GOProud, the gay conservative organization that once boasted Andrew Breitbart on its advisory board, is folding its tent. Continued resistance from other conservative groups, and group founder Jimmy LaSalvia’s very public split with the GOP in January, proved too difficult for the organization to overcome.
On Sunday, GOProud Executive Director Matthew Bechstein admitted that the group’s brand is broken, and future efforts to achieve gay acceptance within the conservative project will require a new organizational identity.
LaSalvia and Chris Barron seemed to have momentum when they split from the Log Cabin Republicans, which they saw as too liberal, and formed GOProud in 2009. Endorsements from conservative stars like Brietbart and Anne Coulter lent the group some measure of legitimacy, boosting the group’s access and fundraising. In 2011, Breitbart even threw them a “Big Gay CPAC party.”
But Breitbart resigned from the GOProud advisory later that year when LaSalvia outed a gay staffer of Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose campaign had issued a homophobic TV ad. Responding to boycotts by ‘family values’ conservative groups, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference ended GOProud’s participation in the conference a few months later. GOProud has been in decline ever since.
La Salvia and Barron withdrew from leadership of the organization during 2013, leaving Bechstein and former Scott Brown aide Ross Hemminger to run its day-to-day operations. LaSalvia then endorsed an independent candidate in the Virginia governor’s race while Barron endorsed ‘third way’ Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Following LaSalvia’s public split with the GOP in January, Barron resigned from the GOProud board over the organization’s “unconditional surrender” to intolerance at CPAC.
“Last night I resigned from the Board of GOProud, the organization that I co-founded back in April of 2009. I cannot in good conscience sit by and watch as the current leadership of the organization disingenuously pawns off an unconditional surrender to the forces of bigotry as some sort of ‘compromise,’” Barron told BuzzFeed. “Nothing has changed in regards to GOProud and CPAC, GOProud does not have a booth, they are not a sponsor, they are not participating in any formal sense — individual members can attend and that’s exactly the terms (the American Conservative Union) dictated the previous few years.”
Ironically, Barron has compromised with the GOP for years by sacrificing the equality of his own marriage to a man on an altar of states’ rights. But the party has only become more extreme and less accepting since 2009 — in fact, the Log Cabin Republicans were recently refused any role at the Texas GOP convention — and there is no sign that a new organization can make any new progress at achieving tolerance in a party that is openly hostile to their civil rights.