Fact Check

Memo To CPAC: Gay Conservatives Were Around Long Before GOProud

February 09, 2011 3:08 pm ET

A number of prominent conservatives and right-wing groups are boycotting this year's Conservative Political Action Conference because GOProud -- a group that describes itself as representing gay conservatives and their allies - is listed as a participating organization. These boycotters are in serious need of a history lesson: The conservative movement has included several prominent gay members, as well as conservatives who found themselves embroiled in gay scandals, long before GOProud joined CPAC. In light of this, Equality Matters takes a look at some of these conservatives. Their stories vary wildly: some championed LGBT equality; others attempted to avoid discussions of their sexual orientation altogether; and some chose to add their voices to the chorus of anti-gay bigotry on the right.

Bob Allen

Republican Member Of The Florida House Of Representatives, Signed Brief Supporting Florida's Ban On Allowing Gay Adoptions. During Allen's tenure in the Florida House, he signed an amicus brief supporting Florida's ban on allowing gay couples to adopt. [Amici brief for Lofton v. KearneyJuly 2002]

Convicted Of Soliciting Oral Sex In Public Park. In 2007, Allen was arrested after soliciting oral sex from an undercover policeman in a park. Allen maintained his innocence throughout his trial but was eventually convicted, and both of his appeals were rejected. Allen was sentenced to six months' probation and a $250 fine. [CNN, 7/12/07Orlando Sentinel11/15/07]

Roy Ashburn  

Anti-Gay Republican California State Senator From 2002 To 2010. Ashburn was a fierce anti-gay politician for much of his career and in 2009 received a 0 out of 100 score from Equality California, an organization that analyzes state legislators' votes on bills that affect LGBT Californians. [Bakersfield Californian3/4/10]

Following Press Reports He Visited A Gay Nightclub, Ashburn Came Out. In 2010, Ashburn was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Several sources reported that he was leaving a gay nightclub in Sacramento the night of his arrest. Eventually, Ashburn disclosed that he was gay during an interview on KERN radio. [BBC News, 3/8/10]

After Coming Out, Ashburn Argued For LGBT Equality. Since coming out, Ashburn has been increasingly vocal in support of gay rights, including arguing that Republicans should be ready to change course on LGBT equality: "I would argue that the Republican Party, because of the principles underlying Republicanism, really is the party that should be championing equal rights for gay people, for all people. For me this is very clear." [On Top Magazine8/29/10]

Robert Bauman

Conservative Republican From 1973 To 1981 With Anti-Gay Voting Record. In Congress, Bauman voted twice to deny federal funds to lawyers dealing with gay rights cases, and backed a "family protection" bill that would have sanctioned discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and employment. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette10/11/80St. Petersburg Evening Independent8/16/86]

Served As Chairman Of The American Conservative Union. Bauman served as the chariman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC every year. He once argued that "liberalism has become a hardcore slum that is beyond renovation." [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette10/11/80, The American Conservative Union, accessed 2/9/11]

In 1980, Bauman Was Accused Of Soliciting Oral Sex From A 16-Year-Old Boy. In 1980, after being charged with "soliciting sex from a 16-year-old boy," Bauman was allowed to plead innocent to the charges brought against him in exchange for agreeing to take a six-month alcoholism rehabilitation course.  [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette10/11/80]

Defending Congressman Barney Frank in 1989, Bauman Asked For Understanding Of The Struggles Of Closeted Gay Men. In a piece he wrote for the Washington Post, Bauman praised Rep. Barney Frank's record of fighting for gay equality and asked that the public be understanding of the struggles experienced by closeted gay men. [Eugene Register-Guard9/10/89]

Mary Cheney

Openly Gay Daughter Of Former Vice President Dick Cheney, 2004 Bush Campaign Staffer. During the 2004 election, Cheney served as director of vice presidential operations for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign. She was criticized for failing to speak out against conservative anti-gay politics spearheaded by the Bush administration. [The Advocate4/13/04]

Cheney Did Not Speak Out When Bush Supported Marriage Amendment In That Campaign. Following the release of her book in 2006, Cheney reportedly stated that while she opposed Bush's support of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, she felt it would be "inappropriate" to put out a statement in opposition, and she stayed because she had "no doubt" Bush was "the absolute best person to be leading us." [People5/4/06

