For years, GOProud’s leaders loved to make hay out of the fact that they were banned from CPAC, the right-wing jamboree at which all the neuroses that are destroying the Republican party are celebrated. But with the departure of founders Jimmy LaSalvia and Chris Barron, CPAC organizers are willing to show that they are big enough to allow gay people in their presence.
“We welcome GOProud’s attendance at this year’s CPAC conference,” Dan Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union (ACU), which runs the conference, told the National Journal. “I believe their presence could help establish a productive relationship in the future.”
In case you were thinking this was progress of sorts, the GOProud attendees, Ross Hemminger and Matt Bechstein, will be attending only as guests. They are not sponsored and they will not have a booth. Just to put that in perspective, the John Birch Society, the radical right organization that thought President Eisenhower was a Communist, will have a booth.
Why the about face? It’s not that the CPAC organizers have gone soft. They are every bit as opposed to all things gay as they ever were. If anything, it’s because of the departure of LaSalvia, who got into a public spat with the ACU by calling board member Cleta Jones a “nasty bigot.” Hemminger and Bechstein, former summer interns who have taken over GOProud, are more pliable and happy to accept second-class status.
“We want to help grow the Republican Party,” said Bechstein. “Our agenda is to get Republicans—ideally pro-gay Republicans—elected.”
LaSalvia, who has now decided that the Republican party isn’t really all that gay-friendly, says he wouldn’t have taken the offer. “I was still running GOProud,” he told Slate’s Dave Weigel, “I wouldn’t accept a three-fifths invitation to CPAC.”
Keeping the feud running would have been a smart media move. But realistically the policy differences between CPAC and GOProud came down to a single issue. Otherwise, there was no daylight between the two. Clearly, that single issue isn’t any longer enough of a principle to deter GOProud.
UDPATE: GOProud co-founder Chris Barron has resigned from the group’s board to protest the organization’s willingness to attend CPAC. “I cannot in good conscience sit by and watch as the current leadership of the organization disingenuously pawns off an unconditional surrender to the forces of bigotry as some sort of ‘compromise,’” Barron told BuzzFeed. “Nothing has changed in regards to GOProud and CPAC, GOProud does not have a booth, they are not a sponsor, they are not participating in any formal sense — individual members can attend and that’s exactly the terms ACU dictated the previous few years.”