By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com June 21 2012 8:41 AM ET
GOProud cofounder Jimmy LaSalvia defended his group’s endorsement of Mitt Romney, saying that the former Massachusetts governor has “demonstrated that he believes that we are a part of America.”
LaSalvia appeared Wednesday night on The Young Turks With Cenk Uygur to discuss the endorsement, which marks the first time a gay group has thrown its support behind the presumptive Republican nominee. The Log Cabin Republicans have yet to make an endorsement, and a spokesman for that group told The Advocate that a Romney nod is not guaranteed.
In the GOProud endorsement statement, LaSalvia called President Obama “openly hostile to free market capitalism” and said that Romney was “light years better” on a range of economic issues that affect LGBT Americans. The group acknowledged its disagreement with the candidate on his support for a federal marriage amendment, a fact that Uygur pressed in the interview.
“You’re willing to with this endorsement, set back the gay rights cause for, at the very least, four years,” he said. “Mitt Romney has explicitly promised that he will set your cause back, and its not just any old cause, it’s whether you get the same rights as other Americans. That’s not a minor issue. That’s not like, ‘Hey, what do I think about his regulation of the EPA?’”
LaSalvia argued that the focus on LGBT rights represented a distraction from the economic debate. He suggested that economic issues were more universal.
“I know that you want to talk about this issue, and the president wants to talk about this issue, because the president’s record on jobs and the economy and the debt crisis is indefensible and I know that that’s why all the liberals in Washington and across the country want to talk about issues like gay marriage and contraception and everything else to divert the attention from the issues that are facing us all,” he said.
Uygur brought up the case of Richard Grenell, the openly gay national security spokesman who left the Romney campaign after an outcry from religious conservatives. He said the incident showed that even among “hawkish” ideological soul mates, the party was unwilling to accept gay people.
“No matter how much they agreed with them, they don’t like you Jimmy,” he said. “They hate you. And so they kicked him out, and you know they kicked him out.”
LaSalvia acknowledged that the Grenell episode “wasn’t handled well,” but he denied that the aide’s sexual orientation prompted the ouster. GOProud cofounder Christopher Barron said yesterday that the Romney campaign was aware of his group’s endorsement and felt “happy” about it.
“The truth is, Mitt Romney has a long record of dealing with gay people,” said LaSalvia. “He’s demonstrated that the believes that we are a part of America. We have a disagreement on marriage.”
Watch the debate.