When we founded GOProud in 2009 people thought we were nuts. We wanted to provide a strong voice for gay conservatives and their conservative allies. We had this crazy idea that you could have a group that represented gay and straight people that was authentically conservative. We had this crazy idea that maybe there was room for one gay group that would talk about the issues that REALLY impact gay Americans–jobs, the economy, taxes, retirement security, and healthcare–and do some from a strongly conservative place.
We set out to challenge conventional wisdom and show the world that all gays aren’t left-wing liberals AND all conservatives aren’t anti-gay homophobes.
We also set out to do it our way.
We learned a lot from a lot of people over our four years at GOProud, but one of the most important lessons we learned was from our late friend and ally Andrew Breitbart. Andrew was a conservative trail-blazer who preached the importance of not ignoring pop culture, Andrew wanted to take the conservative fight to every corner of this country and every medium. Andrew also taught us another valuable lesson. For most of our time in politics were constantly told “you can’t say that,” “you can’t do that,” “you might offend someone,” “what will people think,” and “that’s not the way we do things.” Then along came Andrew Breitbart. Breitbart did it his way–loud, fearless, and in your face. He inspired people like us to forget all of the old rules in politics–speak your mind, fight like hell and don’t waste one second worrying about what other people think about you.
And that is exactly what we did and it is exactly why we were so successful.
There are those who criticized us for being “too controversial”–the truth is the success of GOProud was premised on controversy. Indeed, the very idea of GOProud–a group of gay conservatives and their conservative allies–was controversial.
Like our friend Andrew, and like our friend and ally Ann Coulter, we understood that fighting the conventional wisdom and speaking your truth will always ruffle feathers. We are proud, that over the years, we ruffled a lot of feathers on the left and the right.
Nearly everything we did was innovative and pushed the envelope, and there is a ton of evidence of our success. For instance, one of the first things we did was to champion a proposed concealed carry reciprocity amendment to the infamous federal hate crimes bill in 2009. We said that if you truly want to prevent people from becoming victims of violent crime, then allow them to lawfully defend themselves!
The gay-left was relentless in their attacks on us. We had the audacity to embrace a word that they used as a derogatory term for gay conservatives–‘Homocon.’ That’s what we named our signature annual event, and then liberal heads exploded when we asked Ann to headline our first ‘Homocon’ in New York in 2010.
Later that year, we made history as the first national gay organization to run a television ad against Democrats. Our ad embraced pop culture by parodying ‘The Real Housewives” television show, and we ran it on Bravo and Lifetime to target gay and women voters. Top Washington consultants poo-pooed our strategy, then they were silenced when “The Real Democrats of Washington” ad was rated the best of the 2010 election cycle by Frank Luntz’s focus group on the Hannity Show.
Our 2012 “Homocon” event was at the GOP Convention in Tampa. Did we host a traditional convention reception with wine and cheese and white table clothes? No. In true GOProud style, we rented out the largest gay nightclub in town and our 900+ guests danced the night away as male and female go-go dancers fired off confetti cannons! We showed the country that conservatives are hip and fun!
The most famous of our successes was the “controversy” surrounding GOProud’s sponsorship at CPAC. Over the 3 1/2 years that issue raged, we made many many friends in the conservative movement, Andrew being one of them. Those relationships, from across the movement, confirmed for us that the work we did made an very important contribution toward building a stronger, modern conservative movement that is culturally diverse and connected.
This week the news broke that the new leadership is closing GOProud. We are incredibly proud of the work we did in our four years at GOProud and incredibly honored to have gotten to work side-by-side with so many amazing friends and allies within the conservative movement. For us, the end of GOProud is certainly bittersweet. But the end of the entity is not the end of the mission, nor is it the end of the work that gay and straight conservatives will continue to do to build a stronger movement and a better country.
Chris Barron and Jimmy LaSalvia are the founders of GOProud, formerly a national organization for gay conservatives and their allies.