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Decoding CPAC Celebrities' Mixed Messages on LGBT Issues

Decoding CPAC Celebrities' Mixed Messages on LGBT Issues


Conservative leaders tended to dodge LGBT issues at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, though a few extremists managed to make some noise.

This weekend marked the annual gathering of national far-right leaders at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

This year's event was held at Gaylord National Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., and attracted about 11,000 people, according to organizers. Many of those people expressed unpleasant ideas about LGBT people -- though high-ranking conservative politicians were noticeably less vocal about their antigay sentiments this year.

At one panel, a representative from the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity joined with a staffer of the Manhattan Institute to blame fatherlessness on feminism and LGBT equality.

"Even though I completely understand and support the impulse of gays to get married," said Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald. "I predict there will come a time when Father's Day is considered hate speech because it means that you're dissing the lesbian couple."

"It is going to be very hard to say that fathers are essential if the law says they are optional through the redefinition of marriage. So I think that's a very serious challenge that we face," added Jennifer Marshall of the right-wing Heritage Foundation.

Conference chairman Matt Schlapp made welcoming overtures to gay attendees at the conference. "We have made an intentional effort to make it very clear to people that that is part of what CPAC is going to be about," he told LGBT outlet MetroWeekly. "And that's important to me."

Nevertheless, Duck Dynasty's antigay patriarch Phil Robertson addressed the crowd, posing this rhetorical question: "You want a godly, biblical, medically safe option? One man, one woman, married for life."

In addition, presidential aspirant and current Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said during a Q&A that "marriage is a question for the states, and it is wrong for the federal government or unelected judges to tear down the marriage laws of the states."

Another presidential hopeful, Jeb Bush, offered additional antigay sentiments, telling a crowd, "I believe in traditional marriage."

But generally, most CPAC attendees were quiet on marriage, perhaps sensing that public opinion is rapidly distancing itself from the party's standard antigay talking points.

One of the highlights of the conference was's video, in which Paul Detrick and Josh Swain tracked down gay attendees by using Grindr. A few were willing to talk on camera, but others were so secretive that would only allow the camera to see their feet, as though under a bathroom stall divider.

"For conservatives, if they are going to be able to win an election, they are going to need to get younger voters," one attendee told Detrick. "And to do that they need to be more socially liberal. Essentially, they need to shift libertarian."

Young attendees were overwhelmingly more likely to favor equality than older ones. "Don't shove it down my throat," begged an elderly man in another captivating report from CPAC. Watch both reports below.

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Matt Baume