In mid-February thousands of conservatives will descend on D.C. for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference — better known as CPAC — the premiere political event for conservative leaders and activists. CPAC sponsors represent the broad spectrum of conservatives and libertarians: economic conservatives, foreign policy conservatives, social conservatives and traditional libertarian groups. This year, gay conservatives will have also have a voice at CPAC thanks to GOProud.
This isn’t the first time a gay group has sponsored CPAC. In 2005, as political director for Log Cabin Republicans, I worked hard to secure Log Cabin’s sponsorship of CPAC. While Log Cabin’s current leadership, and indeed the leadership that preceded it, no longer considers CPAC a worthwhile investment, we at GOProud feel strongly that it is.
For years, gay men and women have been told the importance of coming out to friends, family and colleagues. Indeed, according to poll after poll, it’s one of the most important things you can do because one of the largest factors in determining how an individual feels about gays and lesbians is whether they personally know someone who is gay or lesbian.
According to a May 2009 Gallup poll, a plurality (49 percent) of those who personally know someone who is gay or lesbian support legalized same-sex marriage, while 72 percent of those who do not personally know someone who is gay oppose it.
Conservatives, who oppose same-sex marriage at a significantly higher rate than liberals, also are far less likely to know someone who is gay. According to the same poll, 71 percent of self-identified liberals know someone who is gay, while only 55 percent of conservatives do.
Indeed, Gallup concluded that the data showed ”that many views toward gay and lesbian issues are related — in some instances, strongly so — to personal experience with individuals who are gay or lesbian.”
Given these facts alone, one would expect gays and lesbians of all political stripes would welcome — heck, even encourage — GOProud’s participation at CPAC. Sadly, that hasn’t been the case. Not by a long shot.
In a case of truly strange bedfellows, the gay left has joined the most radical elements of the social conservative movement in attacking GOProud’s participation. You can understand the fear of extremists on the far right: They know the impact GOProud’s sponsorship will have on undercutting their anti-gay message. These people rely on manipulating fear of what is unknown or different. But why is the gay left so angry about it?
The answer is simple. They are far more interested in politics then they are in achieving equality of opportunity for gays and lesbians and their families.
For much of the gay left the world is divided into two easily definable camps: Democrats, who by definition are infallible and should be defended at all costs; and Republicans, who regardless of their positions on LGBT issues are the enemy.
The leadership on the gay left has repeatedly made excuses for inaction by the Obama administration and the Democratic House and Senate on the gay and lesbian issues they claim are critical to our community. While they make excuses for the failures of Democrats, they ignore — or in some cases actively oppose — policies promoted by Republicans that would improve the lives of gays and lesbians.
Want to end the inequality of the tax code? Replace the current tax scheme with the Fair Tax, a sales-tax-based approach. Want to end the inequality in the Social Security system? Try allowing people to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in personal savings accounts that can be left to their partners or anyone else. Want to end the inequality in the health care system? Then don’t expand a discriminatory government-run system. Instead, try expanding access to domestic-partner benefits by using free-market reforms to make health care individual, portable and more competitive.
These are the types of policies being advocated by conservatives and the types of policies being advocated by GOProud.
It is time for the gay left to recognize that political diversity is a sign of strength in our community and a sign of a mature movement. It is time for the gay left to recognize that GOProud’s sponsorship of CPAC is a tremendous opportunity for our community regardless of our partisan political differences.
Christopher R. Barron is chairman of the board of GOProud.