Homocon brings gay Republicans to Ybor City's Honey Pot

TAMPA, FLa. — The shirts said "freedom is fabulous." The souvenir key chains had shiny disco balls. The color scheme was pink, white and blue.

The fete rode the line between flashy fun and resolute message, buoyed by people who believed in their political party so much, they could deal with the things they didn't like. It was Homocon, supporting gay Republicans.

Hundreds of people of all persuasions came to the Honey Pot in Ybor City Tuesday for the party thrown by GOProud. The group is the only gay Republican organization to endorse Mitt Romney, leaders said. They function on conservative values of free markets and limited government. They want to embrace the word "homocon," which they said is a put-down homosexual liberals use for homosexual conservatives.

"We set out to show that not all gay people are liberals and that not all straight conservatives are antigay homophobes," said Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director. GOProud has 10,000 members across the country, LaSalvia said, and as many as half may be straight.

There's that obvious question — why support a candidate who doesn't want you to get married? Most folks hanging at Homocon said things weren't perfect, but their identities were bigger than one thing. They didn't want to hide from being conservative.

"I'm a Republican and I'm gay and I care about issues like the economy and turning around the country," said Eddie Mehnert, a 27-year-old marketing guy from Miami, who wore a crisp suit paired with neon sneakers. Mehnert is supporting Romney, but Ron Paul was his first choice. "It's important to show that the GOP is inclusive and to soften hearts and minds within the GOP. If we have hyper-inflation and the country goes to hell, then me being able to feed myself takes precedence."

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