Roy Cohn

American Attorney Who Was Active In Senator Joseph McCarthy's Anti-Communist Investigations. Cohn was an attorney in the Justice Department before leaving to work as Senator Joseph McCarthy's inquisitor on his anti-communist investigations in the 1950s. Cohn reportedly "enjoyed access to the Republican White House for having worked to get President Reagan elected." He was indicted three times for "a variety of alleged swindles" during his life but was never convicted. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/3/86; New York Daily News, 5/3/99]

While Cohn Denied Being Gay, His Sexual Orientation Drew Wide Speculation. Despite his clear denial, Cohn was believed by many to be gay.  Barbara Walters, his close personal friend, said of their friendship: "I was his claim to heterosexuality." He worked to maintain his image as a heterosexual bachelor, frequently being spotted around town with good-looking young women. [The New York Times, 4/3/88; San Francisco Gate, 5/6/08]

AIDS Was Likely A Factor In Cohn's Death. Cohn passed away in 1986. His immediate cause of death was reported to have been cardio-pulmonary arrest. Dementia and HIV were listed as "secondary causes of death," and Cohn was rumored to be suffering from AIDS near the end of his life. In the play "Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes," Cohn is portrayed as an ambitious and hypocritical gay lawyer who is haunted by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, a woman he helped condemn to death as a spy in the 1950s. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/3/86, The New York Times, 10/28/10]

Larry Craig

Served First As A Representative For Idaho's 1st Congressional District And Later As A Republican Member Of The U.S. Senate. While in office, Craig supported the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment and said he would support an Idaho constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. [Idaho Statesman, 8/28/07]

Craig Arrested For Soliciting Sex In Airport Bathroom, Pled Guilty To Reduced Charge. In 2007, Craig was arrested at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after being accused of soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in the airport bathroom. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge relating to his arrest, though he later attempted to withdraw his plea, with his lawyer claiming that the plea "was not knowing and intelligent and therefore in violation of his constitutional rights." The attempt was denied.  [Wall Street Journal, 9/10/07; Wall Street Journal, 12/9/08]

Craig Continues To Deny That He Is Gay. After the incident, Craig continued to deny that he was gay, stating, "I am not gay and never have been." Craig left office in 2009 after finishing out the rest of his term. [Washington Post, 8/28/07; Spokane Review via Nexis, 10/19/08]

Terry Dolan

Closeted Co-Founder Of National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC). During his tenure as president of NCPAC, which was known targeting for liberal politicians, Dolan sent a fund-raising letter that warned: "Our nation's moral fiber is being weakened by the growing homosexual movement and the fanatical E.R.A. [Equal Rights Amendment] pushers (many of whom publicly brag they are lesbians)." Dolan reportedly later apologized for that letter, claiming it was written without his approval. [Washington Post via Nexis, 5/11/87]

Dolan Reportedly Co-Founded Gay Political Group Shortly Before His Death. While Dolan never publicly acknowledged his sexuality, he did publicly state that the federal government has "no business in setting any social agenda," as he told The Advocate in 1982. Additionally, he reportedly co-founded Concerned Americans for Individual Rights, a short-lived group for gay and lesbian Republicans. Rumors of Dolan's sexuality persisted until he died from complications with AIDS in 1986. [Washington Post via Nexis5/11/87]

Arthur Finkelstein

Conservative Political Strategist Who Helped A Number Of Anti-Gay Candidates. A prominent GOP consultant, Finkelstein was tapped to help direct Republican strategy in 33 different Senate races in 1996. Finkelstein's clients included several anti-gay politicians who had histories of voting against pro-LGBT legislation. One of those clients, Representative Don Nickles of Oklahoma, had declared "Homosexuality is wrong, it's immoral and it shouldn't be condoned." [CNN, 10/10/96]

Fired For Being Gay. In 1997, a Boston magazine published an extensive profile of Finkelstein's life, revealing that he lived with his gay partner. As a result, Finkelstein reportedly lost several clients who were concerned that his sexuality would become a campaign issue. [New York Daily News8/28/97]

