GOProud, Republicans Still Freezing Out Karger In “Uniquely Anti-Gay GOP Field”

Fred Karger, the man who would be a gay Republican president, has been denied participation in the upcoming California Republican Convention — his own party’s event — not unlike how he was recently denied participation in the debate preceding the Ames straw poll.

According to Karger, the GOP did not send him an invitation and did not return his calls. When he did get a response, it was only to say that “The schedule was completely filled.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

“A state GOP official, who declined to be identified, said the party did not want to “negotiate in the press” with candidates over speaking arrangements. But the official also noted there is a real logistical problem in accommodating the presidential candidates, including former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who have been invited to attend. The marquee names will draw more interest and paying seat-holders, party officials say.

Still, Karger’s team argues he’s no neophyte in the political world – and that he deserves a spot in GOP conventions and debates like the Sept. 7 event at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley (Ventura County).”

Karger has worked for a political strategy firm and consulted for Reagan’s campaign, and if anyone’s accusing him of not making a good enough case, maybe they should start letting him into things. Despite being qualified to participate, Karger was also not included in the pre-Iowa Caucus straw poll or the Fox Network debate. Even though he’d arranged and paid for a booth at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he was told he was no longer invited because no booths were available (his campaign manager called to check about availability for renting to a different group, and was told there were still openings).

In the same article, GOProud, which theoretically represents gay Republicans and conservatives, slammed Karger for “running around the country with a rainbow flag” instead of campaigning for real. GOProud director Jimmy LaSalvia said,

“Fred Karger is not a credible candidate. I would love for there to be an openly gay, credible candidate for president who was out there making a case for why they would be better than Barack Obama.

Unfortunately, Fred Karger is playing a stunt, and his stunt has run its course. His whole schtick is … running around the country with a rainbow flag, saying ‘I’m the gay guy.’ But he hasn’t made a case about why he should be president of the United States.”

Karger’s platform includes strengthening the economy, education reform, conciliatory foreign policy, border security, and a lower voting age. It does not, as far as I can tell, include screwing with people and mass-producing rainbows. He also received 2% in the Ames straw poll leading up to the Fox debate (the minimum is 1%), tied with Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman, who both attended (Pawlenty has since ended his campaign).

On the other hand, the 2010 campaign season has been called “a uniquely anti-gay GOP field.” In an op-ed in the LA Times, Paul Thorton argues that while there was more gay-bashing during Bush’s 2004 campaign, the level of publicity it now receives is a positive development:

“Not so long ago, the virulently homophobic views offered by some candidates were treated almost as viable alternatives to the positions taken by less anti-gay politicians. It was as if all those views came from the same menu of Reasonable Points of View Worth Debating. Now, the radical ideas espoused by Bachmann, Perry, Santorum and others are held up not for genuine consideration but for scorn (notwithstanding the last GOP debate in Iowa). Perry’s and Bachmann’s views aren’t weighed against President Obama’s “evolving” stance on same-sex marriage; rather, they are simply ridiculed. It says as much about our society as it does the candidates.”

But the attention they’re receiving doesn’t mean the anti-gay views of these candidates are less real or less scary. Michele Bachmann may have decided to shut up about her opinions on gay people, but they haven’t gone away. Fred Karger is the first ever openly gay Republican candidate at a time when an environment of political extremism means that the frontrunners of the GOP are more pointedly anti-gay than ever, with many of them going so far as to name the “preservation of the American family” as a tenet of their platform. 

And another problem, of course, is that anyone not actually following Karger and reading articles explicitly about him would not necessarily know that he’s been excluded from several events; it would actually be pretty easy not know he’s running at all. (But be totally up on Godfather Pizza’s Herman Cain.) and might hear the words “gay” and “not a viable candidate” in tandem, draw conclusions, and move on. Rachel argued that Karger may see himself as having little chance of winning but having a significant historical role nonetheless. Hopefully he will get a chance for even that — while Karger’s being elected isn’t really a realistic possibility, how he’s treated by his own party and conceived of by the rest of the country says a lot about how far gay people have come in the public sphere, and how willing we are to see queers in positions of power. Tim Cook seems to be imminently replacing Steve Jobs as the head of Apple, which will make him one of the most powerful gay men in America and the world. What does Fred Karger’s crusade tell us about what it takes for gays to succeed in politics as well as business?

UPDATE: State GOP Communications Director Mark Standriff extended Karger an invitation after the publication of the Chronicle story. “Fred has always been welcome at the CRP – in fact, we’ve been working to finalize an event for him at our convention, based on a request from his camp.  We’re looking forward to seeing him in L.A. next month.”

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Ryan Yates

Ryan Yates was the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for, with bylines in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and elsewhere. They live in Los Angeles and also on twitter and instagram.

Ryan has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. THIS SUCKS. I met Fred Karger when he visited Columbia last fall- he’s got such an earnest and inspired way of approaching gay issues, thoughtful strategies for promoting visibility, and is JUST SO NICE. I loved the idea of an openly gay republican running a lot – that shock value is good for us. I feel sad that his big plans are being cockblocked. I feel even sadder that I’m hardly surprised.

    • ‘Scuse me. Republican here. Gay too. Happy to be so. Let’s please not over-generalize? The truth is, as someone who is active in both LGBTQ and Republican movements, the message I’m getting is that for the majority of us younger gen Republicans, LGBTQ rights is a done deal. We wish the older generation would quit harping on it. Even when I thought I was completely straight, I had no problem with gay marriage- they’re people too, I thought, and they deserve the same rights as the rest of us. So let’s not demonize the right, shall we?

