited government, lower taxes and a strong foreign policy." But the group is controversial among the GLBT community for its support of politicians and other personalities perceived as anti-gay, such as GOP presidential nomination hopeful Herman Cain and Ann Coulter, who delivered the keynote speech at "Homocon," a GOProud event that took place last September.

GOProud has also praised Bachmann for her political positions, but recent scandals surrounding the candidate have prompted the gay group to seek the meeting.

"We intend to discuss the issues that gay conservatives are concerned about," GOProud co-founder and Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia told CNN.

According to GOProud, gay conservatives share many of the same concerns as their heterosexual counterparts: Limited government, reductions in federal spending, and the scrapping of President Obama's version of health care reform for something more palatable to conservatives.

But GOProud also works toward full legal equality for GLBTs -- in theory, at least. Among the group's other points is an opposition to the recurring proposition of amending the U.S. Constitution in a manner that would place marriage equality out of reach of gay and lesbian families, and strip marriage from same-sex couples living in the six states, and the District of Columbia, where marriage equality is currently legal.

As Bachmann's prominence has grown in a crowded field of GOP hopefuls for the nod to run against President Obama in next year's campaign, her legislative history has become more of an issue. As a Wisconsin state senator, Bachmann backed an amendment to that state's constitution to bar marriage equality, and adopted much of the standard rhetoric that accompanies the anti-gay marriage position.

"If we allow this to happen, group marriage, polygamy, and much worse would not be far behind," Bachmann claimed. She also stated that schoolchildren would be forced to learn about homosexuality in the classroom.

"In our public schools, whether they want to or not, they'll be forced to start teaching that same-sex marriage is equal, that it is normal and that children should try it," she declared.

Bachmann also opposed domestic partnerships and GLBT-inclusive anti-discrimination measures during her tenure in the Wisconsin state senate. Moreover, Bachmann made the claim, according to openly gay Wisconsin State Sen. Scott Dibble, "that being gay is a choice."

Comments made by Bachmann's husband Marcus have also reached the mainstream media. Last year, Marcus Bachmann told a Christian radio program that gays are the "barbarians" who threaten America, and added that gays need "discipline" and "action steps" rather than to be granted legal parity.

The Bachmanns own Christian counseling clinics in which so-called "reparative therapy" allegedly takes place. This is a modality that purports to "cure" gays as though homosexuality were some sort of disease. Mental health professionals have condemned the practice, saying that it can do far more harm than good.

Michele Bachmann was also the first GOP hopeful to sign on to a 14-point campaign pledge issued by an extremist Iowa group. The pledge contained numerous anti-gay clauses, including a suggestion that gays "choose" their sexual orientation and are a threat to public health. The mainstream media seized on another portion of the pledge, however; a passage that insinuated that African American children born into slavery were better off than they are today.

Bachmann was joined by another anti-gay politician, Rick Santorum, in signing the pledge. Santorum famously derided lifelong commitments between same-sex couples as the equivalent of "man on dog" sex.

Other GOP contenders refused to sign the extremist group's agenda, however, with Bachmann's fellow front-runner Mitt Romney's camp dismissing it as "undignified and inappropriate," according to a July 13 Associated Press story.

Despite all that, LaSalvia -- who was himself the victim of an anti-gay assault on July 15 -- told CNN that on many fiscal issues, Michele Bachmann's positions align with those of GOProud.

"I certainly agree with Michele Bachmann on a lot of stuff," LaSalvia said. "She's absolutely dead right when it comes to the situation our country is in now and the need to put our fiscal house in order."

But fiscal policy may be the only area of overlap between GOProud and Bachmann. In a debate in New Hampshire last month, Bachmann offered the contradictory message that she supports both the right of states to decide marriage issues for themselves, and an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would supersede all state laws, ban marriage equality across the nation, and dissolve existing same-sex marriages.

Not Homophobic -- Just Anti-Gay Equality

LaSalvia acknowledged that Bachmann's stance on marriage departs sharply from his own, but added that he would hope to sway the politician with a face-to-face meeting at which he could express to her is personal experience as a gay man in America.

"I happen to be gay and I have an understanding of the experience of a gay person," LaSalvia told CNN. "I would welcome the opportunity to discuss that and many other things with her."

Personal friends have said that the Bachmanns are not homophobic, and Michele Bachmann herself has claimed in speeches supporting anti-gay measures that she does not support those measures out of anti-gay animus.

However, Bachmann has also said that gays lead "very sad" lives and suggested that being gay is a "lifestyle" choice. Mental health professionals and gay individuals themselves say otherwise: They insist that being gay is natural, and an innate part of them as people.