Married His Husband After Working For Politicians Who Opposed Gay Marriage. In December of 2004, Finkelstein married his male partner in Massachusetts. Despite having worked for many Republicans who were adamantly opposed to marriage equality, he explained that he decided to marry his partner of 40 years to ensure the couple received the same benefits available to married, heterosexual couples. [New York Times4/9/05]

Mark Foley

Republican Congressman Representing Florida's 16th District In The U.S. House Of Representatives From 1995 Until 2006. While in office, Foley was a conservative  Republican who tended to be more independent when it came to social issues; he voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act but against amending the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. [Herald Tribune, 2/8/11, USA Today, 10/3/06]

Resigned In 2006 Following Allegations He Sent Sexually Explicit Messages To Teenagers From House Page Program. On September 29, 2006, ABC News reported that "Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) resigned from Congress today, hours after ABC News questioned him about sexually explicit internet messages with current and former congressional pages under the age of 18." [ABC News, 9/29/06]

Neil Giuliano

Served As The Republican Mayor Of Tempe, Arizona For Ten Years. As a mayor, Giuliano was an active Republican, co-chairing Mayors for McCain and actively campaigning for McCain in the run-up to the 2000 election. [365Gay.com, 1/29/09; The Advocate3/28/00]

President Of The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Giuliano acted as the president of GLAAD from September of 2005 until the beginning of 2009. He resigned in order to set aside more time for a book he is writing about his political life. [365Gay.com, 1/29/09]  

Steve Gunderson

Republican Congressman From 1981 To 1997, Was Outed On House Floor While Voicing Opposition To DOMA. Republican Steve Gunderson represented Wisconsin from 1981 until he retired in 1997. In 1994, during a debate over the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Gunderson was outed on the House floor by fellow Republican representative Bob Dornan. Gunderson was the only Republican to vote against the DOMA that year. [Bioguide.Congress.gov, accessed 2/7/11The Advocate via Google Books, 5/11/04Los Angeles Times7/25/96; CNN, 11/28/97]

First Openly Gay Republican Congressman, Proponent Of Gay Rights. After Gunderson acknowledged he was gay, he was reelected in 1994 as the first openly gay Republican congressman. Since leaving Congress, Gunderson has been a vocal proponent of gay rights. [CNN, 11/28/97Los Angeles Times8/25/96]

Jon Hinson

A Two-Term Republican Congressman, Hinson Resigned Following Sodomy Arrest. When Jon Hinson was elected to represent the fourth district of Mississippi in 1978 he was - as he would later recall - "closeted and in heavy denial." In February of 1981, shortly after being elected to his second term representing the 4th District of Mississippi, Jon Hinson and another man were arrested in a Federal office building bathroom on charges of attempted oral sodomy. Hinson resigned from his position in April of 1981, saying it was "the most painful and difficult decision" of his life. [New York Times7/26/95]

After Resignation, Hinson Came Out And Became A LGBT Activist. After resigning, Hinson publicly acknowledged his sexuality and became active in gay political issues. He fought against the ban on gays in the military and founded the Fairfax Lesbian and Gay Citizens Association in Fairfax County, Va. He died in 1995, at age 53, due to complications resulting from AIDS. [New York Times7/25/95]

Michael Huffington

 Republican Congressman With Moderate Record On Gay Rights. Huffington served a single term in Congress from 1993 to 1995. During that time he reportedly supported ending the ban on gays serving in the military, but also "voted for an amendment blocking the District of Columbia from spending money on a domestic partners program." The Human Rights Campaign later said of Huffington's record in the House: "Huffington's voting record isn't really anti-gay." [San Francisco Chronicle12/6/98]

After Losing A Senate Campaign, Huffington Came Out, Became Gay Rights Activist. In 1994, Huffington spent $28 million in the most expensive non-presidential campaign in history up to that point. He lost that race by less than 1.9 percent of the vote to Dianne Feinstein. In 1998, Huffington came out as bisexual in an Esquire interview with David Brock and began to support gay groups and causes. [San Francisco Chronicle12/6/98; Real Clear Politics, 7/9/09; CNN, 12/21/98]

Fred Karger

 Former Republican Political Consultant On High-Profile Campaigns. Karger helped guide the campaigns of a number of state, local, and presidential candidates, including the presidential bids of Senator Robert Dole and Governor John Connally. [FredKarger.com, accessed 2/7/11]

