WASHINGTON -- Though the Republican Party's stance on same-sex marriage faced criticism from within its own ranks following the 2012 election, this year's session of the top conservative gabfest will not include the two leading conservative gay rights groups.
GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans will not be participating in the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, top executives from both groups confirmed on Wednesday.
"We were kicked out last year and nothing has changed and we wont be at CPAC," GOProud's Jimmy LaSalvia said in an interview. "The last communication I've had from them is that we were kicked out. Nothing has changed."
"At the present time, we have no plans to participate in CPAC this year," Log Cabin Republicans spokesman West Honeycutt told The Huffington Post.
The absence of both groups from this year's CPAC schedule surprised some political observers, who argued that it seemed like the last vestige of the culture war currently winding down within the Republican Party. Outside of social conservative circles, fewer and fewer Republican strategists see future electoral success in an anti-gay marriage agenda. Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who once compared same-sex marriage to paganism, has argued that public opinion on the topic is inevitably moving in the direction of greater tolerance.
Having GOProud or the Log Cabin Republicans present at the top conservative conference would seem like an easy first step -- far easier than, say, changing the GOP platform. By not taking it, CPAC runs the risk of a backlash.
"CPAC is a private organization and it can do whatever it wants -- as a libertarian, there's simply no other position for me to take on that -- and I will attend CPAC this year, as I have in the past," said Liz Mair, a Republican strategist and GOProud advisory board member. "But like a lot of conservatives and libertarians I know, I will do so with much less enthusiasm than I did a few years back in part because the impression CPAC is giving off, and doing too little to alter in my opinion, is that it's not really keeping pace as the conservative movement modernizes."
A request for comment from the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, was not immediately returned.
In 2011, the Log Cabin Republicans boasted of their involvement with CPAC. Last year, the group said it was invited to have a booth at the event but turned down the opportunity. Honeycutt would not say whether his group had petitioned to be included in CPAC this year or was voluntarily sitting it out.
GOProud, meanwhile, was a co-sponsor at CPAC in 2010 and 2011 before being banned in 2012. LaSalvia found out that his group was prohibited from sponsoring a booth in the convention hall last year through press reports. He said he hasn't reached out to organizers to see if they've had a change of heart. But it should be up to them, he added, to reach out to him first.
"I don’t think it is incumbent upon me to contact them to see if something has changed," he said. "They have had plenty of opportunity to tell me if something has changed and if something has changed it would be news to me."
CPAC is set to take place on the weekend of March 15.