As CPAC attendees readied to hear Ted Cruz, Salon spoke with Canadian Tory Roy Eappen - a nine-time CPAC participant and donor to the gay conservative group GOProud - about why he opposes laws banning racial or anti-gay discrimination.
“There are black-only events here,” said Eappen, a CPAC “premium” attendee. “There are gay and lesbian bars that you went to, and they would throw you out. So how come we sort of look at one side, and not the other?” A condensed version of our conversation follows.
What is your impression of CPAC so far?
Well, I’ve gone to [CPAC] for the last decade or so. You know, I think we do things somewhat better in some ways [in Canada] than they do here, but - I’m a gay conservative.
I mean, in Canada, I threw a party called the “Fabulous Blue Tent” at our convention – the Tory Party convention – in Calgary, and 800 people came, including the Prime Minister’s wife, half the cabinet. So I think people here have to get over it. And most of them have. I mean, I have many, many GOP friends and…there are a few that are a little anti-gay, but most of them are quite accepting. So I think the news media sort of exaggerates that a little bit.
What did you think about the fight that happened here [in the US] over the bill in Arizona?
You see, I personally believe that you should be able to refuse people service if you don’t want to give them service. In the same way I don’t think gay people should be building cakes for the Westboro Baptist Church, I don’t think I should be forced – people should be forced – I think it’s economically stupid, but you know – I haven’t read the entire bill…
But you know, it’s – how do you tell? “If you’re gay, you can’t sit here?” How will they tell?
What about a restaurant, say?
Yeah, you see I hate – I don’t like government imposing its wishes on anybody. But you know, I would think it’s bad business practice to do such things. You’re going to go bankrupt. I mean, if I knew that you weren’t allowing people of a certain race, color, creed, to sit there, I wouldn’t go to the restaurant. So I think it would be economic suicide in some ways….
Governor Brewer actually did veto it.
So do you think the restaurant then, legally, should be able to turn people away because they think they’re gay?
I mean personally, yes. But it just seems like a stupid thing to do…
I believe that we should be free to do pretty much what we want. You’re the only restaurant in the city, that’s probably not – Whenever the government gets involved in forcing people to do things, it’s usually a bad idea. Moral suasion is better.
Would you look at it the same way in terms of race?
Yeah. But you see also, I’m not white. So you know, I would be affected by all these kinds of things. You know, the race issue in the U.S. – in Canada, there isn’t really one. You know, if you go to Toronto there are 150 different cultures living there, and they get along pretty well.
I think – I also think it would be stupid to [discriminate]. But there are black-only events here. There are gay and lesbian bars that you went to, and they would throw you out. So how come we sort of look at one side, and not the other? There are gay bars, they’ll throw you out if you’re not gay. So –
Is that something you’ve witnessed personally?
Oh yeah. I dare you to go to a lesbian bar, and let’s see if you can stay long.
I’ve been to lesbian bars.
Well, a lot of them don’t let you in.
What about employment – should it be legal to fire someone for being gay?
Yeah, because I wouldn’t want to work for an organization that is like that. See, you’re talking sort of “what if”s that really don’t happen in 2014. That doesn’t really happen.
People being fired because someone thinks they’re gay?
I don’t think so. I don’t think so. And if it happens, you probably shouldn’t be working there.
And so are there changes that you think the Republican Party should make in terms of policy-
Yeah, I think they should just, you know – the evangelicals – who, many of them are my friends – have to remember Jesus said the first great commandment is to love god, the second one is to love your neighbor.
So you have to be nicer. You have to be nicer, you have to – I mean, gay marriage is a de facto fact. It’s going to come, whether they like it or not. So you know, time to get used to it.
Do you think the government should recognize marriages between gay people?
I don’t - I mean, I personally think that the government should get out of marriages altogether, that all marriage should be civil union. And…a church can recognize marriage as they see fit. So that’s my position on things. As I said, the government rarely does things right.
If the government continues to have recognition of marriage, should it apply equally to gay couples?
Well you see, where I come from, it’s already a de facto fact. And nothing has changed. But you see the gay activists – which I am not one [of] – seem to, seem to want to push harder. Like in the U.K. there’s a couple who are suing the Church of England to try to get married in a big church wedding. So I think that should be – doing that is wrong.
But marriage is, you know – not that I would plan to do it but – you know I think it’s going to be recognized one way or the other. From what I can see, your Supreme Court is going to rule it legal in the very near future. So it’s time – that horse has flown. It’s not a vote-getter. Stop it.
And I helped a group here called GOProud for several years… I think it’s a generational thing. Younger Republicans and evangelicals don’t care.
How involved were you with GOProud?
Oh, I’ve been to their events. I’ve helped them with financial things and such…
The resignation of one of the founders of GOProud – what did you make of that?
Well, there’s a running feud going on with the [American Conservative Union]… [co-founder] Jimmy [LaSalvia] has also left, and they’re both friends of mine. I haven’t spoken to [resigned co-founder] Chris [Barron], but I do speak to Jimmy, and he said he’d left the GOP, he was tired of hitting his head against the wall.
Like I said, sometimes I think people in this party don’t know who their friends are…
Is there a change, besides being nicer, that the Republican Party should make in terms of policy?
…In terms of gay people? I think they should recognize them as any other American, because that’s what they are. You know, they’re your brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts, and you know, you should treat them the same.
But it should be legal to discriminate against them?
Well you see, I don’t like government making rules about anything. So you know, ideally, yes. But as I said, it would be economic suicide in most cases of doing that. I do believe in moral suasion, so you know, I think a lot of people if you set up a café that said black people couldn’t come in, I don’t think a lot of people would come in – of any race, any kind…
I really appreciate you taking the time.
I just see the headline now.
Oh - what’s that?
“Gay Man Wants to Discriminate Against Negroes.” You could try, but I have many, many black friends…I just don’t think government should use its power to do things.