Potential 2012 Presidential Candidate. In 2010, Karger announced that he was seriously considering becoming a candidate for the President of the United States in 2012 as an Independent Republican. Later that year, he launched an exploratory committee for his potential presidential run. [Mother Jones4/9/10; The Atlantic, 8/11/10]

Outspoken Proponent of Marriage Equality. Karger is an outspoken proponent of marriage equality and LGBT rights; he supports the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act as well as making marriage equality the "law of the land." [FredKarger.com4/10/10]

Jim Kolbe

Republican Member Of Congress, Voted For DOMA. From 1985 to 2007 Kolbe represented Arizona's 8th district. In 1996, Kolbe voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). [Pew Charitable Trusts, accessed 2/4/11New York Times8/3/96]

Following DOMA Vote, Kolbe Came Out As Gay. Kolbe's support for DOMA sparked outrage among gay activists who threatened to out him. Following a full-page ad in the Washington Blade calling on "all closeted gay and lesbian members of Congress" to "end your silence and defend your community," Kolbe publically acknowledged that he is gay. [New York Times8/3/96]

Marvin Liebman

Co-Founder Of Young Americans For Freedom And The American Conservative Union. Leibman was a conservative activist who served as a key figure in the development of conservative mass mail fundraising. He founded the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC ever year, and the Young Americans for Freedom, and worked in the Reagan administration. [Los Angeles Times, 4/6/97, The American Conservative Union, accessed 2/9/11]

Liebman Came Out As Gay And Ultimately Severed Ties With The Republican Party. In 1990, Liebman came out in a public letter to his friend William F. Buckley, editor of the National Review. In 1993, he announced that he was severing ties with the Republican Party after witnessing the development of increasingly anti-gay rhetoric on the right. In an article published in The Advocate, Liebman wrote:

I can no longer accept such labels as conservative, Christian, or Republican, which draw much of their coherence from hostility toward people like me. No gay or lesbian American should any longer accept any of these labels, which have become mere code words for attacks on our collective dignity. We can accept no labels any longer. We must give our allegiance and support only to those individuals and groups who publicly stand with us against bigotry and fear of gay Americans. [The Advocate via Carnegie Mellon University, 2/7/95]

Steve May

Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives from 1998 to 2002. May was also a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, where he attained the rank of first lieutenant. [The Advocate,10/26/99]

Investigated Under Don't Ask, Don't Tell After Discussing His Sexuality On The House Floor. In February of 1999, May mentioned being gay as he spoke on the House floor about pending legislation on public funding for health care benefits for same-sex partners. As a result, the Army initiated discharge proceedings under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. [The Advocate10/26/99]

May Was Nearly Discharged From The U.S. Army Reserve. In 2000, a panel of Army officials recommended that May receive an honorable discharge for violating DADT. By early 2001, however, the Army had dropped its efforts to dismiss May, instead allowing him serve out the rest of his term as long as he agreed not to reenlist once his term expired. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel9/18/00The Spokesman-Review1/16/01]

Stewart McKinney

Moderate Republican Congressman Who Worked To Repeal Law Treating Homosexuality As Mental Disorder. McKinney, a Republican congressman from Connecticut, co-sponsored legislation to repeal a law treating homosexuality as a mental disorder. [States News Service via Nexis, 5/9/85]

First Congressman To Die Of AIDS. McKinney died of complications associated with AIDS in 1987. He was the first congressman to die from complications of the disease. Although his physician claimed that he contracted AIDS from blood transfusions, his friends reportedly came out to say that McKinney - who was married with children - had also had gay relationships and had more likely contracted the disease through unsafe sex. [New York Times5/9/87New York Times, 5/8/88]

Ken Mehlman

Former Chairman Of The Republican National Committee, President Bush's 2004 Campaign Manager. Ken Mehlman served as President George W. Bush's 2004 campaign manager and as chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2005 to 2007. He denied rumors about his sexuality during his tenure at the RNC, and The Atlantic noted he presided over the RNC "at a time when the party was stepping up its anti-gay activities -- such as the distribution in West Virginia in 2006 of literature linking homosexuality to atheism, or the less-than-subtle, coded language in the party's platform."  [The Atlantic8/25/10; Examiner.com, 8/25/10]

