Blue Staters may think they have it bad, but their headaches pale compared with those suffered by gay Republicans. Capturing a key moment when such voters were forced to choose between party loyalty and core convictions on gay rights, “Gay Republicans” will gain value over time as a fair-minded document of a crucial time in U.S. gay and lesbian history. After preem at AFI Los Angeles fest, docu airs Nov. 20 on Trio cabler, with a solid fest and vid future in sight.
Title is teased at the beginning, with writer-helmer Wash Westmoreland wittily assembling a montage of folks saying the word “oxymoron” to sum up being homosexual and conservative.
The so-called Log Cabin Republicans, founded in 1978 for gays and lesbians within the GOP, found itself at the heart of the current debate over gay marriage, and Westmoreland manages to unearth wide differences on the issue within the once-unified organization.
The differences highlight personalities that shatter outsiders’ — and Democrats’ — stereotypes of Republicans. Tending to favor party and President George W. Bush over gay political interests, Los Angeles activist Mark Harris is a documaker’s dream — verbal, egocentric, contrarian. Also a Bush loyalist, Palm Beach hairstylist Maurice Bonamigo expresses contempt for fellow Log Cabin-ites who threatened to withhold their endorsement if the president continued to support a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman only.
On the other side, Los Angeles attorney Carol Newman considers the proposed marriage amendment as a personal slap in the face, since she’s planning to marry her life partner, Shirley. Former Arizona state legislator Steve May, once a poster boy for the all-American gay man, now voices extreme discomfort with being an activist in a party he sees as being overtaken by right-wing religious zealots.
Even as “Gay Republicans” takes a look inside the oft-ignored but financially potent conservative wing of American gay culture, pic offers a view of a Grand Old Party which once had liberal and moderate wings — repped often by the party’s business class, in which gays still play an important role — now being clipped by a Christian fundamentalist movement that forms the core of Republican foot soldiers.
Without seemingly intending to, Westmoreland’s film offers a view of how the GOP outgunned the Democrats in 2004 and marginalized all opposition within party ranks.
Alongside this political turmoil are some colorful personalities that remain amusingly memorable, particularly the ultra-confident Bonamigo, who oozes drive — and a total comfort with his extremely affluent lifestyle. May emerges as the most conflicted and fascinating figure, finally endorsing Kerry. (Indeed, the national Log Cabin board decides to withhold endorsement of Bush.)
Mobile, fluid lensing and swift editing are hallmarks of this typically pro non-fiction entry from the prolific stable of Randy Barbato’s and Fenton Bailey’s World of Wonder production house.