In the ongoing saga of over the inclusion of GOProud as a “participating organization” in CPAC, today a GOProud volunteer boasted to me that despite the boycott by religious right groups over the gay group’s presence, “we came out on top.”
But by late afternoon FrumForum posted an exclusive interview with the new chair of the American Conservative Union, the chief organizer of CPAC, who expressed disapproval with the way GOProud had responded to the fracas. In particular, GOProud chair Chris Barron had called Cleta Mitchell, head of the American Conservative Union Foundation, “a nasty bigot” because, he maintained, she encouraged social conservatives to boycott. Al Cardenas, the new ACU chair, told Frum Forum, “It’s going to be difficult to continue the relationship [with GOProud] because of their behavior and attitude.” (Barron apologized for his comment about Mitchell.)
Not all anti-gay groups boycotted CPAC; I ran into someone with PFOX, the “ex-gay” group, and when I asked him why they didn’t boycott, he replied, “if we don’t come who will see our signs?” And the ever-present Tradition, Family, Property, a far-right anti-gay Catholic group, told me, “we’re here to fight.”
But Matt Hissey, a junior at Westchester University and a GOProud volunteer, told me many CPAC-ers had stopped by his booth to express support, one person even praising GOProud’s standing up to the “wingnuts.”
“They look like they are the ones being idiotic,” said Hissey, referring to the boycotting groups. “They’re not coming because they’re concerned about the gay issues. . . the whole country is concerned with fiscal issues.”
“We believe that conservatism is a vast umbrella,” said Hissey, “we’re just another demographic the conservatives have.”
But religious right leaders who did come to the conference insisted their anti-gay contingent of the conservative movement was still mighty. Anti-gay marriage crusader Bishop Harry Jackson, who had a spot on a panel in the main ballroom (a perch GOProud didn’t have) begged the audience “not to throw [social conservatives] under the bus.” And Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, told me, “I’m very confident that both the Republican Party platform and the Republican Party ticket in 2012 and the foreseeable future will be for the federal marriage amendment, for defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, and for the Defense of Marriage Act.”
GOProud opposes the Defense of Marriage Act, but only because it believes decisions on gay marriage should be made at the state level. It does not, however take a position on the merits of gay marriage. It supported repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But considering that GOProud takes no position on the merits of gay marriage, and most of its positions, apart from supporting DADT repeal, have nothing to do with gay rights, it’s obvious (as if it wasn’t already) that it’s their gayness, and not GOProud’s issue positions, that rankles the anti-gay groups.
I asked Hissey if it bothered him that groups under that conservative umbrella are anti-gay. “It’s not hurting me, it’s not hurting GOProud,” Hissey insisted. “They can be anti-gay rights all they want. Conservatism is all about individual responsibility.”
Cardenas, it seems, has other ideas.