Gay Rights Group GOProud Returning to CPAC

Thursday, 20 Feb 2014 11:18 AM

By Courtney Coren

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The Republican gay rights group GOProud is returning to the Conservative Political Action Conference this year, after being banned by CPAC.

GOProud reached an agreement last week with the American Conservative Union, the group that runs CPAC, that it will participate in the gathering of conservatives as guests, but they will not be sponsored or given a booth at the March 6-8 event, National Journal reported. 

"We welcome GOProud's attendance at this year's CPAC conference," Dan Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union, told National Journal in an email. "I believe their presence could establish a productive relationship in the future."

In 2011, several socially conservative groups boycotted CPAC because of GOProud's presence at the conservative conference. The division resulted in the gay group being excluded from participating in CPAC.

GOProud officials Ross Hemminger and Matt Bechstein are encouraged that the group is being welcomed back, and the group believes it is a "symbolic step forward."

"We really just want to be part of the conservative movement," Hemminger said.

"We want to help grow the Republican Party," Bechstein added. "Our agenda is to get Republicans — ideally pro-gay Republicans — elected."

More than 6 in 10 of CPAC's participants are under age 25, which is significant considering that a September poll found that 69 percent of young people support gay marriage. 

Several Senate Republicans came out in support of gay marriage over the last year, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Mark Kirk of Illinois. 

"This is also an opportunity for GOProud to highlight the support we have within the movement, working with individual allies and coalition groups to advance the principles of freedom that have made the conservative movement strong and its members proud," the gay conservative group said in a statement.

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