After Coming Out in 2010, Mehlman Now Advocates For Same-Sex Marriage. Mehlman came out as gay in late 2010. He is now an advocate for same-sex marriage -- despite having been publicly silent during the Bush administration's efforts to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment. Mehlman reportedly hopes that support for gay marriage can begin to be an issue that crosses party lines, stating "I hope that we, as a party, would welcome gay and lesbian supporters. I also think there needs to be, in the gay community, robust and bipartisan support [for] marriage rights." [The Atlantic8/25/10]

Brent Parker

Republican Utah State Representative, Married With Six Children. Brent Parker was elected to two terms in the Utah House of Representatives in 2000 and 2002 and was seen as a moderate in the House. He was married with six children. [Deseret News3/1/03]

Parker Resigned After Being Arrested For Soliciting Sex From Undercover Police Officer.  On February 28, 2003, Parker resigned his seat days after Salt Lake City arrested him for soliciting oral sex from an undercover police officer posing as a male prostitute. [Salt Lake Tribune via Nexis, 3/1/03]

Ed Schrock

Republican Congressman Representing Virginia's 2nd Congressional District From January 2001 To January 2005. While in office, Schrock was an opponent of LGBT equality, voting for legislation to ban gay marriages and arguing in favor of asking military enlistees whether they have had homosexual experiences in order to keep gays from serving. [Associated Press via MSNBC, 8/31/04; Washington Post8/31/04]

Schrock's Supposed Outing. In 2004, gay activist Michael Rogers claimed he had evidence that Schrock was gay, posting an audio link of an unidentified man placing an ad with a telephone service used by gay men seeking to arrange meetings with other men. [Washington Post8/31/04]

Schrock Ended His Reelection Campaign Months Later. While Rogers's accusation circulated in Republican circles, Schrock abruptly dropped out of his race for a third term, citing unspecified allegations that would not allow "my campaign to focus on the real issues." [Washington Post8/31/04]

Craig Spence

Powerful Conservative Lobbyist Known For His Eccentric Personality.  Spence was a well-known member of the Washington establishment in the '80s. Frequently wearing a red-lined cape and broad hat, Spence enjoyed being compared to "The Great Gatsby." [The Independent via Nexis, 8/10/89]

Spence Became Embroiled In Washington Call-Boy Scandal. In June of 1989, an article in the Washington Times revealed that Spence was a customer of a gay escort service that was being investigated for suspected credit card fraud. The Times piece claimed that Spence spent $20,000 a month on the agency and in the previous year had arranged a 1 a.m. White House tour for himself and five friends, including two male prostitutes. [The Independent via Nexis, 6/30/89]

Spence Was Found Dead In A Hotel Room In November Of 1989. Spence, who told friends he planned to "disappear" and disclosed that he had AIDS, was found dead in Boston's Ritz Carlton hotel. It appeared that he had committed suicide. [Newsweek via Nexis, 11/20/89]

Richard Tafel

Richard Tafel: First President Of National Log Cabin Republicans Organization. Richard Tafel was the first president of the National Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian Republican grassroots organization, when local chapters joined together as a national organization in 1990. [Charlie Rose, accessed 2/2/11]

Named One Of The Most Influential Gay Leaders, Tafel Testified About AIDS In 1994. Newsweek magazine named Tafel as "one of the 30 most influential gay leaders in the United States," and he was the only gay leader to testify about AIDS in front of the 104th Congress. [Charlie Rose, accessed 2/2/11]

James E. West

Anti-Gay Former Republican Mayor Of Spokane. West made a career of pursuing anti-gay initiatives, including co-sponsoring legislation banning gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. [Frontline11/14/06]

Caught In Sting, West Was Found Visiting Gay Chat Rooms, "Using The Trappings Of His Office As Bait." In 2005, a sting operation launched by Spokane's Spokesman-Review discovered that West "spent hours trolling for young men on the Internet, sometimes using the trappings of his office as bait to lure them into more intimate relationships" and allegedly offered "rewards and benefits and even jobs in return for sexual favors." [Frontline11/14/06]

Most Popular Tags

Feed IconRSS Feeds

Connect & Share

Facebook Twitter Digg YouTube Reddit