Gay Republicans Find a Venue at CPAC

Despite not being invited, a gay Republican group found its way into conservatives' biggest annual conference, anyway.

Much has been made of the Conservative Political Action Conference's (CPAC) decision not to invite GOProud, a prominent gay Republican group.

Along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, GOProud is one of the conference's two most notable absences caused by ideological differences with conference organizers.

GOProud found a venue there, nonetheless.

At a panel hosted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, entitled, "A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition, Bringing Tolerance Out of the Closet," GOProud's leadership and supporters voiced their discontent with the conservative movement - before a packed, standing-room-only conference room at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Md., with a bar wheeled in to serve attendees after the gay politics talk was over.

"There are a few in our movement who just don't like gay people," said GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia. "And in 2013, that's just not OK."

Former CEI chairman Fred Smith emceed the panel. Conservatives' lack of acceptance was lamented and lambasted by LaSalvia, as well as National Review's Jonah Goldberg, who had criticized CPAC's non-invitation of GOProud in a column; strategist and GOProud advisory council member Liz Mair; Fox News contributor and fellow advisory-council member Margaret Hoover; and Washington Post columnist/blogger/reporter Jennifer Rubin.

They shared a broad consensus that the Republican Party is far behind the times.

"We cannot be at war with America on issues of fairness, on issues of equality," Rubin said.

The friendly crowd applauded raucously at times.

"It's something where we clearly have a problem," Mair said of the Republican Party's lack of appeal to young voters because of "tone" on gay marriage.

Goldberg, who supports state control over marriage policy, pointed out one problem for Republicans who support gay marriage.

"You're gonna have to show me how you're gonna replace those 30 million social conservatives and evangelicals that are gonna leave the party" if Republicans back gay marriage," Goldberg warned.