CPAC To Allow GOProud, John Birch Society to Continue Sponsorship

For the last few weeks, Religious Right groups have been pressuring CPAC organizers to drop the gay conservative group GOProud for the list of event co-sponsors and threatening to boycott next year's conference if GOP was allowed to participate.

The pressure prompted the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, to put the issue before board members for a vote ... and CPAC has decided to allow both GOProud and the John Birch Society to participate:

Several socially conservative organizations have threatened to boycott one of the largest gatherings of conservative activists of the year if a group of gay Republicans is allowed to serve as a participating organization at the event.

Social conservatives, including the National Organization for Marriage among others, staged a walk-out at a meeting of board members of the Conservative Political Action Conference, according to multiple board members, to protest CPAC's decision to allow GOProud to join the event as more than just a vendor organization.

Those groups put enough pressure on the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC, that officials put GOProud's fate, along with that of the ultra-conservative John Birch Society, up for a vote. Results made available to board members on Wednesday showed the board voted to allow both groups to continue their affiliation with CPAC.

That could send socially conservative groups packing and cause a rift in the CPAC board. GOProud has its enemies on the board of directors. Board member Cleta Mitchell is stridently opposed to allowing the gay group to participate and has led the charge to kick them out of the event, according to other board members.

This move will undoubtedly anger the many Religious Right groups who regularly participate in CPAC ... but that doesn't seem to particularly concern organizers:

CPAC organizers strongly suggest that this is overplayed. NOM, for example, is neither a board member -- there are only three of those, David Keene, Millie Hallow, and Cleta Mitchell -- or a participating organization of CPAC. "2010 was the first and only year they participated in CPAC," said CPAC director Lisa De Pasquale. "They have not registered for 2011 and have not attended any planning meetings." Participating organizations do not actually get votes on speakers, and while NOM has looked for help from the American Conservative Union's board, it's got only one like-minded GOProud critic -- Mitchell -- on the CPAC board.