Michelangelo Signorile was at CPAC last week, as he always is, and writes about how the poor, financially strapped National Organization for Marriage was consigned to a nondescript table in the basement of the hotel. In past years, they’ve been center stage. But first, this amusing anecdote:
And last year Brian Brown, NOM’s current president, sat on a panel focused on defending “traditional marriage” that was moderated by Cleta Mitchell, the archenemy of GOProud and all things gay, and an influential board member of the American Conservative Union (ACU), which hosts CPAC.
I spoke with Brown that day in National Harbor, Md., at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, where CPAC was held this year and last, and he was positively giddy. We chatted while seated on a bench next to a faux 19th-century-style general store in a Disneyland-like “old town” center enclosed in a giant, 19-story glass atrium of the hotel. It’s an artificial, hermetically sealed environment, with banana plants and hydrangeas that bloom every day, out of season. It was an appropriate locale for a conversation with a man who wants to keep the world perfectly preserved in the past, seemingly oblivious — or doing a good job of faking it — to what’s happening outside the bubble.
“We are going to win at the Supreme Court!” Brown exclaimed with a beaming smile on that day in March 2013, declaring that taking California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act to the Supreme Court will have been “the biggest strategic mistake” of the gay-rights movement.
And this year at CPAC there was no panel focused on the evils of gay marriage, nor were Maggie Gallagher or Brian Brown anywhere to be found. NOM, which has reportedly been having major financial issues, operating with a $2-million deficit, did have a small table in the basement of the hotel with the other exhibitors, though nothing as grand as the massive, expensive booths and tents of the gun-rights groups or the anti-tax activists. At the NOM table two chirpy 20-somethings handed out fliers as very few people stopped by. When I was there, one of them was being challenged on marriage equality by a 20-something CPAC attendee.
When I asked for a NOM spokesperson, they called upstairs, and NOM’s Chris Plante, who’d once said that gays “turn children into little teacup dogs” as an “accessory,” came down. He was quite disturbed about the lack of any panel on “traditional marriage” at CPAC.
“There is an obvious absence,” he complained. “And that is a mistake. It’s not representing true conservatives across this country. … CPAC … is not representing what we would call the Republican Party of this country.” He added, “I’ve already spoken with several [conservative Christian leaders] who are concerned with that absence. There are certainly things that are going on within the organizations that back CPAC up. … For CPAC to step away from [marriage] is quite surprising.”
Half the attendees at CPAC were under 25. And even young conservatives tend not to want anything to do with anti-gay politics, with some obvious exceptions of course. NOM is rapidly descending into irrelevance. Brian Brown may actually have to get a real job.