By Stephen Richer
Matthew Bechstein and Ross Hemminger want to set the record straight: The American Conservative Union (ACU — the organization behind the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)) is NOT bigoted. The two co-directors of GOProud stated in a phone call with the Purple Elephant that ACU warmly received the overtures of GOProud, and that ACU gave GOProud exactly what it asked for: a chance to represent GOProud throughout the entirety of CPAC, and a chance to make inroads with more members of the Republican Party.
Former GOProud leaders Jimmy LaSalvia and Christopher Barron see it differently. LaSalvia stated: “[If] I was still running GOProud . . . I wouldn’t accept a three-fifths invitation.” (Queerty). And Barron made news when he quit GOProud’s board in protest: “GOProud calling their deal with CPAC a ‘compromise’ is like the Germans calling the Treaty of Versailles a ‘compromise.'”
But both in the phone call, and in a message to its members, Bechstein and Hemminger said they didn’t ask for what Barron and LaSalvia claimed CPAC had denied them: a booth and a place as a sponsor. After two years of not being in attendance, Bechstein and Hemminger wanted to start slow and reestablish GOProud as a Republican team player. “We’re not trying to stir the waters,” Hemminger said. “In the past, GOProud, regretfully, conflicted with a number of people at ACU. We need to fix these relationships.”
Bechstein and Hemminger also cast Barron’s dramatic exit in a different light: According to them, Barron served on an Advisory Panel and did not have any voting control over the organization. The two had kept Barron on this panel out of respect for the work he (and LaSalvia) had done in the past, and in the hopes that Barron would help them connect with established Republicans.
LaSalvia and Barron are still the two names most associated with the GOProud organization. Bechstein and Hemminger aren’t principally concerned with refocusing the spotlight on themselves. They are in a hurry, however, to change GOProud’s image from what they worried was a feisty, name-calling organization into a tempered and patient organization that works hard to win the hearts of Republican faithful. “If you’re a gay Republican,” Hemminger said, “you have to be patient; you have to expect some delays; and you have to understand that not everyone is going to agree with you. We don’t call these people bigots. That does nothing to develop the Republican Party.”
How will GOProud be received at CPAC? Bechstein is hopeful: “We’ll have to wait to see, but we had great meetings with the people at the ACU, and we’re excited for the conference.”
Disclosure: Matthew Bechstein is a contributor to this blog.