For weeks now the Log Cabin Republicans National Office has been receiving calls from members of the press and our grassroots supporters asking, “Why aren’t you attending CPAC this year?” For weeks our answer was short, to the point, and truthful: “We chose to direct our resources elsewhere.” The longer answer is, “We don’t want to support an event that doesn’t officially represent the best ideals of the big-tent philosophy, so we chose to direct our resources elsewhere.”
To be clear: Log Cabin Republicans was not banned from CPAC — there was no letter signed by Chairman Al Cardenas stating we were persona non grata. But we weren’t invited, either. To us, this speaks volumes. So, long before the current brouhaha, we made a conscience choice to take a pass. But the recent groundswell among the grassroots and persistent coverage by the media necessitates a more detailed explanation of our thinking.
It’s become clear that sitting on the sidelines on the CPAC controversy would be a disservice to the many Log Cabin Republicans members, gay conservatives, and straight allies who believe that the time has come for CPAC to officially acknowledge the political reality that gay conservatives are here to stay. We don’t expect to agree on everything, but we can have a civilized discussion on topics like civil marriage recognition for same-sex couples (a discussion 2013 CPAC speaker Newt Gingrich stated needs to be part of a Republican strategy, and that even CPAC speaker Mitt Romney stated should be “respected” in a recent interview) while also sinking our teeth into red-meat issues such as tax reform, free markets, Second Amendment rights, and border security that represent the conservative common ground.
CPAC doesn’t have a monopoly on the conservative platform, and we concluded early this year that there were other ways to get our pro-freedom, pro-free-market message out — ways that didn’t involve engaging in a public spat with an organization that didn’t seem particularly interested in our participation to begin with.
What CPAC does have is a direct connection with the young conservatives who will become the future congressional staffers, political analysts, elected officials, and, indeed, standard-bearers of the movement. These young conservatives are moving in the direction of gay acceptance — and they are moving fast. Just last week, a poll conducted in conjunction with former George W. Bush pollster Jan van Lohuizen revealed that a majority of Republicans under the age of 30 (51%) — a key CPAC demographic — support same-sex marriage. This is a trend that has grown over time, and will continue. This generation no longer intertwines the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage in its views. In fact, a 2012 study by the Public Religion Research Institute concluded that abortion and same-sex marriage have been decoupled, and that while the pro-life/pro-choice divide among millennials mirrors that of the general public, they are far more supportive of same-sex marriage than their elders.
At the end of the day, the American Conservative Union is free to do what it likes — as conservatives, we understand that is their right — but if the ACU continues to pursue a mantra of exclusion and use CPAC to showcase individuals who believe gay conservatives have no business being a part of the greater conservative movement, they should know they do so at their own peril — and at the cost of alienating the next generation of American conservatives.
Gregory T. Angelo is the executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. Visit LogCabin.org for more information.