A prominent group of gay Republicans says it is once again being excluded from next week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
But the event’s organizers say that the group didn’t follow the steps necessary to be an official sponsor of the event, an accusation that has triggered finger pointing between the two groups that already have a contentious history.
The Log Cabin Republicans said that multiple attempts to talk to the American Conservative Union (ACU), which produces CPAC, about co-sponsoring the event were met with silence from ACU leadership.
“I really was trying my best to act in good faith, working behind the scenes so that Log Cabin Republicans could be participants at this year’s event,” said Gregory T. Angelo, the group’s executive director.
But the ACU says that the Log Cabin Republicans never formally applied to co-sponsor the event using an online form.
“You hear how ridiculous that is, “ said ACU Executive Director Dan Schneider, referring to the Log Cabin Republicans' statements. “If you want to play in a football game you’ve got to show up in a uniform.”
In an email in December to Schneider and ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp first published by The Huffington Post and obtained by The Hill, Angelo said he hoped that the group could sponsor the conference.
“I hope that you'd consider making Log Cabin Republicans a meaningful part of CPAC 2015; we are able to sponsor this year's event (indeed it would be an honor to do so) and would also appreciate being in dialogue with you as to how LCR can play a helpful role in making this year's CPAC the most successful ever,” he wrote.
The Log Cabin Republicans later used surrogates within the conservative movement to reach out to ACU, but said the group received no response. Angelo said that he spoke with Schneider at an event earlier this month and gave him his business card, and that Schneider seemed to agree with him on a possible partnership.
“If I recall correctly, I think he nodded his head,” Angelo said. “He was just as responsive in person as he was via email.”
Schneider said Friday that on at least one occasion when he and Angelo spoke in person, he had told Angelo they could talk later because a meeting was in progress at the time.
“I knew that process existed,” Angelo said, “but I didn’t want to just fill out a form blindly and have them reject us. I wanted to make sure any hesitations they had were addressed in advance of any formal application process.”
Schneider and others argue that because the gay group never submitted the form, its claims of being excluded from CPAC are untrue.
“Had they applied, they would have been subjected to the same review as every other application. We do not bar any groups or individuals based on sexual orientation. Our standards for any group are the strength of their conservative principles,” Schlapp said in a statement. “All conservatives, including gay conservatives, are welcome to be at CPAC.”
Schlapp also suggested that the Log Cabin Republicans were not conservative enough to sponsor CPAC, something Angelo vigorously denies.
“If the Log Cabin Republicans want to take a leadership role in the conservative movement, they need to start advocating for conservative policy solutions and siding with conservative candidates in primaries, even when it means taking on moderate Republicans," Schlapp said in the statement.
Angelo said Friday that he believes that even if he had applied, his group likely would have been rejected.
“I almost feel if we went ahead and applied online they’d be telling you right now that we didn’t use their preferred Web browser to submit the application,” he said.
The public spat is the latest event in the contentious relationship between the two groups. Last year, Angelo said that he had asked for the Log Cabin Republicans to be included in a panel at the event on how conservatives could reach out to minority communities but did not hear back.
The rift highlights the debate within the conservative community on how to handle the growing acceptance, even among Republicans, of civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Appearing on Fox News on Thursday night, gay Republican strategist Richard Grenell, a former spokesman for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, suggested that he had been uninvited from speaking at the conference this year.
"I was watching 'Red Eye' last night and was shocked when I heard Mr. Grenell say something that is patently untrue," Schneider said in a statement. "I am unfamiliar with his policy expertise but would be happy to consider him for an appropriate spot."
CPAC is a major event for conservatives, especially heading into a presidential year, and many GOP stars are expected to attend this year.
Organizers expressed frustration Friday at the idea that they were being painted as anti-gay less than a week before the start of the event.
“When allegations are brought against us that we are excluding individuals, it’s distracting and inconsistent with what we’re trying to do with this conference,” Schneider said.