CPAC Is (Still) Battling With Gay Republicans

CPAC Is (Still) Battling With Gay Republicans

Every year, the American Conservative Union hosts the Conservative Political Action Conference, a highly visible gathering of conservative darlings from various parts of the country's right wing. For the past three years, the Log Cabin Republicans — the country's biggest Republican organization dedicated to championing LGBT issues — have failed to secure a spot at the conference.

This year is no different. But according to LCR, it's not their fault: It's good old fashioned homophobia at work. 

On Thursday, Gregory T. Angelo, LCR's national executive director, put the ACU on blast. "The only conclusion that can be made is that the organizers of CPAC do not feel gay people can be conservative," he said in a statement. "Make no mistake: LCR is actively being prohibited from sponsoring CPAC."

This, he added, didn't mean that he and his members wouldn't be attending; plenty had bought tickets. But when it came to sponsoring the event — something that brings heightened visibility, as well as a minimum $7,500 price tag — Angelo charged that ACU was deliberately shutting them out.

According to LCR, negotiations with ACU began last July, but ACU soon said that because LCR was Republican rather than conservative in nature, they wouldn't be the right fit. (We're not entirely sure what that means, either.) LCR argued that other "explicitly Republican" groups had participated in the past; ACU then changed its track, stating that LCR wasn't "conservative enough."

LCR then sent along a laundry list of conservative torches that the group had taken up, including but not limited to: repealing Obamacare, preserving sequestration and fighting for fracking.

2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the 2013 CPAC.
Source: 
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

In a statement made to the Washington Blade, Matt Schlapp, ACU's chair, declared that LCR hadn't actually applied to be co-sponsors of this year's CPAC. (A request for comment by Mic was not returned.) 

"Had they applied, they would have been subjected to the same review as every other application," he told the Blade. "We do not bar any groups or individuals based on sexual orientation. ... All conservatives, including gay conservatives, are welcome to be at CPAC."

Angelo all but laughed at this. He told the Washington Blade that he sent an email in December suggesting sponsorship to Schlepp, among others, but was met with silence. As for whether the ever group formally applied, Angelo said, "Requesting sponsorship is requesting sponsorship."

Why would ACU choose not to move forward with a LCR sponsorship? You could simply slap a "bigot" sticker on ACU's forehead and call it a day, but the argument could also be made that the kerfuffle is more complicated. The conference has to satisfy many different factions of the conservative movement, and some of those factions really, really don't like the LGBT community.

In fact, this very source of tension has come up before. In 2011, CPAC booted GOProud, often described as the tea party version of LCR, from their sponsorship position, partially due to complaints from various socially conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council. 

As a result of the dismissal, GOProud board chair Chris Barron called ACU board member Cleta Mitchell a "nasty bigot," which (surprise) didn't go over well. 

GOProud was allowed back in 2014 — but only as guests, not as sponsors, which is precisely the objection LCR has with the 2015 conference. Jimmy LaSalvia, the former executive director of GOProud, wasn't surprised by LCR's omission, and noted that it fits in with the ACU's past history. 

"That just shows you the sad reality that the anti-gay bigots still have too much power," he told the Washington Blade.

At the very least, the battle between CPAC and LCR (which looks like it won't be going away anytime soon) is emblematic of a larger debate within the Republican party: namely, the fight between the socially conservative members and everyone else. 

With legal same-sex marriage seemingly around the corner nationwide — with support from a majority of young Republicans — it's odd that CPAC is still fighting the old giants on the issue. But as its most recent spar with LCR illustrates, these beliefs run extremely deep. And so does the fear of disrupting them.

h/t Washington Blade

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Sophie Kleeman

Sophie is a staff writer at Mic covering the intersection of tech and culture. She's based in New York and can be reached at sophie@mic.com.

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