Palin clarifies: Let the gays join CPAC

Sarah Palin reiterated her support for including GOProud, a self-identifying gay group, into the Conservative Political Action Conference that starts today, a rebuke to social conservatives who have actively been trying to push the organization out of the conservative movement.

In an interview on Fox News the night before the conference, Palin said she had no problem letting gay conservative groups join the annual conference, which this year is drawing thousands of attendees and more than a dozen prospective Republican presidential candidates.

“I don’t have a problem with different, diverse groups that are involved in political discourse, and having a convention to talk about what the answers are to their problems that face America,” Palin said. “We better be concentrating on what is really important and not going tit-for-tat as people are positioning themselves for 2012 and figuring out what groups is going to support whom. We better be very serious about finding solutions to the problems.”

Her statement clarified earlier remarks made last week about the conference allowing GOProud to co-sponsor the conference, which receivedĀ a sharp rebuke from some social conservatives who demanded that she expand on her vague comments.

Palin, who will not attend CPAC over scheduling conflicts, joins a long list of conservative leaders who have jumped into battle over the group, which touts itself as “the only national organization of gay conservatives and their allies.”

GOProud, run out of a small English basement on Capitol Hill with just two employees and an intern, has caused a stir among conservative groups since its founding in 2009. This week marks the second year GOProud will participate at CPAC, prompting a handful of conference regulars to boycott. The groups, which include Concerned Women of America, The Media Research Center and Liberty Counsel, have explicitly cited GOProud’s involvement as a reason for sitting out this year. The feelings against GOProud run deep. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, for example, went as far as saying that “conservatives and homosexuals cannot coexist” within the movement.

All this criticism comes despiteĀ GOProud’s 2011 list of legislative priorities, which only includes one policy goal that could be labeled a “gay rights issue:” opposition to a federal marriage amendment. The other nine on the list include policy stances that could be cut and pasted from almost any other mainstream conservative group. GOProud has also roped in a number of high profile conservative supporters, including media mogul Andrew Breitbart, tax activist Grover Norquist, and Republican strategist Liz Mair, who sits on the group’s board of directors advisory council. Pundit Ann Coulter, who disagrees with the group on marriage but supports their inclusion, headlined a party GOProud sponsored last year.

The public call for a boycott began when American Principles Project founder Robert George wrote a letter in November to former American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene complaining about GOProud’s participation. The letter was co-signed by American Values, Liberty Counsel, and the National Organization for Marriage and argued that “inclusion of this group that stands in diametrical opposition to a core principle of conservatism made it necessary to take action.” Since then more groups have announced they will stay out and as late as this week, The Washington Times reported that around two dozen conservative leaders sent a memo to the ACU demanding groups that self-identify with gay issues be banned from the conference.