Gay Republicans Face Cool Reception at CPAC

Posted February 18, 2010 at 4:20pm

Not only are the members of GOProud, a gay Republican organization, in the political minority, but they are also very much in the Republican minority.

Ever since it signed on as a co-sponsor of the Conservative Political Action Conference, this 9-month-old organization has provoked controversy.

Not far from the GOProud booth, several men on Thursday handed out green leaflets that read “TO KEEP OUR HONOR CLEAN!” The leaflet, created by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, is a four-page argument against gays serving in the military. The pamphlet, in fact, calls for “a moral revolution.”

“We co-signed a letter to the organizers of CPAC asking that GOProud not be allowed to cosponsor the event,” said C. Preston Noell III, spokesman for TFP. “An organization that promotes homosexuality is opposed to family as God made it — one man and one woman.”

The letter to the organizers went unanswered, though not without repercussions. Liberty University, the conservative Christian college founded by Jerry Falwell, usually has a large presence at CPAC, but this year it withdrew from the conference in protest against GOProud’s participation.

That action hasn’t fazed GOProud. “This is the pre-eminent gathering of conservatives in the country, so how could we not be a part of it?” said Chris Barron, chairman of GOProud’s board. “The conservative movement is a large one and a diverse one.”

In fact, Barron says he has always had a positive experience at CPAC, and he spoke on a panel at the conference in 2005.

“I don’t think that CPAC is anti-gay,” Barron said. “I know the perception is that this would be a hostile environment for us, but the truth is that it isn’t.”

While CPAC and its organizers may not bar gay organizations, it’s hard to deny that many in attendance do have a problem with homosexuality. John Ritchie, who works for the student action arm of TFP, says he believes being gay is “a violation of God’s law, a violation of natural law and a violation of common sense.”

Despite this charged language, Gabino Cuevas, a small-business owner and member of GOProud, says he has not faced any discrimination at CPAC. He says that while being gay is a part of who he is, it is not the biggest part.

“I’m not wearing a rainbow,” Cuevas said. “I have one flag, the red, white and blue.”

While the party does not entirely embrace homosexuality, Barron still considers himself a staunch Republican who believes in free trade and strong foreign policy. When faced with opposition to his lifestyle from other Republicans, Barron says he tells people he supports former Vice President Dick Cheney and his views.

“He supports gay marriage and his credentials are unquestionably conservative,” he said. “If Dick Cheney is not a conservative, then I’m not a conservative.”

Barron says he believes there are many organizations at CPAC that disagree over various issues but that there is room for varied opinions in the Republican party.

“There are all sorts of groups here who don’t like what many of the other groups here are working on,” Barron said. “It doesn’t bother me; people are free to have their opinion.”

While Barron may subscribe to the idea of a “big tent,” those at TFP abhor this idea. Ritchie calls GOProud “a leak in the tent” and the “antithesis of family values”

“I’m not in favor of a big tent,” Noell said. “We need to pick and choose our friends carefully.”