      I will grant you that I’m not enamored of any of the candidates up there on the Republican side- of any of the really high-profile people up there, Huntsman is the only one to even support civil unions- but Michelle Bachmann and her ilk are terrifying. But all in all, the kids say gay rights are a no-brainer- too many of them have sisters, brothers, cousins, and friends who are LGBTQ to say that they’re all evil. It’s really just a case of the people in charge being in a wacky little bubble of homogeneity- and they won’t be in charge forever. Our generation is going to take over from them soon, and especially in the Republican party they will have something different from their forebears to say about LGBTQ rights.

      • Supporting a hate group today because it won’t be so hateful tomorrow is nonsensical. It’s A.D. 2012 and we need allies now. The L and G and B are doing better, but even in the Canadian Queertopia the T (et al.) is still suffering. We need action now and it won’t come from the Republicans. I can’t play the long game while people are dying.

        And drop that silliness about “demonizing the right”. America is a right-wing country. The Democratic Party is to the right of every mainstream party in the West except the Republicans. In Congress you can find plenty of enthusiastic capitalists across the aisle. Heck, there’s support for the free market in all of the major European/Canadian socialist parties. Maybe you’re into “small government”, but no great power will embrace such an approach. U.S. foreign policy (with its vast expense) has remained unchanged since 1776. “Small government”, in the context of the forthcoming Mayan apocalypse, means screwing the poor.

      • Its time for overgeneralization to go away. If people would take a second to think about Republicans and the vast degrees that people really associate with them, they would find out that not everyone is a radical FOX worshiping heartless straight middle aged while male. With that being said, Again, there is support for a free market in other countries like my second home of Canada. I think If people brushed up on their economics, they would have a better understanding about what Capitalism really means and the original ideas behind a free market were. We could all get along a little more. It’s not about tolerance its about understanding.

  2. As far as Republican presidential candidates go, he’s my favorite by far! It sucks that he’s being barred from participating in these events.

  3. Furthermore, I follow politics and the only reason I know this guy’s name is because he’s gay and I saw an article about him here on Autostraddle. He’s not a viable candidate. He is raising five figures while other candidates are in the multimillions. If you can’t raise money, you can’t win an election. Maybe it’s sad, but it’s true. And while he obviously has experience in organizing and behind the scenes political work, he has never been elected to a single major office ever. How can someone who has never won an election be taken seriously to win the biggest election of all? Maybe some people are dismissing him because he is a gay activist, but I think mostly they are dismissing him because he can’t win.

  4. And just to be clear — and I don’t mean to be a dick, but — I think the gay community needs to drop this indignation over Karger and focus on vetting the Republicans who can actually win.

    • I totally agree with you on the money issue. the sad fact is that most candidates on the right get paid to support causes that benefit big corporations, hence the big quantities of money. however, this does not mean all the candidates have “valid” political experience. I consider a majority of the candidates to be invalid by the job they have done during office. i mean i wouldn’t vote for mitt romney because he was the governor of massachussettes or for rick perry because he’s been involved in politics since before i was born. governor perry has a serious economic problem in his state and still thinks that we need to cut federal spending and federal programs. lets not even get into romney’s distorted thinking about unemployment.

      these political days sadly are all about the money, and where are the biggest chunks of money coming from? corporations. these new candidates aren’t here to better the u.s. for the interest of the people, they’re here to better the interest of the corporations who are signing their checks. this is why i think people do need to listen and hear out candidates like fred karger and john huntsman, because from the looks of it, they might be the only two republican candidates that are still in it for the good of the public and not the corporations.

      • I’m not saying anyone should vote for Romney because he was governor or Bachmann because she is a congresswoman, etc. But I am saying, if you have never run a successful statewide campaign and been elected, how do you expect to drum up support to run for the president of the United States of America? Are you going to simply promise people you’re really electable! The bottom line is Karger isn’t viable. It has nothing to do with him being gay. Gay people need to accept it.

        • i wasn’t trying to put words in your mouth; take herman cain for instance. he was the ceo of godfather’s pizza and the chairman of the federal reserve bank of kansas. now he has not ever held public office and he was still a participant in the iowa straw poll. i have serious doubt that fred karger’s personal life and positions as a gay activist and a watchdog didn’t affect his entry into the republican mainstream.

          how many of the republican presidential candidates other than fred karger and john huntsman are for any gay rights?

          • also i kind of think that the point of politics is to have people from different backgrounds and different ideas about how to make the country better; that way we don’t have to accept the standard because “that’s all we really have” or “that’s the only thing that actually has a chance of winning”.
            i understand that from one point of view you are just being realistic, but i sincerely believe that if it wasn’t for the fact that people forget or choose to ignore that they have other options we would have a completely different political playing field.

          • I think you are forgetting that this is the REPUBLICAN primary. This isn’t a general election or a Democratic primary, this is specifically a conservative base of voters.

          • umm……i’m not exactly sure what your point is but it doesn’t seem to me like most conservatives are happy with their candidates (i think there was someone on here talking about it too), hence the “inner party split” that everyone’s been whispering about. i’m by no means a conservative, but as someone who knows many (i live in a mainly red state) and has had too many discussions to count, i will say that not all of them are the same, nor do they all have the same beliefs, etc.

            anyway i don’t think it matters what party you belong to; if you are not happy with the mainstream candidates you’re presented with, why not give your vote to someone who does cares about the same issues you care about?

  5. i think this just goes to show how far right the republican field this year has really gone. not only is fred karger being shut out but so is john huntsman (he only has 1% of the vote and seems like the sanest person running).
    the democratic response has lead to a more centralized party and president. if you really look into obama’s politics, he’s not really as liberal as most democrats but actually is more conservative and leans to the center.
    anyway the whole culture war that is being brought on by the new more extreme right is changing the two party system for worse. maybe having a few more parties (there’s already a split in the gop) might shake things up for the better.

Comments are closed.