How One Gay Conservative Group Is Gatecrashing CPAC

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GOProud isn't invited to this year's conservative confab, but the organization -- and the issue of gay marriage -- won't be absent.

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It may look like representatives of GOProud, a group of gay conservatives, are speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference tomorrow, but they're not.

Sure, they will be holding a panel in the same building at the same time, but they aren't officially part of CPAC. That's because CPAC -- a yearly gathering of who's who in the conservative movement -- did not invite GOProud to participate. The group is getting the chance to be on site, however, because one of the CPAC hosts, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is sponsoring a panel called "A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition, Bringing Tolerance Out of the Closet."

The history of CPAC and GOProud has been fraught with problems. The gay group was invited to participate in the 2010 and 2011 conferences, despite an outcry from plenty of antigay participants. And the reason GOProud did not get an invite this year is disputable. CPAC Chairman Al Cardenas told radio station 630 WMAL that the group just didn't behave well in the past.

"From time to time, there are organizations or individuals who we think go over the top when they are our guests at CPAC, and for years we've decided not to invite them again for the following year, given that particular group of circumstances," he said, noting that last year GOProud members held press conferences "attacking" CPAC board members.

But this feud features more than just a couple accusations of men behaving badly, and it has sparked a debate about whether conservatives are willing to embrace same-sex couples in their movement.

Jennifer Rubin, a conservative opinion writer for The Washington Post, has agreed to speak at the GOProud event, calling it a "revolt of a new generation of conservatives who are more inclusive and more media savvy."

"They understand that gay rights (I would say, not unlike immigration reform) is increasingly a "gateway" issue for voters," she wrote for The Post about conservatives willing to embrace the gay community. "If politicians are perceived as intolerant and unwelcoming on this issue, many voters, including those the GOP must attract in greater numbers (women, minorities, younger voters, moderate urbanites), won't listen to them on other issues."

But not all conservatives are so welcoming of the group. In 2011, Erick Erickson, a conservative blogger with a lot of sway, wrote, "GOProud is not a conservative organization."

"GOProud has taken one of the favorite leftist bullet points and brought it straight into CPAC," he wrote at the time. "You oppose affirmative action? You're a racist. You oppose gay marriage? You're a bigot."

Most recently, a post on Accuracy in Media, has made the rounds on the Internet after the author, Cliff Kincaid, said, "There is no such thing as a 'gay conservative,' unless the term 'conservative' has lost all meaning."

In his post, Kincaid tries link Marxism with homosexuality and says the acceptance of homosexuality is one of the reasons why nations fail.

"Rather than debate whether "gay conservatives" exist or ought to have prominent speaking roles, CPAC should be sponsoring a panel on the dangers of the homosexual movement and why some of its members seem prone to violence, terror, and treason," he wrote.

Even though it has a tricky relationship with the conservative movement, and even though CPAC has rescinded its invitation, GOProud can still have fun this week. Lisa De Pasquale, a CPAC director from 2006 to 2011 and a current board member of GOProud, says she won't be attending the conference this year, so she will threw her own party instead.

The happy hour she threw at PJ Clarke's Sidecar bar on Monday, according to Fishbowl DC, was appropriately called: "Don't Say C---."

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Ben Terris is a staff reporter for National Journal.

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