Inside a Gay Republican Bar

Last night, gay Republican group GOProud took over The Honey Pot, a gay club in Ybor City, for what they billed as the largest gay event ever at a Republican National Convention: “Homocon 2012.”

The event was impressively busy, with perhaps 250 people at its peak. That included more straight men than I have ever seen in a gay bar, a good sign for gay acceptance at the RNC, though the Alex P. Keaton-style attire favored by RNC attendees of all sexual orientations jammed my gaydar.

Like many gay parties I’ve been to, it featured a Rihanna-heavy soundtrack and go-go boys. But in a very Republican twist, the go-go boys wore t-shirts and long pants.

It’s also the only gay event I’ve ever been to where a mention of Grover Norquist’s name over the P.A. was followed by a hearty shout of “GROVER!!” from a young man standing next to me.

But perhaps the most Republican aspect of the night was GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia’s brief remarks. He made an explicit case that gays should put gay marriage on the back burner and focus on the issues he says really affect gays’ daily lives -- jobs and the economy, and how Barack Obama is interfering with both.

As LaSalvia put it: “Marriage is important, but before you get married you have to have a date. And everyone knows you can’t get a date without a job.” That sounds like it could be copy from the book jacket of “What’s the Matter With Chelsea?

The party’s sponsors included Paul Singer, a New York hedge fund manager and Republican donor who was an instrumental backer of gay marriage in New York. (He is also the chairman of the Manhattan Institute, my former employer.) Singer recently gave $1 million to a political action committee to support pro-gay Republican candidates for Congress.

With GOProud continuing to raise its profile, and with backers like Singer, it is likely that Homocon will be back and bigger than ever in 2016. You could look to the Republican platform that year to see if there has been success in getting the party to soften its anti-gay stances. But a better indicator might be whether the go-go boys are allowed to take their shirts off.

(Josh Barro is lead writer for the Ticker. E-mail him and follow him on Twitter.)


This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

    To contact the author of this story:
    Josh Barro

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.