February 19, 2015 at 5:36 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
CPAC rejects Log Cabin as event sponsor
Gregory Angelo, Log Cabin Republicans, gay news, Washington Blade

Log Cabin executive director Gregory Angelo says his organization has been excluded from CPAC. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Organizers of the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference are continuing an anti-gay tradition of refusing to allow an LGBT group to serve as a sponsor of the event, according to the Log Cabin Republicans.

Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin, announced in a statement Thursday the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, had rejected his group’s request to sponsor CPAC because Log Cabin is an LGBT group.

“We are just as conservative as anyone else at CPAC — I dare say even more conservative than many; the only difference is that we are gay,” Angelo said. “Remarkably, in 2015, that’s all the ACU needs to know to shut an organization out.”

As of now, Angelo said he and other Log Cabin members plan to go as regular attendees, but not as co-sponsors.

According to the American Conservative Union, the lowest rate for co-sponsoring CPAC, which includes being able to set up a booth at the exhibit hall, runs $7,500. The event is set to take place between Feb. 25 and Feb. 28 in National Harbor, Md.

Discussions between Log Cabin and the new leadership at the American Conservative Union began in July, according to the gay rights group.

Log Cabin asserts CPAC said that their participation “would be difficult” because the LGBT group is explicitly a “Republican” organization, not a “conservative” organization. In response, Log Cabin says it argued that regular CPAC participation of other Republican organizations was common, but then ACU stated Log Cabin isn’t “conservative enough.”

Although the organization advocates for gay rights initiatives like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and marriage equality, Log Cabin has staked out numerous conservative positions.

Log Cabin is the only LGBT organization that has called for repeal of the Affordable Care Act, signing a letter in 2013 with 21 conservative organizations to denounce the law as “tyrannical.”

According to Log Cabin, the organization sent a list of its conservative principles to the American Conservative Union, which includes support for gun-ownership rights, preserving budget sequestration and calls for tax reform.

“Make no mistake: LCR is actively being prohibited from sponsoring CPAC,” Angelo said. “For our organization, this has always been about contributing to CPAC as sponsors or in some recognized capacity. Time and again, when we showed the ACU that we met the criteria for sponsorship, the reasons for our exclusion changed. The only conclusion that can be made is that the organizers of CPAC do not feel gay people can be conservative — a position opposed by the thousands of Millennial CPAC attendees who have been asking Log Cabin Republicans for months if we would be participating at this year’s event.”

Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union, said in a statement the reason Log Cabin isn’t formally participating is because the group has “not applied to be co-sponsors of CPAC 2015.”

“Had they applied, they would have been subjected to the same review as every other application,” Schlapp said. “We do not bar any groups or individuals based on sexual orientation. Our standards for any group are the strength of their conservative principles. All conservatives, including gay conservatives, are welcome to be at CPAC. In fact, we have invited main stage and break out panelists who are conservative and gay, and we thank them for their contribution to our movement and CPAC 2015.”

A spokesperson for the American Conservative Union declined to identify these “main stage and break out panelists who are conservative and gay” in a subsequent phone conversation.

Other groups that sponsored CPAC in years past include Liberty University, a non-profit Christian university that opposes gay rights, the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage and Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays, or PFOX, which endorses widely discredited conversion therapy.

Notably, Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, who incurred the wrath of LGBT advocates for saying gay sex is a sin, is set to receive a “Freedom of Speech Award” at this year’s CPAC. Despite widespread criticism of Robertson, Log Cabin Republicans invited him to a “Moonshine Summit” to discuss the incident.

Schlepp encouraged Log Cabin to take on more conservative positions if the group wants to maintain a leadership role in that movement.

“If the Log Cabin Republicans want to take a leadership role in the conservative movement, they need to start advocating for conservative policy solutions and siding with conservative candidates in primaries, even when it means taking on moderate Republicans,” Schlepp said. “We encourage them to do just that.”

In response, Angelo said the assertion that Log Cabin had never applied to become a CPAC sponsor is “nonsense — and untrue,” and supplied an email that he sent to Schlepp and Dan Schneider dated Dec. 14 expressing interest in co-sposoring CPAC.

“I hope that you’d consider making Log Cabin Republicans a meaningful part of CPAC 2015; we are able to sponsor this year’s event (indeed it would be an honor to do so) and would also appreciate being in dialogue with you as to how LCR can play a helpful role in making this year’s CPAC the most successful ever,” Angelo says in the email.

Asked whether his organization formally submitted an application to sponsor CPAC, Angelo replied, “Requesting sponsorship is requesting sponsorship.”

“The point of all of this was to apply and to do so in a way that insured any hesitations the ACU had about accepting a LCR sponsorship were addressed before filling out any forms,” Angelo said. “Mr. Schlapp or Mr. Schneider easily could have replied to my request for sponsorship in December with next steps; they chose not to respond at all — and chose not to respond to multiple follow-up messages.”

CPAC has a history of excluding conservative gay rights groups from the event. In 2011, the American Conservative Union voted to bar the now defunct gay conservative group GOProud from CPAC, in addition to the right-wing John Birch Society, after the organization was a co-sponsor in 2009 and 2010.

The American Conservative Union cited “disrespectful behavior toward conservatives and event attendees” as the reason why the groups were banned, but GOProud insisted it was denied sponsorship because it was a gay organization.

In 2010, GOProud board chair Chris Barron referred to Cleta Mitchell, a conservative activist who organizes CPAC and an opponent LGBT rights, as a “nasty bigot,” a statement for which he apologized. (Barron later apologized for his apology last year before resigning from GOProud’s board.)

In 2013, GOProud participated in CPAC in an unofficial event organized hosted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute to talk about the inclusion of gay people in the conservative movement. It was only last year when the American Conservative Union partially lifted its ban to allow GOProud to take part, but just as attendees and not event sponsors.

Jimmy LaSalvia, former executive director of GOProud, said the exclusion of Log Cabin “isn’t surprising” because it squares with the American Conservative Union’s treatment of LGBT rights groups.

“The anti-gay segment in the conservative movement is still too powerful,” LaSalvia said. “The sad reality is that the bigotry of that small group of anti-gay folks stains the entire conservative movement, because those who tolerate and enable bigotry are no better than the bigots themselves.”

LaSalvia, who since his departure from GOProud has left the Republican Party, noted anti-gay groups said they would boycott CPAC if GOProud were allowed to return.

“Tony Perkins, Jim DeMint and others attacked CPAC and boycotted, then were rewarded with speaking roles after they were successful in getting the gays kicked out,” LaSalvia said. “That just shows you the sad reality that the anti-gay bigots still have too much power.

Even though use of the term “bigot” may have landed GOProud in trouble, LaSalvia made no apologies about referring to those anti-gay leaders with that word.

“Using the word ‘bigot’ is not name-calling as some of them would contend,” LaSalvia said. “That’s the word for it.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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