A gay Republican group that has riled critics on both the right and the left has been barred from full participation at an upcoming prominent national conservative convention.
Last week, the board for the American Conservative Union voted to deny GOProud the opportunity to co-sponsor the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, which is set to take place February in D.C. The gay group was a co-sponsor for the event in both 2010 and 2011.
The decision means GOProud won’t be able to pay to have a booth at the exhibition hall, nor will the organization have its name appear on promotional materials for CPAC 2012.
Kristy Campbell, spokesperson for the American Conservative Union, said ACU Chair Al Cardenas took the issue of GOProud’s participation — as well as other groups — to the board “given controversies surrounding a few CPAC 2011 co-sponsors” and “concerns raised by a number of our board members.”
The board, Campbell said, voted to bar GOProud from CPAC 2012 co-sponsorship. She declined to comment on the final vote tally for the decision, nor would she comment on the board’s reasoning for excluding the gay group from full participation at the event.
“As always, individual members of these organizations are welcome and encouraged to attend CPAC,” Campbell added. “We look forward to hosting an extraordinarily successful CPAC 2012 in our nation’s capital next February.”
GOProud wasn’t the only group that was excluded from full participation at CPAC. The board also voted to bar the John Birch Society, a political advocacy group that supports limited government and opposes economic interventionism and is known for holding extreme right-wing views. The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies the society as a “‘Patriot Group.”
Additionally, Campbell said the board also considered barring David Horowitz, a conservative author who writes about liberal political bias and indoctrination at universities. However, he was ultimately not barred from participating.
GOProud’s board members said in a joint statement they were “deeply disappointed” with the ACU’s decision to bar the organization from co-sponsorship at CPAC 2012 and said ACU has a “right to do so, but a decision like this will have consequences.”
“For the last two years, GOProud has sought to support CPAC and keep the conservative movement united,” the board members said. “Unfortunately, elements inside and outside of ACU have pushed their own narrow, divisive and sometimes personal agenda. They have done so at the expense of the conservative movement.”
The board members added that the ACU’s decision is “truly sad” because it comes at a time “when we should be united and focused on defeating Barack Obama” in the 2012 race for the White House.
“GOProud has been and will continue to be an outspoken proponent of conservative values and conservative policy,” the board said. “This organization will continue to work to bring conservatives of all stripes together to save this country and defeat the left. Obviously, that work will no longer be done at CPAC, but it will be done.”
Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, declined to comment further on the decision to bar his organization from co-sponsorsing CPAC 2012 beyond the statement issued by the board of directors.
GOProud’s participation at CPAC had incurred the wrath of social conservative groups that pledged to boycott sponsorship of the event over the gay conservative group’s involvement. These groups include Family Research Council, Concerned Women For America, Liberty Counsel and Liberty University. In 2011, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a social conservative and Tea Party favorite, also declined to participate at CPAC.
Also last year, GOProud board chair Chris Barron took heat from conservatives after he described Cleta Mitchell, chair of the ACU Foundation, as “a nasty bigot” in an interview. Barron apologized, but ACU chair Cardenas told FrumForum that “it’s going to be difficult to continue the relationship” with GOProud and expressed disappointment in the group’s reaction to the furor over its participation at the event.
“I have been disappointed with their website and their quotes in the media, taunting organizations that are respected in our movement and part of our movement, and that’s not acceptable,” Cardenas was quoted as saying. “And that puts them in a difficult light in terms of how I view things.”
GOProud has also been criticized by many LGBT rights activists for, among other things, reaching out to Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann for potential support in 2012 race for the White House.
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said his reaction to the ACU board’s vote to bar GOProud from CPAC 2012 depends on the reasoning for the decision.
“If the ACU board excluded any group based on sexual orientation, that is not OK,” Cooper said. “If the ACU decision, however, was due to unprofessional behavior by a sponsor, then it is well within reason for the ACU to decline sponsorship.”