February 19, 2014 at 6:14 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
CPAC lifts ban on gay conservative group
GOProud, CPAC, gay news, Washington Blade

The GOProud booth at CPAC in 2011. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

After years of being banned, a group for gay conservatives will once again participate this year in the annual Conservative Political Action Conference — although its involvement will be limited compared to previous years.

As first reported by the National Journal, the American Conservative Union announced on Wednesday that it would allow GOProud to participate in CPAC, which will take place March 6-8 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

Dan Schneider, the ACU’s executive director, said his organization decided to allow GOProud to return to CPAC following a meeting between the groups last week.

“The directors have a new vision for promoting a broad array of conservative priorities; from sound fiscal policies to strong Second Amendment rights to pro-life policies,” Schneider said. “We welcome GOProud’s attendance at this year’s CPAC conference. I believe their presence could help establish a productive relationship in the future.”

However, GOProud is only set to participate at CPAC as a guest at the event. No booth was allocated to the gay conservative group at the conference.

Ross Hemminger, co-director of GOProud, said his organization didn’t seek a booth at the event and wanted to participate as a guest to rebuild the relationship with the ACU.

“We will have the presence that we wanted there,” Hemminger said. “I’ve been making clear to people, we didn’t ask for a booth, we didn’t ask to co-sponsor, we asked to attend as guests, and the ACU and CPAC have been very willing to work with us to that, and they’ve been wonderful to work with.”

Although GOProud had a booth at CPAC in 2010 and 2011, the organization was barred from participating in 2012 along with the John Birch Society. Although the ACU would later say GOProud was barred for “disrespectful behavior,” GOProud always asserted it was barred from attendance because it identified as a gay group.

It should be noted that GOProud was invited back to CPAC in the first year that the former leaders of the group, Jimmy LaSalvia and Chris Barron, are no longer affiliated with the organization.

But the lifting of the ban on GOProud wasn’t the only news on Wednesday regarding CPAC. New Jersey Governor and possible 2016 Republican presidential contender Chris Christie, who was snubbed at last year’s event, was allowed to have a speaking slot at the event.

One remaining question is whether the Log Cabin Republicans will attend CPAC. Gregory Angelo, Log Cabin’s executive director, said the decision is still up in the air.

“We’re still working out what LCR participation might look like at CPAC,” Angelo said. “Any Log Cabin Republicans presence would need to be meaningful.”

Asked what a meaningful presence would look like, Angelo said, “We’re still ironing that out.”

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

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