Some of the country's biggest moral issue advocacy groups are reportedly pulling their support from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), conservatives' largest annual gathering of the year. The Family Research Council (FRC) and Concerned Women for America (CWA) joined a number of other organizations that have canceled their plans to attend the 2011 CPAC in Washington after GOProud, a conservative gay activist group, received an invitation to attend:
"We've been very involved in CPAC for over a decade and have managed a couple of popular sessions. However, we will no longer be involved with CPAC because of the organization's financial mismanagement and movement away from conservative principles," said Tom McClusky, senior vice president for FRC Action.
"CWA has decided not to participate in part because of GOProud," CWA President Penny Nance told WND.
FRC and CWA join the American Principles Project, American Values, Capital Research Center, the Center for Military Readiness, Liberty Counsel, and the National Organization for Marriage in withdrawing from CPAC.
The American Principles Project (APP) began organizing a boycott of CPAC in November, promising to withdrawal its CPAC sponsorship if GOProud was invited. "This is the line in the sand," APP President Frank Cannon said in November. "True conservatives and conservative organizations are rejecting the efforts to destroy conservatism from within by those attempting to marginalize social conservatism."
FRC and CWA's decision to boycott the conference came after the American Conservative Union (ACU) -- the longtime organizers of CPAC -- disclosed that GOProud would be a "participating organization" at next year's conference.
The offices of the ACU are closed for the holidays and there has been no official comment released from the group concerning the latest objections to GOProud.
Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, a public interest law firm, says that ACU has "gone libertarian," focusing primarily on fiscal issues over issues important to social conservatives. "Libertarianism is right on the economy, often wrong on national defense, and doesn't care about social conservativism," Staver says. "Libertarians only respect one leg of the Reagan revolution, and can't stand for long on one leg," he told WND.
From Staver's point of view, GOProud "is not a conservative organization" since they support the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and object to the Defense of Marriage Act.
"The only way we would return to CPAC now is if CPAC openly disassociated itself from GOProud and carried on a pattern of activity that convinces us they are truly broad-based conservatives."
The division over gays' inclusion is not new to the conservative movement. At the 2010 CPAC conference earlier this year, Ryan Sorba of the California Young Americans for Freedom took to the stage and publicly condemned CPAC for inviting GOProud. The large audience promptly booed Sorba off stage:
CPAC is not alone in embracing groups like GOProud. Conservative columnist and author Ann Coulter has come under fire in the past for with GOProud. After speaking at the group's "HomoCon" conference, World Net Daily dropped Coulter from their own event's lineup in protest:
"Because of her plan to address an event titled 'HOMOCON' sponsored by the homosexual Republican group GOProud that promotes same-sex marriage and military service for open homosexuals."
But, if nothing else, Coulter's appearance at HomoCon showed that conservatives can agree to disagree. Before her speech, Coulter reminded GOProud organizers that she's never been one to mince words, especially when sharing her own (at times controversial) opinion. During the remarks she delivered before an audience of gay conservatives, Coulter aggressively railed against gay marriage. Marriage "is not a civil right -- you're not black," Coulter said, insisting that the equal protections provided by the Fourteenth Amendment were limited in scope.
But the audience at Homocon didn't seem to care, even as Coulter boasted how she could "talk gays out of gay marriage."
The decision to boycott CPAC may actually harm the protesting groups more than they care to admit. CPAC is a conference notoriously aimed at recruiting younger conservatives and is heavily attended by college-aged coeds. Even as groups like WND condemned Coulter's seeming endorsement of GOProud (which she denied), younger conservatives praised her decision to put differences aside and to come together on issues all conservatives can agree on.
"I think it is terrific that Ann Coulter is speaking at HomoCon," RedState's Erick Erickson said.
Additionally, conservative columnist and author S.E. Cupp defended gay conservatives, claiming, "Conservativism and gay rights are actually natural allies."
"Conservatism rightly seeks to keep the government out of our private lives," Cupp said, "and when you strip away the politics of pop culture, it's this assertion of privacy and freedom that the gay rights movement is essentially making."