Founder of gay Republican group GOProud quits over CPAC dispute

An attendee applauds a keynote speech at the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference.
(Cliff Owen / AP)
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WASHINGTON -- One of the founders of GOProud, a gay Republican organization, has resigned from the board after accusing the group’s new leadership of allowing themselves to be used as “stooges” by antigay conservatives.

Chris Barron, who helped create GOProud in 2009, condemned the current directors for touting an agreement that only allowed for limited GOProud participation at the American Conservative Union’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

In 2010 and 2011, GOProud, which bills itself as a conservative alternative to Log Cabin Republicans, served as a CPAC sponsor. But amid a strong pushback from conservatives who complained about the participation of the gay organization, the relationship splintered and GOProud was not invited back in 2012 and 2013.


The National Journal reported Wednesday that a compromise was reached to permit GOProud to attend this year’s Maryland conference March 6-8, though it would not be a sponsor or have a booth as it had in past years.

In an interview Thursday, Barron mocked the agreement, saying nothing had been achieved since GOProud members were allowed in 2012 and 2013 to attend the event though the organization had no official involvement.

“It’s completely and totally disingenuous to pawn off an unconditional surrender as a ‘compromise’” said Barron, who complained that he was not consulted about the decision as a board member.

GOProud codirector Ross Hemminger said he was satisfied with the agreement, saying they did not request this year to be a sponsor or to have a booth. He predicted the group’s presence would be a stepping stone to greater future involvement.

“We’ve had a long and fruitful conversation with [the American Conservative Union],” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “We knew that there were obviously some historical issues that we had to clear up. We wanted to clear them up.”

But Barron said the agreement allows the ACU board to maintain “antigay policies” while gaining credibility from a top conservative gay group.


“The winner here is ACU,” Barron said. “The big loser is GOProud.”

“The rest of the country has moved so far beyond this. In a way, it’s even insulting that we’re having a discussion about if a gay group can be a sponsor of an event,” Barron said. “It’s why I’m so disappointed to see the current leadership at GOProud willing to essentially be the stooges of the anti-gay folks who are running the ACU board.”

ACU Executive Director Dan Schneider said that CPAC is welcoming the organization following “a constructive meeting” with GOProud’s leadership.

“The directors have a new vision for promoting a broad array of conservative priorities; from sound fiscal policies to strong 2nd Amendment rights to pro-life policies,” Schneider said in an email.

But another GOProud founder, Jimmy LaSalvia, said in an interview Wednesday that the agreement treated GOProud “like three-fifths of an organization.” LaSalvia quit GOProud last July and the Republican Party earlier this year, partially a result of what he described then as the “tolerance of bigotry in the GOP.”

Twitter: @danielrothberg