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Gun-toting, tax-hating gay conservatives split from moderate gay Republicans -- sign of mainstreaming?

April 15, 2009 |  8:20 am

Gay Republicans, the documentary on the 2004 presidential election when George W. Bush used gay marriage as a wedge issue Perhaps it's a sign of the times.

When even the state of Iowa is signing up for gay marriage, maybe it was inevitable that gay Republicans -- the sacrificial lamb that political guru Karl Rove used to assure George W. Bush's 2004 re-election -- would experience growing pains.

That's just one possible explanation for a new political organization that launched this morning. Called GOProud, the new 527 (tax-exempt) organization promised a traditional conservative agenda to fill what it called a void in gay Republican politics.

"Until today, no organization has stood up for gay conservatives and their conservative allies," said the new organization's director, Jimmy LaSalvia.

That will be news to the granddaddy of the gay GOP movement -- the Log Cabin Republicans, a 30-year-old organization that has pushed for more inclusiveness in the party's politics.

But to hear the GOProud crowd talk, you'd think that advocating against workplace discrimination is somehow wimpy. And if you read the new organization's  manifesto -- advocating repeal of inheritance taxes, fighting against global extremists and defending 2nd Amendment gun rights -- you'll notice an allegiance to President Reagan's core principles.

"There are lots of organizations on the gay left working on issues like hate crimes and federal employment discrimination," said Christopher Barron, GOProud's chairman and a former political director at Log Cabin Republicans. "But there is no organization working on issues like tax equity, free-market healthcare reform, Social Security reform and other traditionally conservative issues.”

All of which bemuses William McGurn, former Bush speechwriter, who wrote in the Wall Street Journal this week about the irony that "it is the gay wing of the Republican Party which is now advocating for a return to the party's Reaganite roots."

The new organization could be a wild card in GOP politics. An estimated 1.5 million gays and lesbians voted for Arizona Sen. John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Would that number have been higher if Palin's name had been on top?

That's what GOProud is counting on. "After two disastrous elections, we are looking ... forward to working with like-minded conservatives across the country to return conservative majorities to the House and Senate and to elect a conservative in the White House in 2012," said Barron.

In the past, support by gay Republicans has caused evangelicals and other hard-core conservatives to block the doors of the Republican Party. But now, with Barack Obama in the White House and the demographic profile of the country leaning Democratic, party leaders are actively reaching out to young and minority voters, installing Michael Steele as RNC chairman, promoting Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on the national stage.

The key question: Has Republican public opinion moved on from the Rove strategy of 2004 when he used gay marriage as a wedge issue to ensure huge turnout among the base -- or will this group too be used as a scapegoat?

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: Cover of Wash Westmoreland's documentary on the 2004 election

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