In February, conservatives from around the country will gather in Washington for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, a major pow wow for aspiring candidates and activists alike. Anyone looking to run for the GOP presidential nomination for 2012 will likely be there to greet the faithful. But socially conservative Christians, including Jerry Falwell Jr. and the American Family Association, are threatening to boycott the influential event this year. Why? Because the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, has allowed a gay group to co-sponsor the event. GOProud members, like the usual CPAC attendees, are committed to free markets, individual freedoms, and limited government. The group was formed by gay conservatives who found the Log Cabin Republicans too liberal for their tastes. But in mid-December, Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber started spreading the alarm about GOProud's participation in CPAC. He wrote in an email:
“I was disturbed to learn that CPAC is allowing the ‘Republican’ homosexual activist group GOProud to sponsor a booth at the 2010 conference. Among other things, GOProud advocates in favor of both ‘gay marriage’ and ‘civil unions,’ against pro-marriage constitutional amendments ; is pushing for the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and advocates in favor of federal ‘partnership benefits’ for homosexuals. This group is pushing a radical leftist agenda that is an affront to the GOP platform, conservatism and, most importantly, the Word of God.”
Liberty Counsel and others have given CPAC organizers an ultimatum, threatening to urge all social conservatives to withdraw from the event if GOProud isn't booted. To its credit, CPAC seems to be standing firm. Jimmy LaSalvia, GOProud's executive director, says that while the program has yet to be set, his group has all the privileges of any other co-sponsor at this point, and he directed me to a statement from CPAC director Lisa De Pasquale, who said in response to the boycott threats, "CPAC is a coalition of nearly 100 conservative groups, some of which may disagree with one another on a handful of issues. But, at the end of the day, we all agree on core conservative principles.... After talking with their leadership and reviewing their website, I am satisfied that they do not represent a “radical leftist agenda,” as some have stated, and should not be rejected as a CPAC cosponsor."
CPAC's response sets up an interesting dynamic: Will conservative Christians follow through on their threat and give up their kingmaking role at CPAC and influence on the 2012 presidential election just because they don't want to be in the room with a few gay guys? My guess is that they will suck it up and still show up in force in February.