Conservative speakers and organizers will flock to Washington, DC next week for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). But GOProud, an extreme right-wing gay organization, won’t be invited this year after outcry from anti-gay groups that spearhead the conference. The decision to exclude GOProud for the second year in a row has triggered a schism between conservatives who plan to boycott the conference until GOProud is invited and those who believe the group goes against social conservative values.
S.E. Cupp, a conservative commentator on MSNBC, is refusing to attend CPAC without GOProud. Other well-known conservatives have backed up her decision and condemned CPAC’s intolerance. The National Review published an editorial today noting that the exclusion of GOProud has had “a greater downside for CPAC than its past of GOProud ever did”:
Conservative opinion on the intersection of homosexuality and politics is not monolithic, especially among the college-aged set that makes up the better part of CPAC attendees. And a gathering that hopes to speak for the conservative movement will be better equipped to do so if it represents the overlapping gamut of views included in it.
CPAC Chairman Al Cardenas denies that GOProud was uninvited because gay people are unwelcome at CPAC, but rather because they “did not act properly as guests” last time. Cardenas said the group held press conferences attacking CPAC board members, which led to board members voting against them. Though Cardenas now insists that gay conservatives are welcome, his own wife said in 2011 that GOProud was banned because homosexuality “is a threat to society” and “not nature’s way.”
This year, according to notoriously right-wing columnist Jennifer Rubin, a CPAC sponsor employee blamed CPAC’s reluctance to “cross groups that are big sponsors that have said they’d leave if GOProud is ‘in the building.’” Indeed, several major sponsors including the Family Research Council refused to attend CPAC in 2011 when GOProud was participating.
This latest clash over conservative exclusion reflects the Republican Party’s new anxiety over outreach to minorities, women, young people and gay voters, all demographics that voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in the 2012 election. Still, even GOProud’s defenders have avoided opening debate on real policy shifts. Rubin argued, “No one is asking CPAC to endorse gay marriage or any other policy … merely to let gays into the room.” The National Review also reassured CPAC that including GOProud would “not now…imply its endorsement of any particular policies regarding gays.”