Conservative Groups Split Over Participation Of GOProud At Annual CPAC Conference

The Family Research Council and a few other social conservative organizations like Concerned Women for America, American Principles Project and American Values are refusing to attend next month’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to protest the participation GOProud, a gay rights group. But Focus on Family is staying put, at least for now:

“They made a mistake,” CitizenLink spokesman Tom Minnery said Tuesday of the conference organizer, The American Conservative Union. “We’re not happy about it. We’ve got to see a better result next year or our participation is in doubt.”

Minnery said he believes discussions are underway to change the situation for next year.

“We’re encouraged to stick it out this year,” Minnery said. “It’s important for organizations like ours, for social conservatives, to be involved in the conversation.”

GOProud will be a “participating organization,” at the conference, “the second highest level of participation and will have a voice in planning the conference.” All this is too much for some conservative attendees, who are interpreting the group’s inclusion as an abandonment of conservative principles. “By bringing in GOProud, CPAC was effectively saying moral opposition to homosexuality is no longer welcome in the conservative movement,” Americans for Truth about Homosexuality president Peter LaBarbera, said. Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, concurs, “We said GOProud is not a conservative organization. They are undermining the military” by promoting open homosexuality, and “undermining marriage” by opposing the Defense of Marriage Act, which preserves the traditional definition of marriage by limiting it to one man and one woman. The conservative news site WorldNetDaily, a major cheerleader for the groups boycotting CPAC, is even “giving right wing activist Frank Gaffney a platform to charge the ACU with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamist group.”

Last year, David Keene, the head of CPAC’s main organizing group, tried to calm a very similar boycott by assuring conservatives that GOProud would not have a speaking spot and that gay rights issues would not be “open to debate.” CPAC has historically focused less on far-right social priorities than other conservative conferences, but the presence of GOProud at last year’s event caused somewhat of a civil war among the attendees. A speaker who thanked the organizers for allowing GOProud to co-sponsor the conference was met with angry boos and heckling from the audience. A few minutes later, another activist slammed GOProud and engaged in a hostile shouting match with pro-gay rights students in the audience. Watch that exchange here.