"Here's to John McCain and Sarah Palin!"

This toast, common enough during the Republican National Convention, was less expected from a group of young gay men clanking cocktails at the Gay 90s earlier this week.

A gay Republican might be an oxymoron to some. Don't tell that to Steve Majors, 28, a California delegate from Los Angeles. Majors and his friends -- all gay and some delegates -- hit the town each night after the convention.

So, who parties harder, gay Democrats or gay Republicans? "Oh, we party way harder," Majors said.

He and his crew made that quite evident as they hit private parties and such gay bars as the Gay 90s, the Saloon and the 19 Bar. Their conservatism was the topic of conversation, maybe because a reporter was along, but for another reason, too. On his first night out, Majors befriended Curtis Dorgan, a liberal from Rochester, Minn., and he invited Dorgan out with them each night of the convention.

"It added an extra flavor to the week," Majors said.

Majors' GOP comrades, especially Jeff Guillory, a member of the gay Log Cabin Republicans, enjoyed debating the issues, challenging gay liberals with, "What have the Democrats done for you?"

On Sunday, this group of L.A. guys -- and Dorgan -- decided to check out the Gay 90s in downtown Minneapolis. Over vodka tonics and martinis, and in gay clubs up and down Hennepin Avenue, the group members reaffirmed their belief in the Republican Party.

Majors said Sarah Palin's positions on gay-rights issues -- which have drawn fire from gay groups -- are important, but voting for a candidate who is pro-gay isn't everything to him. "It doesn't define me," he said.

At the Gay 90s, the fiery Guillory took offense when a drag queen comedically ripped John McCain on stage.

"If the tables were turned and she was talking about Obama, people would be protesting," Guillory said. Peeved, he put on his RNC credentials. "Let's see if anyone will say anything to me." Later he reported, "The bartender was rude to me."

On Tuesday night it was free drinks at a party for their delegation on Nicollet Island. There, the topic of gay marriage arose again.

"I just don't think it's an issue," Guillory said. "There's a war going on. People in our community are dying from AIDS and drugs. This is what we should be focusing on."

Majors disagreed: "If you're going to call it marriage for straight people, you have to call it marriage for gay people," he said. "Jeff is very opinionated."

"He's very opinionated," Dorgan added.

"I would never go out with a gay Democrat," Guillory said. "I don't hate my country."

"I can respectfully say that I disagree with that statement," Dorgan said.

"If you respect each other and you're genuine friends, then we can all learn from each other," Majors said. "If we were around people who all thought the same, life wouldn't be much fun."

Tom Horgen • 612-673-7909