Craig Held is a junior at Pace University in New York City. He's openly gay – and openly Republican, which he presents as more of an issue in his daily life in New York.
He also is the vice president of Pace's College Republicans and was in D.C. for his first CPAC conference this past weekend. Held took some time out of his Saturday to talk with Metro Weekly about the conservative conference and the Republican Party's future with LGBT issues.
As to why he came to CPAC, Held said he thought, ''It will be exciting to be around people with similar interests, and I didn't need to be inundated with 'liberal, liberal, liberal,' because that's how it is in New York City.''
But, upon arrival, things started out a little differently than he'd hoped.
''In that first row [in the exhibit area] is this booth about the homosexual agenda, and I thought, 'Yikes, this is going to be a long weekend,' then I saw the National Organization for Marriage – and then I saw GOProud, and thought, 'Oh, all right!''' he said. ''And then, everyone booed Sorba off the stage when he said what he said, so, that made me feel a little better.''
Asked about how he felt here, as a gay Republican at CPAC, Held said, ''I was really worried about being an openly gay Republican, especially here, and then, especially seeing those two booths about a 'homosexual agenda.'
''But, I think the reaction to GOProud has been good. I think the Republican Party is definitely going in a more open direction. I think they've realized they need to stop alienating people,'' he said, ''Being gay doesn't mean you can't be a Republican. True conservatism is for individual rights; it has nothing to do with gay marriage – with not allowing gay marriage.
''I think that's the direction the Party need to go in. And, I think it's slowly getting there. Baby steps.''
As for the future – of CPAC and the GOP – Held saw 2010 as a good step.
''This CPAC, especially with GOProud being here, is definitely taking a more receptive stance toward gay rights,'' he said. ''I hope in five years, the issue will be over and you won't have such a stigma being a gay Republican. I really hope it will be over by then – that we will have resolved it.''
GOProud's presence itself was important, Held said. ''It's a huge step in the right direction. Just showing that there are gay Republicans, and there's a big percentage of us.
''The only way to go from here is up. I really want to see how big their presence is at next year's CPAC, and the year after. I think, in five years, things will be really different.''