I spent most of my two-day sojourn through CPAC covering economic issues at the conference, but I was aware (as were lots of people) about the gay-related controversy around the conference, due to the presence of the gay conservative group GOProud at this year’s conference. (Not to mention their status at sponsors.)
The long and short of it is that last year GOProud made a bit of a splash at last years’s conference, making headlines after an anti-gay speaker was booed off the stage for condemning CPAC’s decision to allow a gay group into the conference. After its successful participation in the 2010 conference, GOP announced its intention to sponsor the 2011. CPAC accepted GOProud’s offer of sponsorship, sparking criticism and boycotts from social conservatives, and complaints from CPAC insiders that GOProud was openly breaking Reagan’s 11th commandment, and criticism for bringing Trump to the conference.
It was getting close to the end of my stay at the conference. So, after meeting with Fred Karger, I went in search of the GOP Proud booth.
Certainly, I would have been remiss if I didn’t at least check out their booth in the exhibit hall. So I did. It took a bit of searching, but I found them towards the back of the place. Despite the location, the booth was kinda hoppin’. I stayed long enough to chat and pick up some literature about their federal legislative priorities.
The so-called “gay agenda” is defined by the left through a narrow prism of legislative goals. In contrast to the approach of the left, GOProud’s agenda emphasizes conservative and libertarian principles that will improve the daily lives of all Americans, but especially gay and lesbian Americans.
1 – TAX REFORM – We support replacing the current tax code with the Fair Tax. Until then, we support death tax repeal; domestic partner tax equity; cuts in the capital gains and corporate tax rates to jump start our economy and create jobs; a fairer, flatter and substantially simpler tax code.
2 – HEALTHCARE REFORM – Free market healthcare reform. Allow for the purchase of insurance across state lines – expanding access to domestic partner benefits; emphasizing individual ownership of healthcare insurance – such a shift would prevent discriminatory practices by an employer or the government.
3 – SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM – The only way to permanent solvency in the Social Security system is through the creation of inheritable personal savings accounts. Personal savings accounts would give gay and lesbian couples the same opportunity to leave their accounts to their spouses as their straight counterparts.
4 – RESPECTING THE PROPER ROLE OF THE JUDICIARY – We believe our Constitution should be respected and that judges appointed to the federal bench should recognize the proper and appropriate role of the judiciary as laid out by our Founding Fathers.
5 – HOLDING THE LINE ON SPENDING – Standing up for all tax payers against wasteful and unneccessary spending to protect future generations from the mounting federal debt.
6 – FIGHTING GLOBAL EXTREMISTS – Standing strong against radical regimes that refuse to recognize the basic human rights of gays and lesbians, women and religious minorities.
7 – DEFENDING OUR CONSTITUTION – Opposing any anti-gay federal marriage amendment. Marriage should be a question for the states. A federal constitutional amendment on marriage would be an unprecedented federal power grab from the states.
8 – ENCOURAGING COMMUNITY ENTREPRENEURSHIP – Package of free market reforms to encourage and support small businesses and entrepreneurship. Such reforms would create jobs for all Americans – including gay Americans.
9 – REVITALIZING OUR COMMUNITIES – A package of urban related reforms; expanding historic tax preservation credits; support for school choice.
10 – DEFENDING OUR COMMUNITY – Protecting 2nd amendment rights.
Frankly, the lost my at 1, 2, 3. And while 7 sounds good to me, I’m wary of "state rights" arguments in general, given their history. (In the history of this country, as far as I can tell, "states" rights have almost always been invoked to protect the "states rights" to discriminate against or otherwise deny full and equal citizenship to minorities.) It’s fine when the trend is towards states opting for marriage equality, but it could cut both ways.
Then, what I’ve heard from GOProud since the conference hasn’t been encouraging.
Matt Hissey, a junior at Westchester University who volunteers with GOProud, was at Thursday night’s party hosted by Andrew Breitbart — to deliver the soundbite heard ’round the gay world: "I don’t really like gay people." Already dubbed "Matt Hissey-fit," the young man who loves himself some tea partying exclaims, "Stereotypical gay people frustrate me." And isn’t Hissey just the quote machine, telling a reporter before the party, "We believe that conservatism is a vast umbrella. We’re just another demographic the conservatives have." Well, not "someone who puts on a total act. I understand some guys are feminine, which is fine. But some guys are at some points normal, straight-acting, and the next moment they’re jumping up and down."
This is a bit easier to digest and understand.
The question of what issues and policies are defined as "pro" or "anti" gay has been key to GOProud’s message and what Barron views as the group’s ultimate mission. In contrast with many better known gay rights organizations, [GOProud founder Christopher] Barron claims that GOProud is "not looking for fairness and inclusiveness and equality and tolerance and all this." He defines the group’s goal as more concrete and more political, saying "we want to make it clear that conservative policy solutions are good for gay and lesbian families [and] that they would improve their everyday lives."
I can handle that. Sort of. After all, I’ve made similar arguments before, like when I argued that health care reform was an LGBT issue. But on the other hand, "not looking for fairness and inclusiveness and equality and tolerance and all this, combined with the clip above make me wonder if this just means that LGBT people who don’t benefit from from conservative polities are just being thrown overboard again.
I’ve been rather tough on gay conservatives on this blog in the past, but I’m willing to give them their due. The LGBT community is not politically monolithic. The Post article on Fred Karger also noted that 31% of self-identified gays and lesbians voted Republican in the midterm elections. I think what gay conservatives really have going for them is the apparent split in the GOP between fiscal/libertarian conservatives and social conservatives. Right now it looks like the libertarian conservatives are gaining influence, and groups like GOProud can ride that wave.
But social issues haven’t faded. At least two panels at CPAC were focused on gay issues: one on reversing or halting the implementation of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal, and one (of course) on opposing marriage equality. Maybe it’s because of their sponsor status, but I didn’t notice any repeats of last year’s booing at those panels.
Ultimately, if the presence of groups like GOProud helps reduce anti-gay sentiment and policy on the right. But it’s unlikely, because that’s not their focus. Either Barron is basically saying that conservatives policies are good for and improve the lives of all gay and lesbian families, or he’s primarily concerned with those for whom that does hold true, and not so much with those who don’t.
But, the bottom line is that as far as I can see, being gay is about the only thing I have in common with the GOProud crowd. And at the end of the day that ends up not being much.