NATIONAL HARBOR, MD, March 15, 2013 ( – The crowd at the “Rainbow on the Right” session at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was standing-room only, but that might have had something to do with the lack of chairs.

At 6 p.m., while VIPs and those who paid $1,000 for access were busy having their own cocktail party, about 100 people crowded into a small meeting room off the main conference hallway at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort, enticed with free alcoholic drinks and the promise of potential controversy.

Some sat in the roughly 50 chairs provided. The rest, mostly reporters, stood typing on laptops on pub tables at the back of the room, blocking attendees’ path to where a bartender was serving adult beverages.

The panel was sponsored by Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) after Republican homosexual group “GOProud” was barred from formal participation in the conference, the premier yearly event for the conservative movement. More than 8,000 activists were in attendance this year.

CEI, as a CPAC sponsor, had the automatic right to use a meeting room for two hours for a topic of its choosing, so they offered it up for a panel on homosexuality in the Republican Party.

Although it was not a CPAC-sanctioned event, it got plenty of media coverage ahead of time and was listed on the Gaylord’s interactive event directory touchscreens located throughout the resort. Many younger attendees giggled nervously as they entered the room, looking as though they thought they were getting away with something dangerous.

More than half of those present at the session sported yellow “media” passes.


A few of those in attendance held looks of amusement or irritation throughout the panel, rolling their eyes at the speakers and snickering amongst themselves. Up front, though, were maybe two dozen passionate supporters of homosexuality who nodded and gave affirmation to the speakers. A few more were scattered throughout the rear of the room.

The panel consisted of National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, GOProud president Jimmy LaSalvia, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, Margaret Hoover, and libertarian strategist Liz Mair.

Goldberg looked visibly uncomfortable throughout the event, joking near the end of the panel that it had been poorly planned due to the bar being all the way across the room from the panelists’ table. He admitted that he had turned down CEI’s initial request to sit on the panel, but agreed after GOProud and NJ Governor Chris Christie had been blocked from CPAC, while Democratic donor Donald Trump was invited to speak. “I usually don’t appear on panels with words like ‘rainbow’ in them,” he said, but after CPAC invited Trump, he said, “I couldn’t get my mind around why that was OK. A guy who gives money to Democrats and abuses eminent domain seems more worthy of banning than a hardcore conservative who happens to be gay.”

Although Goldberg favors civil unions and has no firm opposition to gay “marriage,” he warned his fellow panelists that even if they are successful in forcing themselves inside the Republican Party’s tent, it may cause others to leave. “Show me where you’re going to replace the 20 or 30 million social conservatives,” Goldberg said.


Goldberg, who styles himself a humorist, later joked that it was the “first and last panel” he would participate in with the word “rainbow” in it.

Liz Mair solved the bar proximity issue by bringing a large glass of red wine to the podium with her. In between swigs, she called herself a “big hater” and boasted about her career history (online media strategist for the RNC and Carly Fiorina, among others) while wearing a t-shirt that read “I [Heart] Freedom to Marry.”

Mair said the most important thing Republicans can do to start winning elections is to abandon conservative stances on issues like abortion, illegal immigration, and same-sex “marriage.” Instead, they must engage in “outreach” to women, Hispanics, and homosexuals. She said she found most conservative rhetoric “hateful.”

Fox News contributor Margaret Hoover said she intended to pick a fight with Jonah Goldberg after the panel over his view that the gay “marriage” issue would be better left to individual states than the federal government. She claimed same-sex “marriage” is better for children than single parenthood. “Single parent households can’t raise children properly,” she said. “They don’t have the resources.”

She appealed to the faith of those in attendance, invoking the Golden Rule. “Treat others the way we want to be treated,” she said. Religious faith, she claimed, demands that society give gays the right to marry if it’s what they want.

The Washington Post's house conservative Jennifer Rubin said the debate over same-sex “marriage” is already over in America. “If you want to be a debate society, we can do that,” she said of Republicans. “If you want to be a winning political party, the debate has already taken place. We cannot oppose America on issues of fairness,” she said.

“In 10 years or so,” she added, “no one is going to be talking about this. Everyone will have voted on it.” She predicted that the results would be universal gay marriage.

“The progress in America has all been in one direction,” she said. “You never go backward. Once you go there, you never go back.”

In fact, two states have allowed gay marriage, then reversed it: California and Maine, both in 2008.

Jimmy LaSalvia of GOProud was more conciliatory than his fellow panelists. He said he is a “pro-life social conservative,” and that he gets a lot of hate mail from other homosexuals over that.

He argued that same-sex “marriage” is a good thing, because “marriage is good for people. We should encourage, protect and promote it. We should want everyone to be monogamous and settle down, even gay people.”

He also appealed to the audience’s electoral hopes. Aren’t you tired of losing?” he asked. “We need to re-examine, recalibrate our movement to make it something that can win. We must tailor the movement with changing demographics in mind. The world today includes gay people.”

“If we want to make our country better, we have to win elections,” he told the roomful of Republicans.

“We have tolerated anti-gay bigotry in the movement for too long,” LaSalvia said, without naming anyone specific. He quickly clarified, “I don’t believe that because someone opposes same sex 'marriage,' that automatically makes them a homophobe.”

“Opposing gay 'marriage' isn’t bigotry,” he said.

But he added, “In 2013, those who demonize gay people and oppose homosexuality are way out of the mainstream. Everyone has a gay person in their family.”

He challenged the crowd to re-examine their beliefs, saying, “There have been many times in history when deeply held beliefs have been proved to be simply wrong. They find themselves left behind.”


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