Focus on the Family Attends CPAC Despite Gay Presence
An anti-gay group from the fringe right that had threatened to boycott this year’s major convention of conservatives has announced that it will be attending the event after all.
Focus on the Family had threatened to take its ball and stay home rather than attend the 2011 edition of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which will once again include gay conservative group GOProud. A similar flap erupted on the fringe right last year when GOProud co-sponsored the conference.
FOF’s Tim Minnery, who heads up the group’s lobbying entity, Citizen’s Link, brushed off this year’s repeat participation by GOProud as "a mistake" on the part of the conference’s organizers, reported the Denver Post on Jan. 5. The annual event is the work of The American Conservative Union.
"We’re not happy about it," said Minnery. "We’ve got to see a better result next year or our participation is in doubt."
That was more or less the story given out by anti-gay groups last year, when GOProud made headlines and generated controversy among extreme elements on the political right by co-sponsoring the event. Other groups also threatened to boycott the event this year, but the event is billed as the largest gathering of its kind, and is seen as influential. Missing the party would likely do more harm to those who sit it out than to CPAC itself. The decision last year by the Family Research Council to miss the event-a choice the group repeated this year-did not stop CPAC, and failed to culminate in the ejection of GOProud from this year’s gathering.
Minnery tailored a spin for the group’s decision to attend even though gays would be present. "It’s important for organizations like ours, for social conservatives, to be involved in the conversation."
For GOProud head Jimmy LaSilvia, there was no doubt as to whether it was appropriate for a conservative gay group to attend an event that attracts not just advocates of big-tent membership, personal responsibility, individual freedoms, limited governmental interference in the lives of Americans, and fiscal caution, but also anti-gay zealots who label gay conservatives as frauds attempting to "infiltrate" the ranks of conservatives.
"I’ll put our record as conservatives up against anyone’s," LaSalvia told the media. "We’re excited to be a CPAC organization participating at the same level as we did last year." Added LaSilvia, "We expect to be there next year.
"We’re seeing a united conservative movement behind limiting the size of government and controlling government spending."
The Denver Post noted that Citizen Link sees itself as "a family advocacy organization that inspires men and women to live out biblical citizenship that transforms culture." As such, it opposes GOProud on the grounds that it supposes that the gay conservative group is supportive of equality before the law for gay and lesbian families.
GOProud’s own stated position on marriage parity is that it is an issue for each state to decide for itself. For that reason, GOProud opposes a federal amendment to re-write the Constitution of the United States in a way that would enshrine exclusion of gay and lesbian families from marriage rights and protections at the federal level.
The ongoing war of words between factions on the right regarding the suitability of GOProud to attend the conference was summarized at Mediaite.com in a Jan. 5 article on two conflicting points of view. Mediaite had previously run an article about the five individuals in contention for leadership of the Republican National Committee; the candidates had spoken about marriage equality in terms of the philosophy espoused by anti-gay group the National Organization for Marriage, which has spent millions nationwide in attempts to prevent marriage equality from being embraced or, in states that have extended family parity, to rescind marriage rights.
The Mediaite follow-up story quoted BigJournalism.com’s Dana Loesch, who had claimed in an op-ed that marriage is not a civil contract, but a "divine" privilege bestowed upon heterosexuals by God. That being the case, Loesch argued, asking religious people to accept that others--including people who do not belong to their faith--might be granted civil marriages constituted a violation of the rights of religious individuals. Moreover, Loesch charged, any attempt to extend marriage to gay and lesbian families over the objections of anti-gay Christians would be a breach of the separation between church and state.
"Since the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom, state recognition of gay marriage doesn’t infringe on Loesch’s separated religious belief, but a state ban on gay marriage does infringe on the religious freedom of those denominations that do recognize gay marriage," the Mediaite article reasoned.
Loesch also suggested that gays were not able to be conservatives and must, therefore, universally be liberals.
The Mediaite article also quoted from GOProud chair Chris Barron, who said that the Republican National Committee embraced the same view of marriage equality as that offered by Barack Obama. President Obama has said that he personally believes marriage should be a special right granted exclusively to heterosexual couples, but he has also argued for comprehensive domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian families.
In a heated Twitter exchange, Barron and Mediaite contributor Tommy Christopher traded barbs, with Barron inviting Christopher to Google Obama’ opinion on the subject and Christopher suggesting that Barron was being disingenuous in claiming that Obama and NOM shared "the same" view on marriage.
"[O]bviously they may differ on DOMA or a marriage amendment..." tweeted Barron.
"That’s not a ’position,’ that’s a personal opinion. You know the difference, I’m sure," Christopher shot back. "I believe the Jets rule, but I don’t favor a law mandating that they rule. See? Difference between opinion and position."
Barron did not see the distinction. "Obama’s opinion is that marriage is between a man and a woman but thats not his position? Says who?"
The two agreed that Democrats had done more to advance the cause of legal and social parity for GLBTs and their families, but Barron insisted that conservative values would be of greater utility to gay couples by expanding their liberties. "[O]n certain issues--marriage and DADT--Dems have made more progress," Barron, who himself is married to a male life partner, tweeted. "[O]n other issues that would help gay families--Fair Tax, Death Tax Repeal, Soc Sec personal savings accts GOP far ahead," Barron added, noting that, "the GOP has position that would improve lives of gay people when it comes to retirement, healthcare, taxes, etc."
Christopher responded, "As for the Dems, I recognize a general lack of courage on this issue, because they fear GOP attacks. That’s to their shame. I get that you favor GOP econ policies. And working from within is a valid philosophy."
But "working from within" to effect change invites suspicion and denunciations of fraud. The anti-gay right has made just such accusations, issuing sweeping declarations that legal equality for gays and conservatism are incompatible, partly on the basis that extreme right conservatives often base their views on Biblical scripture and interpret select passages as condemning gays.
In a similar vein, non-Christian conservatives have also come under fire from fringe-right religious conservatives. WorldNetDaily sounded the alarm about Muslim conservatives "infiltrating" CPAC in a Jan. 4 article that said that activist Suhail Khan of Muslims for America was planning to attend CPAC--but asserted that Khan represented the interests of another group, the Muslim Brotherhood, "which is working to bring America under Saudi-style Shariah law."
The article also named Grover Norquist as a Muslim sympathizer. Norquist is a GOProud board member.