02/19/2014 05:02 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2014

GOP Gay Rights Group Reconciles With American Conservatives Union, Will Attend This Year's CPAC


GOProud, a leading conservative gay rights group, will attend the Conservative Political Action Conference as guests this March after three years of friction with the organizers.

Ross Hemminger, GOProud's co-executive director, told The Huffington Post on Wednesday that the group's attendance at the conference is a step towards repairing a relationship that was frayed in 2011 when conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council objected to GOProud's involvement. The American Conservatives Union, which runs the conference, eventually excluded GOProud from acting as a co-sponsor.

"Before we got to the point of co-sponsoring, we wanted to renew the relationship," Hemminger said. "Everyone knows we've had some disagreements in the past, some exchanges that were controversial. We wanted to start from square one."

Hemminger also said that the American Conservatives Union has been "wonderful to work with" and "very accommodating."

"We look forward to having a mutually beneficial relationship," he said. "CPAC is a really big iron to have in your fire."

National Journal reported Wednesday that Dan Schneider, the American Conservatives Union's executive director, praised GOProud's new leadership for their work promoting conservative principles.

"We welcome GOProud's attendance at this year's CPAC conference," Schneider told the magazine. "I believe their presence could help establish a productive relationship in the future."

However, the rift between GOProud and the American Conservatives Union is not entirely healed: the group was a CPAC co-sponsor in 2010 and 2011, but will only attend as guests this year, and will not host a booth.

The group's co-founders, Chris Barron and Jimmy LaSalvia, panned this year's invitation. BuzzFeed White House reporter Evan McMorris-Santoro tweeted Wednesday that Barron wasn't impressed.

Barron also took to his own twitter account to criticize the move.

LaSalvia, who is no longer a member of the Republican Party, compared this year's invitation with the partial political status of pre-Civil War black Americans in an interview with Slate's Dave Weigel Wednesday.

"If I was still running GOProud," LaSalvia told Weigel, "I wouldn't accept a 3/5 invitation to CPAC."

This year's confirmed speakers include Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), among other conservative luminaries. The conference is set for March 6-8.



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