GOProud, a group representing gay conservatives and their allies, is calling on the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund to end a newly announced collaboration with Dan Savage because of the It Gets Better cofounder’s track record of disparaging remarks about gay Republicans.
The Victory Fund announced Wednesday that it would partner with Savage and his production team behind the It Gets Better documentary specials on MTV and Logo to chronicle the experience of openly LGBT candidates undertaking the challenge of running for elected office. Savage will be granted “unprecedented access” to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute’s campaign and candidate training, a boot camp that draws candidates seeking city- and state-level offices around the country.
Jimmy LaSalvia, a GOProud cofounder, said in a statement that the partnership threatens to besmirch the Victory Fund’s “bipartisan mission.” Last month Savage called LaSalvia’s group “house faggots” in a tweet after GOProud announced its endorsement of Mitt Romney for president. He later wrote a column that compared the group to “meth addicts.”
“How can the Victory Fund claim to work to elect openly gay Republicans while at the same time partnering with a man who called gay Republicans ‘house faggots’ and compared us to meth addicts?” LaSalvia said. “What kind of message does this partnership send to the openly LGBT Republican candidates across the country? What kind of message does it send to Republicans in general about the type of organization that the Victory Fund actually is?”
LaSalvia also used the word “faggot,” which many regard as a slur, in the past year to describe a gay adviser to Texas governor Rick Perry after Perry aired an antigay ad in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. However, LaSalvia apologized and maintains that his usage differs from Savage’s, in part because he has not represented himself as an advocate against bullying.
Victory Fund spokesman Denis Dison shot back in an emailed statement to The Advocate. He said his organization was “proud” to partner with the It Gets Better team, which has “literally saved lives” by promoting the “universal values of self-respect, tolerance and pride.”
“As a non-partisan organization, Victory works with advocates, candidates, groups and political parties who often disagree with each other, sometimes vehemently,” wrote Dison. “Still, our focus remains on training and helping to elect openly LGBT leaders regardless of party affiliation or political bent. This project will demonstrate that, with the right training and support, openly LGBT people -- especially young people -- can live authentic lives and still succeed as public servants. That's a story we're eager to tell, and we're happy to grant access to Dan Savage and his producing partners who are interested in telling it.”
In recent years, the Victory Fund has endorsed Republican candidates, some staunchly conservative, and in the case of a Virginia state senate race last year, even irked the Democratic establishment. Endorsed candidates from the GOP in 2012 include Richard Tisei, a congressional candidate in Massachusetts, and Tim Brown, a pro-life candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives.
One gay Republican strategist told The Advocate that the criticism of the Victory Fund’s partnership with Savage lacked merit. The strategist challenged GOProud to coordinate with its own luminaries on the right, like Ann Coulter, in the name of advancing LGBT candidates. Hailed by the group as “the right-wing Judy Garland,” Coulter headlined the inaugural Homocon event two years ago in New York City, where she told attendees that marriage "is not a civil right — you're not black."
“More should be done to support openly LGBT candidates in either party and I would hope and would expect that they would be interested in supporting LGBT candidates running for office,” said the strategist. “If they can bring in some of their allies like Ann Coulter to explain how to talk conservative, then that is helping the fight.”
“We need to band together to help advance all of our causes and name calling isn’t going to do much work,” continued the strategist. “I wish Dan Savage were not so off the cuff with insensitive remarks, but it happened, and I think there is an opportunity here. Maybe he could offer [campaign boot camp attendees] a brief lesson on what not to do on Twitter."