How Welcome Are Gays At CPAC?

Earlier this year when it was announced that the conservative gay group GOProud would be serving as a co-sponsor of this year’s CPAC conference, some Religious Right groups threatened to boycott though, in the end, only Liberty University Law School actually followed through.

Now that the event is underway, CNN is reporting everyone is playing nice:

GOProud has a booth at CPAC just two spaces away from the exhibition for the National Organization for Marriage, which wants the government to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Chris Plante, who is running the booth for the National Organization for Marriage, said being two booths away from GOProud wasn’t an issue.

As cameras rolled, he introduced himself to Barron.

“I hope we’ll have more time to talk over the next four days. Maybe we can have a beer later,” Plante said.

“We can have a beer summit later. It worked for Obama,” Barron joked.

A meeting, yes. But don’t expect a meeting of the minds.

“Gays and lesbians have the right to live as they choose, but they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for the rest of us,” Plante said.

But off camera, things look a little different, as NOM felt it necessary to send out a far less friendly statement to reporters on GOProud’s participation in CPAC:

Many reporters, including Politico, have asked us how we feel about the fact GOProud is just a few booths over from us. We welcome everyone’s right to participate in the democratic process, but we have a message for GOProud on marriage: If you try to elect pro-gay-marriage Republicans, we will Dede Scozzafava them. The majority of Americans, and the vast majority of Republicans, support marriage as the union of husband and wife, and NOM is here to make sure these voters and their voices are heard loud and clear.

Time’s Jay Newton-Small also reports that GOPround had a run-in with representative of American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property which, just the other day, released a report defending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on the grounds that homosexuality is fundamentally evil and allowing gays to serve openly would destroy the military’s honor.  Needless to say, TFP was not every welcoming of GOProud

These days, the group is particularly concerned with gays in the military. Beyond opposing the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the organization of lay Catholics would like to see all homosexuals banned from the military, according to a white and green pamphlet they were handing out. The case against gays in the military is laid out in a book, displayed prominently, called An American Knight: The Life of Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC, yours for just $14.95.

While I was flipping through the autobiography, a woman approached the booth. Catherine Sumner, it turned out, was part of GOProud, a group of openly gay Republicans and conservatives that for the first time is taking part in CPAC. “Is this your flyer?” Sumner demanded, waving the white and green pamphlet. Thus launched a debate about gays in the military that pretty much ended when the booth attendee told her that homosexuality is a sin and she’s going to hell.

“It’s insulting,” Sumner, 31, who edits a military magazine, said turning away. “Across the board the reaction to GOProud’s presence here has been positive, but then you have guys like this. Even Dick Cheney came out and says he supports us. Conservatives have to be more inclusive, they have to be.” In fact, just one group, Liberty University, boycotted CPAC over the inclusion of GOProud, though the Catholic crowd weren’t the only ones unnerved by their presence: one booth down from GOProud’s set up in the fourth row, those manning the National Organization for Marriage, which works to ban gay marriage, kept casting nervous – and slightly envious – glances at the somewhat larger crowd surrounding GOProud’s booth.

Considering that a who’s who of right-wing leaders, including David Keene of the CPAC-founding American Conservative Union, joined TFP for a press conference yesterday supporting DADT at CPAC itself, its hard to imagine that GOProud or its supporters could have felt particularly welcome at the event:

UPDATE: Via Sarah Posner we see that GOProud’s Jimmy LaSalvia is not at all impressed with NOM’s tactics: 

UPDATE II: This video from Media Matters is absolutely remarkable: