Conservative opposition to gay rights is certainly nothing new. In the minds of many on the right, a call for equal rights for gay Americans gets translated into an appeal for “special rights” that ought to be rejected, and it’s been that way since the days of Anita Bryant and before.
But I’m honestly dismayed and surprised to learn just how deep that antipathy still runs.
Earlier this year, organizers of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference agreed to open its doors to GOProud, a group of gay Republicans billing itself as a conservative alternative to the Log Cabin Republicans. The CPAC event is a highlight of the conservative political year, with thousands of activists from around the country traveling to Washington to meet and network.
GOProud is not exactly loud and proud. The group’s home page contains not a word about gay rights. Click on “About GOProud,” and there’s still no mention of a single gay-rights issue. Instead, you read that “GOProud is committed to a traditional conservative agenda that emphasizes limited government, individual liberty, free markets and a confident foreign policy. GOProud promotes our traditional conservative agenda by influencing politics and policy at the federal level.”
In other words, these are not people likely to be making out in the convention hall or waving rainbow flags.
Nonetheless, their mere presence at this year’s CPAC is causing a serious rift in conservative circles. Longtime stalwarts of the movement and the conference, including the Family Research Council, Jerry Falwall’s Liberty University and even the mainstream conservative Heritage Foundation are refusing to participate this year. Sen. Jim DeMint has also made it clear that he will not attend. As The New York Times reports, “Former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska has not responded to an invitation to speak. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, has in the past criticized CPAC for being too “libertarian.” He declined to comment for this article but will also not attend.”
“Conservatives and homosexuals cannot coexist in a movement predicated on social values,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins wrote last year in an e-mail to supporters. “Organizations whose whole reason for existence is to promote the forced public affirmation of homosexual conduct should not be welcomed at CPAC.”
To its credit, the American Conservative Union, which sponsors CPAC, is sticking by its decision despite the risk that attendees might be infected by gay cooties. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, among others, still plan to attend. Mary Matalin is hosting a GOProud fundraiser at her Alexandria home.