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It looks like gay conservatives still have a long way to go before they're going to make it into the Big Tent of GOP politics. Friday afternoon at the Conservative Political Action Convention, a dozen conservative college students and other young people got two minutes to address the huge crowd. Ryan Sorba, from the California Young Americans for Freedom, used his time to bash the very conference organizers who had invited him to speak. Why? For allowing the tiny conservative gay organization GOProud to co-sponsor the convention and to man a booth in the exhibit hall. Sorba expressed outrage that CPAC would allow such a group in the hallowed grounds of the conference. He made some incoherent comments about how "civil rights is rooted in natural rights," and how that made GOProud something of an abomination. The virulently homophobic rant sent the crowd into a frenzy. People jeered and hooted and gave him an ugly and welcome response to his comment.
GOProud has had an uneasy time mingling at this right-wing confab. Social conservative organizations threatened to boycott CPAC this winter after the news of GOProud's involvement first broke. CPAC held its ground and allowed the group to participate. And the Christian right groups mostly still showed up. But the gay conservatives haven't exactly been welcomed with open arms. GOProud is working the same exhibit hall as a group hotly opposed to repealing "Don't ask, don't tell," and in a cruel bit of convention-planner humor, someone decided to situate GOProud's table in the exhibit hall one down from the National Organization for Marriage, the country's leading anti-gay marriage organization. Yesterday, NOM staffers in the convention hall made nice with the gay guys on CNN, but shortly after the segment aired, NOM issued a nasty press release bashing GOProud, warning that it would continue to fight any candidate it pushed that attempted to promote gay marriage.
GOProud executive director Jimmy LaSalvia told Huffington Post that NOM's move was pretty cowardly. He challenged its leaders to make such a statement to his face, especially given that he was standing 20 feet from their table.
"When the cameras are rolling, they can fake a smile. But when they have a message for us, they're not even man enough to walk 20 feet. They have to issue a press release," LaSalvia told HuffPost. "So I've been saying, who's the pansy at CPAC?"
UPDATE: More on Ryan Sorba.