LaSalvia suggested that voters might eventually reach a more nuanced view of Bachmann and her positions.

"I think we'll get a much better sense of who ... Michele Bachmann is, as this process unfolds," LaSalvia said. "You know, she hasn't talked about this much."

The CNN article said that a Bachmann spokesperson indicated the congresswoman would take GOProud's invitation to meet under consideration.

GOProud stood by Herman Cain last month when the businessman and nomination hopeful told CBS News that being gay is a "sin" and a "choice."

"I believe homosexuality is a sin because I'm a Bible-believing Christian," Cain said, upon being asked his opinion. "But I know that some people make that choice. That's their choice. And I believe it is a choice."

GOProud chairman Christopher Barron echoed the sentiments of many gays when he blogged on the matter at his site Red Barron on June 9.

"Am I pleased with this answer?" wrote Barron. "No. Do I agree with Mr. Cain? No. I know being gay isn't a choice and I know it firsthand. I also do not believe that homosexuality is a sin. Does any of this change how I feel about Herman Cain? Not at all.

"The bottom line is that Herman Cain's personal position on whether being gay is a sin or a choice has no bearing on whether the policies he supports would be good for gay and lesbian Americans."

Barron went on to write, "Herman Cain supports repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a market based solution that would lower costs across the system, empower individuals and increase the gay people's access to insurance policies that offer domestic partner benefits."

Barron also defended Cain on the grounds of his views on Muslim extremism.

"Herman Cain hasn't been shy about speaking out about the need to confront and stop the spread of radical Islam -- a barbaric ideology that brutalizes women, religious minorities and gays," Barron wrote.

"For the gay left none of this will matter," added the GOProud leader. "All that matters is the group hug. For the gay left, it isn't important whether the policies pursued by a candidate or a party actually improve the lives of gay people, all that matters is that they get the pat on the head -- the assurance that they are ok.

"I don't need the group hug, nor do I need affirmation from the government that I am ok. What I need is a President and a Congress that will pursue policies that will make life better for me and my family," Barron stated.

GOProud also excited controversy when the group invited conservative personality Ann Coulter to serve as keynote speaker at the inaugural "Homocon" last September.

WorldNetDaily dropped Coulter from its own event for agreeing to speak at HomoCon. The WND event, called "The Taking America Back National Conference," was slated to include speakers such as Alan Keyes and Tom Tancredo, as well as assorted comedians, talk radio personalities, and a home-schooling advocate. The event's land-based activities were scheduled to be followed by a weeklong Caribbean cruise.

When WorldNetDaily dropped Coulter -- who had been touted as the "Taking America Back" keynote speaker -- for agreeing to appear at the gay event, a war of words ensued between Coulter and WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah. Farah questioned Coulter's conservative bona fides; Coulter called Farah a "swine."

Few were surprised when Coulter took the chance to address Homocon attendees with a litany of anti-gay positions, including the statement that, "Marriage is not a civil right. You're not black."

GOProud stood by Coulter in the ensuing criticism.

"I don't agree with Ann Coulter about gay marriage, but there was a real conversation here," said LaSalvia. "That's what we're trying to start. We want people to see that it isn't 'us versus them.' "

"We did not invite Ann Coulter to speak at Homocon 2010 because we believe she has 'evolved,' " Barron stated. "Quite the contrary, we invited Ann Coulter because of who she is, who she has been, and who we know she will continue to be--the smartest, funniest, most provocative conservative author and columnist around. If anyone needs to evolve, it's the uber-PC gay left and their enablers, not Ann Coulter."

Barron also had a message for left-wing gays, reportedly tweeting, "Dear Gay Left -- save your 'outrage' over Homocon. We could give a shit what you think."

LaSalvia found himself the victim of an anti-gay assault on July 15, the Washington Blade reported in a July 18 article. LaSalvia was riding his bicycle when he passed by a group of six or seven young African American men. One of them nearly knocked LaSalvia to the ground, calling him a "Fucking faggot," the Blade reported.

"I was on my bike when I approached them," LaSalvia emailed the publication. "Just as I got up to them, the assailant lunged off the sidewalk toward me on the street and delivered a punch across my chest. The momentum of my bicycling driving me into his fist and arm caused a shocking pain like I've never felt before."

LaSalvia went on to describe how the assailant hurled an anti-gay slur at him.

"Just as I began to realize what was happening, I heard it. The words are still ringing in my ears as I write this today -- 'F____ faggot!,' " LaSalvia added. "It was clear to me in that moment that my sexual orientation had motivated this attack."

LaSalvia reached into his backpack for his cell phone and the youths ran off, fearing that he had a gun.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.