CPAC – anti-gays win the day, lose the war

Timothy Kincaid

February 13th, 2012

As far as gay advocacy goes, GOProud is a joke. Their political message seems to consist of “We’re the good gays; we privately support some gay rights but we’re perfectly okay with you wanting to reinstate sodomy laws so please please love me and let me in the door”, a strategy that doesn’t seem to work. For anyone. Ever.

But as an organization, they have proven themselves useful. Being complete sellouts, they have made themselves indistinguishable from any other very conservative group other than one characteristic: they are ostensibly a gay group and do include visible gay members. And all things being equal, they are then valuable for identifying discrimination and bias that is based solely on that one distinguishing characteristic.

One of the claims of anti-gay groups is that they don’t hate gay people, they just oppose homosexuality. Many even object to being called anti-gay, noting that they have “gay friends” who understand and accept their traditional views. And as most gay groups, including Log Cabin Republicans, have a political profile that is not an easy fit with the far right (or any desire to be included in that circle), such claims could remain unchallenged.

So when GOProud was informed that they were banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference (or, rather, “not be invited to participate in a formal role for CPAC events”) there was but one way to translate the action. CPAC had put out a “No Gays Allowed” sign.

This isn’t even disputed. There’s not even spin suggesting that some other issue or matter was a factor. CPAC was delivered an ultimatum: ban GOProud or Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, Liberty University, and Heritage Foundation walks.

The important thing to note is that this is not a matter of disputed beliefs – though there was the generic “they support the homosexual agenda” babbling. The objection was specific: GOProud is a gay organization and their views or policies were irrelevant. If GOProud isn’t comprised of the kind of homosexual of which they can approve, none exist. Just as Ellen Degeneres is not an acceptable spokesperson for JC Penny due solely to being gay, so too is GOProud not acceptable even in the room.

Which is interesting for two reasons.

First, their attendees disagree. This truly is an example of anti-democracy in action.

According to organizers, over half of the participants at the 2012 CPAC were under the age of 25. This is a demographic that generally is gay supportive. And while it is tempting to believe that CPAC youth make up that small percentage of youth who poll anti-gay, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Sources as diverse as US News, Forbes, and Michelangelo Signorile are all reporting that the CPAC youth are not even remotely interested in culture war, especially over gay issues. Forbes young Republican blogger Steven Richer tried to gage the response to banning GOProud from the youth attendees.

Fortunately I didn’t have any trouble eliciting remarks on this subject (sometimes at these political conferences you get the sanctimonious type who think they are already running for president or are head of Coca Cola Company, and say “no comment.”). The results:

Approximately 80% of those I spoke with thought that CPAC was wrong to exclude GOProud.

Signoreli found a general disinterest in the topic of gay marriage. Some legislators he spoke to had distinctly different positions (even historically revising their previous comments), and some had recently discovered that they have no position at all. And what little fire there was seemed contained in the die hards and the elderly.

That certainly appears to be true after speaking with younger Tea Party activists at CPAC and even with the college students the Mitt Romney campaign brought in. Many just don’t care about the issue or even support marriage equality, even as Romney made his promise to “defend’ marriage in his speech at CPAC.

Tellingly, the Gallagher-moderated event featured a five-person panel (including Gallagher) in which each member was over 50; four of the five were over 60, including Schlafly, who is 87. The audience of several hundred people for the event, held in the main ballroom, was predominantly over 50.

Meanwhile, outside in the corridors, the rest of CPAC went on with many of the 20- and 30-somethings, the future of the conservative movement, who obviously didn’t care enough to sit through it.

This suggests something that I think we have all instinctively known for a while; the far right anti-gay extremists have lost, and continue to lose, influence over even self-identified conservatives. Though they scream as loudly as ever, they represent fewer voters and politicians are very good about measuring trends and discovering their positions accordingly.

And the second item that I find interesting is that Republican candidates are willing to attend.

Some years ago, it become a political liability to campaign at Bob Jones University due to racial segregation in student dating. Candidates could not answer the question, “Why are you here? Do you tolerate these racist policies?”

CPAC’s position should elicit the same response. The outright ban on gays should have automatically disqualified the organization from consideration.

This is a no-brainer. Even Joe and Melba Sixpack like to think that they wouldn’t outright ban someone just because they are gay. And Melba likes Ellen’s show (Joe like Portia, but for entirely different reasons) and has no intention of stopping her Penny’s shopping trips.

And yet, as far as I’ve discovered, not one mainstream media reporter has asked, “Mr. Candidate, you say that you are not a homophobe. How do you reconcile that with campaigning at an even that bars participants based solely on their sexual orientation?”

I think that’s a question that should be asked.


February 13th, 2012

How is Signorile equipped to conduct an accurate poll when he’s obviously a progressive, and his rhetoric elicits violent hissing from any CPAC type conservative?

CPAC isn’t even geared toward fiscal conservatives — it’s the loony bin of fringe conservatives akin to how the Gay Liberation Network is not really a gay rights group but rather carrying the mask of being one to push another agenda.

The problem with conservatives is that a vocal minority is running the PR campaign.


February 13th, 2012

“If GOProud isn’t comprised of the kind of homosexual of which they can approve, none exist.”

I suspect that CPAC would be OK with, say, Eve Tushnet co-moderating a panel.

Furthermore, I suspect that when a lot of socially conservative Republicans and conservatives invoke unnamed gay friends who share their values, they’re talking about gay people who have chosen to live a life of celibacy.

I do think there are probably not a very large number of such people, and those that do make such a decision probably tend to be people who don’t want a lot of attention drawn to them.

Please don’t misunderstand this comment as an endorsement of the CPAC folks or their attitudes or their decisions. I just wanted to mention that I’m guessing this is what’s going on — the Heritage Foundations of the world have in mind a kind of gay person (and I do think Eve Tushnet, for instance, counts as “gay”) that is a) almost completely culturally invisible and b) is not really what gay livin’ gay blog readin’ gay folks tend to think of when they think of “gay conservative.”


February 13th, 2012

There is, to my knowledge, no such thing as a mainstream media “reporter” anymore. Just bobbing heads that never ask a single interesting question to call out candidates who are wrong.

Donny D.

February 14th, 2012

Timothy wrote:

The important thing to note is that this is not a matter of disputed beliefs – though there was the generic “they support the homosexual agenda” babbling. The objection was specific: GOProud is a gay organization and their views or policies were irrelevant.

I never saw them actually admit that GOProud was banned because it was gay. They either didn’t choose to say why it was banned, or they pushed some version of the “homosexual agenda” claim. CPAC and the supporters of its ban of GOProud were never honest about it.

That’s a quibble. But really, you’re right in everything you say in the article, including that GOProud was banned because it was a gay group. And especially that GOProud’s value is in pointing up the extreme homophobia in the conservative movement.

I do think they and have an additional virtue as well. They let us know the state of mind of gay “Fox News conservatives”. It’s good to keep an eye on people like that.

By the way, Timothy, your article is way too good to remain in its current, poorly edited state.

Nathan F

February 14th, 2012

It’s not just candidates that should be asked to justify their support of CPAC. I’m still confused and angry that Google is a CPAC sponsor. Google has long been an ally to our community. Just a few weeks ago they supported the gay marriage bill in Washington state. Why on earth are they supporting CPAC? And why isn’t there more outrage about it?

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