Former GOProud Head Not Impressed With CPAC’s New Gay “Inclusion”

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 19 2014 3:09 PM

Former GOProud Head Not Impressed With CPAC’s New Gay “Inclusion”

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Chris Barron doesn't want gay Republicans to get "three-fifths" representation.

Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

The run-up to CPAC, the annual conference of conservatives, is traditionally marked by a few weeks of what-it-means coverage. Chris Christie wasn't invited in 2013, but will be there next month—story No. 1. Story No. 2, from Beth Reinhard, is that the conference has reversed its policy on inviting gay Republican groups, after two years of sore feelings. CPAC will include "GOProud, the gay-rights group that was banned for the past few years amid noisy boycotts from critics and supporters," after its new bosses cut a deal with the American Conservative Union.

Two former GOProud summer interns, Ross Hemminger and Matt Bechstein, took over last summer and sought to repair the bitterly frayed relationship. Under a compromise reached last week, they will attend the March 6-8 gathering as guests, without sponsorship or a booth. GOProud sees the lower-profile role as an important first step.

Hang on—as guests? This is an event that allows the John Birch Society to set up a booth, and GOProud still can't?

ACU's disagreement with GOProud was noisy and personal, and poisoned when then-Chairman Chris Barron told reporter Chris Geidner that ACU board member Cleta Mitchell was a "nasty bigot." That was in 2011, when GOProud co-sponsored the conference. GOProud wasn't allowed to co-sponsor CPAC ever again. Jimmy LaSalvia, GOProud's former executive director, grew so tired of Republican Party positions on gay rights that he quit it.

"If I was still running GOProud," he told me, "I wouldn't accept a three-fifths invitation to CPAC."

With that reference to the diminished status of pre-Civil War black Americans, the LaSalvia-ACU feud continues. The GOProud-ACU feud is on pause, in a way that advantages the old right over the gay right.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.