By Lori Heine
Every year, political junkies wonder: will they, or won’t they? Will the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) include gay Republicans in formal participation, or will it keep them, once again, on the outside looking in?
As it turns out, CPAC’s ban – which does not keep gay conservatives from attending the conference, but only from speaking, serving, sponsoring or participating on panels – remained in force in 2014. In an opinion piece in the Daily Caller, Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director Gregory T. Angelo attempted to clear up any confusion about this: “Log Cabin members attend every year, as paying guests.”
Angelo noted that “Anyone can attend CPAC as a paying guest – CPAC has never had a policy of discrimination when it comes to individuals being ‘allowed’ to attend. Jimmy Carter could buy a ticket and go to CPAC. Were they alive today, Neville Chamberlain and Stepin Fetchit could buy a ticket to CPAC.”
In the weeks leading up to the conference, Log Cabin Republicans negotiated with the American Conservative Union (ACU), CPAC’s hosts, hoping to be granted an official place in the program of events. Angelo reports that “our efforts were undercut by the white flag waved by gay ‘advocates’ who felt mere attendance was a statement of strength.”
It certainly wasn’t seen as such by many in the media. Nor did they present an accurate picture by giving the impression that Log Cabin had been barred from even attending. Both of these widespread misconceptions, Angelo hopes to refute. Neither, certainly, is helpful to those who want a reliable map of where gay conservatives stand, today, on the political Right.
The answer, evidently, is that social conservatives still have the movement in a stranglehold. “At a time when state legislatures around the country are proposing, debated and – in some cases – passing legislation that allows individuals to discriminate against Americans exclusively because of their sexual orientation,” writes Angelo, “we could not in good conscience agree to a settlement in which Log Cabin Republicans was expected to celebrate the equivalent of not being allowed to sit at the lunch counter but still be served food, or sitting at the back of the bus, as long as we were allowed to ride it.”
In a crucial election year, with so much power at stake, this strikes many as an odd choice for the ACU. The Republican Party is badly in need of new voters, especially among the millenial generation and those who identify as independents. Polls consistently show these voters leery of the GOP because they perceive it as unwelcoming and intolerant. An outright ban on LGBT participation seems draconian, even paranoid.
Yes, quite undoubtedly, Log Cabin’s full inclusion would have triggered social conservative temper tantrums. Perhaps some in “the base” might have stayed home sulking on election day. But we may never know how many who would otherwise not be inspired to go to the polls might have pulled the lever for Republican candidates. At some point, the GOP needs to wake up and realize where their liabilities really lie.
“If they do not,” concludes Angelo, “’CPAC and the gays’ is destined to be litigated in the media year after year after year, until the ACU either accepts gays as a permanent and meaningful part of the conservative movement, or dares to codify our exclusion into formal policy, at their own peril.”
This truly is becoming As the Stomach Turns. How will the soap opera turn out? For the continuing story, we’ll all need to tune in next year.