It’s official: The “big tent” of conservatism is big enough to include gay men and lesbians – just as long as they don’t support same-sex marriage, gays in the military or other gay rights.
“It’s got nothing to do with the orientation, it’s got to do with the principles that you advocate,” American Conservative Union (ACU) Chairman Al Cardenas said Wednesday, spinning madly on C-SPAN’s American Journal. “There are a number of gays in America who don’t advocate the gays in the military issue or gay marriage, and so they’ll fit within the tent of what we stand for.”
That pretty much assures the gay conservative group GOProud, which supports letting gays serve openly in the military, will no longer be welcome at the ACU’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
GOProud’s presence at last weekend’s CPAC convention did not sit well with many conservative groups. The right-wing website WorldNetDaily (WND) listed the Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, Liberty Counsel, and the National Organization for Marriage among the many groups that backed out of this year’s CPAC to protest GOProud’s inclusion.
“This group is pushing a radical leftist agenda that is an affront to the GOP platform, conservatism, and, most importantly, the Word of God,” said Matt Barber, Liberty Counsel's director of cultural affairs, one of the right’s more loquacious homophobes.
On Feb. 9, the Washington Times disclosed the contents of a private memo signed by more than 20 right-wing leaders. Calling itself “Conservatives for Unity,” the group wrote, “It is not necessary for each group within a political movement to embrace the full agenda of others. But it is necessary for each group within any coherent movement not to stand in diametrical opposition to one or more of its core principles. It is our conviction that the institution of marriage and the family qualify as such principles.”
The next day, Cardenas told the conservative FrumForum that while the “big tent” concept is important, “it’s going to be difficult to continue the relationship” with GOProud.
“There are not enough African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities here. That diversity is critical – you don’t need to change your value system to attract more diversity into the movement … [but] I’m not going to – for the sake of being inclusive – change the principles that have made the movement what it is,” he said.
GOProud’s 2011 legislative agenda includes “Opposing any anti-gay federal marriage amendment. Marriage should be a question for the states.” The group is notorious within the LGBT community for failing to support any gay rights measure except the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
A smattering of dissent among conservatives to the apparent dismissal of GOProud has surfaced. Former ACU Director Chuck Muth, who joined GOProud’s advisory council on Monday, said in a press release, “A person doesn’t have to be straight to think right. And I would remind those who wish to exclude gays from the conservative movement that we win majorities through addition, not subtraction. I’m honored to have been invited to join the national advisory council of this important and bona fide conservative organization.”
CPAC wasn’t the only right-wing powwow to draw a line over GOProud recently.
Last September, right-wing polemicist Ann Coulter, who once called presidential candidate John Edwards a “faggot” and separately labeled former Vice President Al Gore a “total fag,” spoke at GOProud's first "Homocon" party in New York City. In retaliation, outraged WND founder Joseph Farah kicked Coulter out of his organization’s Taking America Back National Conference, declaring that GOProud “is about infiltration of the conservative movement and dividing it from within with twisted and dangerous ideas way out of the mainstream of American opinion.”
Farah may need to check his definition of “mainstream.” Among others, his conference featured birther Jerome Corsi, who told an enthusiastic audience that the Democratic Party is “indistinguishable from socialists or communists in the way they think,” and Floyd Brown, creator of the notorious Willie Horton ad that hobbled Michael Dukakis’ 1988 presidential campaign and whose sole purpose in life lately is getting President Obama impeached.
There is also plenty of room under CPAC’s “big tent” for the paranoid fringe. The John Birch Society, which once accused President Dwight D. Eisenhower of being a secret Communist; Accuracy In Media, whose rabidly anti-gay leader Cliff Kincaid took up the flag for the white nationalist journal American Renaissance after Fox News erroneously connected it to Tucson shooter Jared Loughner; and the American Center for Law and Justice, which helps write measures to ban the use of Shariah Law in state courts, were all welcomed without controversy.
In a 2009 editorial for the Wall Street Journal, arch-conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) wrote, “To win back the trust of the American people, we must be a “big tent party. … Republicans can welcome a vigorous debate about legalized abortion or same-sex marriage.” It seems that DeMint, who in 2009 opposed hate crimes legislation that would allow prosecution of crimes motivated by bias against LGBT people, and last October reaffirmed his belief that openly gay teachers should be banned in public schools, was simply too optimistic – or insincere.