CPAC’s big, gay headache

CPAC has a GOProud problem.

The small, but outspoken, gay conservative group just won’t go away, despite the best efforts of some of the conservative leaders behind the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

The American Conservative Union (ACU), whose board grants access to the annual summit, began barring GOProud as a co-sponsor in 2012 — after welcoming the organization in 2010 and 2011.

But why was GOProud barred from CPAC sponsorship in the first place? That depends on who you ask.

GOProud ‘Did Not Act Properly as Guests’

ACU Chairman Al Cardenas addressed the question in a radio interview on Friday, attributing their exclusion to “over-the-top” behavior.

“We have always welcomed gay participants and registrants to CPAC and have given them a warm welcome,” Cardenas told WMAL’s Brian Wilson and Larry O’Connor Friday morning. “From time to time there are organizations or individuals who we think go over the top when they are guests at CPAC, and for years we’ve decided not to invite them again for the following year, given that particular set of circumstances.”

“Last year, they had been invited and there were three groups that we felt did not act properly as guests. They had press conferences criticizing some of our board members — some things of that nature — and look, the board took a vote. It was not unanimous, by the way, but the board took a vote to not invite them. It wasn’t a permanent ban, but for the time being, that’s what the board did. And incidentally, they voted to not invite a couple of other groups as well. So, that’s where we are.”

Tempers between the ACU and GOProud reached a boiling point in the days leading up to the 2011 conference.

Longtime ACU chairman — and GOProud supporter — David Keene stepped down from his post two days before the conference to become president of the National Rifle Association.

In the next 24 hours, GOProud co-founder Chris Barron told Metro Weekly that ACU board member and social conservative Cleta Mitchell was a “nasty bigot” for her continued efforts to rally other board members to expel the group.

Barron also knocked The Heritage Foundation and then-South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint — now Heritage’s president — for boycotting CPAC over the group. “They’re all excited that Jim DeMint is boycotting. And that’s fantastic,” he said then.”I’m glad that he’s willing to be on the Island of Political Misfit Toys with [World Net Daily’s Joseph] Farah and the Concerned Women for America.”

Barron would quickly apologize for the remarks, but among conservative critics, the damage had been done.

“GOProud has taken one of the favorite leftist bullet points and brought it straight into CPAC. You oppose affirmative action? You’re a racist. You oppose gay marriage? You’re a bigot,” wrote RedState’s Erick Erickson.

And at the American Spectator, Quinn Hillyer wrote, “To be clear, the problem with Christopher Barron isn’t that he’s homosexual. The problem with Christopher Barron is that he’s a flaming jerk.”