Introduced as the brave and persistent man who could “save the Republican party from itself,” openly gay conservative Jimmy LaSalvia spoke to students on Wednesday night about the future of his party.
He called for a new conservative coalition of youth to take over with conservative ideals using a “live and let live” ideology.
LaSalvia made it known that gay Republicans exist, even if they are thought of as the unicorns of politics. These unicorns, he said, are fighting to let gay people in on the conservative conversation and teach others that one’s sexual orientation does not mandate them to a specific party.
The lecture hall at the Wang Center was filled to capacity with audience members—political science majors, College Democrats and LGBT club members, among others—standing in the back of the room and sitting on the staircases along the sides.
LaSalvia was born in the red state of Kentucky and spent his childhood living on air force bases with his military family. He grew up during the Cold War era and was greatly influenced by Republican president Ronald Reagan. While attending college at Black Hills State University in South Dakota, he became involved with the College Republicans and local politics.
“Mountain west conservatism is something that really resonated with me—limited government, limited regulation, fiscal responsibility and individual responsibility,” LaSalvia said.
When LaSalvia began to understand and accept his sexual orientation in the 1990s, he realized that the Republican Party did not have a place for people like him, even if he did agree with many of their fundamental beliefs.
Throughout the lecture, he made many of his political stances known, including sharing that he is pro gun, pro life, against premarital sex, pro gay marriage, pro school choice/homeschooling and pro eliminating the estate tax.
“I have never not been a conservative,” he said. “I was out of a job because I was coming out, but that did not change my ideology.”
After taking a break from politics in 2004, he began working as an activist with the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative group who fights for equality for the LGBT community. LaSalvia is also a co-founder for the GOProud Organization for gay conservatives and their allies.
He is dedicated to breaking the stereotypes of political parties. “Not all gay people are liberals, and not all conservatives are homophobes,” he said.
During the lecture, LaSalvia wanted to express his version of the truth about the Republican Party and what it means to be conservative in today’s political atmosphere.
Republicans in our government do not represent the mainstream conservative movement, he said, referencing a poll in this month’s issue of Esquire magazine.
According to the poll, only 13 percent of Americans believe that gays should not have legal recognition to marry, suggesting that the Republicans currently in the government should be marginalized.
Other statistics from this poll include that most people think the United States spends too much money—40 percent say government spending is wasteful and 39 percent feel the government should not exceed its income.
“We have to live in reality and live in 2013 and recognize gay people live in this country. Single mothers, unplanned pregnancies—all these things that happen. We have to be able to engage, talk about them and offer solutions,” LaSalvia said.
He argued that conservatives are so occupied with fighting against this culture war that nobody wants to listen anymore and the issues remain unresolved. “Today’s firmly held belief is tomorrow’s untenable position” he explained. “We’ve reached the tipping point on the marriage initiative and the outcome is determined.”
Ultimately, LaSalvia said he is ready for a change in the Republican party, ready to vote everyone out and start fresh with the youth.