Discrimination Complaint Against the American Conservative Union
The American Conservative Union Foundation, the 501(c)3 arm of the American Conservative Union (ACU), runs an annual conference called CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in Washington, DC. It boasts that it is “the largest gathering of conservative leaders and activists in the country.” Each year the conference brings more than 10,000 attendees to the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.
As a Republican candidate for President, I had hoped to be invited to speak at CPAC 2012, but once again I was not invited to join my fellow candidates. So I applied to purchase an exhibitor booth at the CPAC trade show. Having been denied a booth last year because CPAC claimed it was “sold out,” I applied extra early this time on November 30, 2011. I sent in my application in so early in fact that I qualified for the “early bird discount.” I was sure this time that CPAC could not use the same excuse as last year, but it turned out that it did. CPAC has denied my request to purchase a booth at their trade show for the second year in a row.
I have never heard back from anyone with CPAC, but they issued a statement when asked about my application on January 24, 2012. CPAC communications director Kristy Campbell told BuzzFeed, “The ACU is sold out of exhibitor space for CPAC 2012, and priority is given to previous sponsors and partner organizations.”
My Application to CPAC 2012
On November 12, 2011, I sent an email to CPAC asking when the exhibitor booths go on sale for the February 2012 conference. Two days later on November 14, 2011, Jillian Weleski, Deputy CPAC Director, responded by email, “Exhibitor booths for CPAC 2012 are currently on sale.” She attached the application and the information package, and finished her email by saying “Please let me know if you have any questions.”
I spoke to her by phone on November 29, 2011, and she walked me through the application process. I was told that all applicants were screened by a committee to make sure that the applicants for exhibitor booths were in keeping with the “values of CPAC,” and that I would hear back within one week.
The next day on November 30, 2011, I faxed my application to Ms. Weleski for a booth (application and fax receipt attached), along with my credit card information to cover the $2,000 booth rental fee. By submitting my application on November 30, 2011, I met the deadline for the “early bird discount” and would save $500. I was sure that CPAC was not sold out that early. One week went by and no word from CPAC. Then a second week went by, still no word from CPAC.
Beginning December 15, 2011, I called or emailed Ms. Weleski every few days. I also called Al Cardenas, the Chairman of the American Conservative Union at his office in Florida. I never received a call back from him either.
Legitimate Candidate for President
I am currently one of the six 2012 Republican Presidential candidates still running. I received more votes than two invited CPAC speakers in the recent New Hampshire Primary, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain. I was the first to file in person to be on the New Hampshire ballot. I am one of the six candidates still running who appears on the Michigan, Puerto Rico and Maryland ballots. I will be on other state ballots in several more upcoming primaries as well. Throughout the primary process, I have been tied with Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann , Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry and beat Rick Santorum in many national polls.
I have repeatedly stated that I will be in the Republican Presidential Primary for the long haul. I have been profiled in hundreds of publications including the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Jerusalem Post, The Observer, OC Weekly and Chicago Magazine. Stephen Sackur host of BBC’s HardTalk interviewed its first 2012 Republican candidate when he interviewed me. Fox News, MSNBC, CBS News, New Hampshire’s WMUR TV, The Manchester Union Leader, The Des Moines Register, Politico and The Huffington Post all regularly include me in stories and on their lists of 2012 candidates.
CPAC’s History of LGBT Inclusion
In 2010 and 2011, GOProud, a gay Republican organization was an exhibitor at CPAC. GOProud’s inclusion led to threatened boycotts by some major far right organizations. David Keene, then the Chairman of the ACU stood up to them and stated, “CPAC is inclusive and welcomes all of those who agree with us on most issues. I don’t know the GOProud people personally, but we find it difficult to exclude groups because of disagreements on one or two issues no matter how important many of us believe those issues to be.”
That was the right thing to do.
The campaign to ban the participation of gay groups was spearheaded by Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (ATAH) and the Liberty Council. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists ATAH as a Hate Group. The Southern Poverty Law Center defines Hate Groups as groups that “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” ATAH states on its website that homosexuality is a “lethal behavior addiction,” and that gays ran the German Nazi Party.
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists Liberty Council with its list of anti-gay hate groups. J. Matt Barber, who has led the anti-gay CPAC campaign for the Liberty Council, has argued that there is “medical evidence about the dangers of homosexuality.”
The other organizations that joined in the campaign to exclude gay groups are the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and the National Organization for Marriage. The Southern Poverty Law Center has included these three organizations with its list of Anti-Gay Hate Groups.
GOProud was allowed to purchase exhibitor booths at the 2010 and 2011 CPAC trade show, but was not invited back in 2012.
New ACU Chairman Al Cardenas announced after the 2011 CPAC that diversity would end, and caved in to the pressure and voted to “realign plans for those who participate next year to exclude homosexual advocacy.” Translation – no gays allowed.
A copy of the letter from ACU Executive Director Gregg Keller to GOProud is below. In it he tells GOProud that they are no longer allowed to sponsor or exhibit at CPAC.
First Openly Gay Presidential Candidate and
First Jewish Republican Presidential Candidate
I am making history every day as the first openly gay candidate of a major political party to run for President of the United States, and I am doing so as a Republican. I am also the first Jewish Republican candidate to run for president and be on state ballots. Would CPAC refuse to rent me an exhibitor booth because of my religion? I doubt it.
I have been a Republican my entire life, and was a Republican political consultant for 27 years. I have worked on nine presidential campaigns including those of Presidents’ Ford, Reagan and George H W Bush. I have managed or been involved with dozens more federal, state and local campaigns. My Republican credentials are impeccable.
CPAC Denies My Rights Because I am Openly Gay
Al Cardenas and his American Conservative Union have violated my civil rights and certainly appear to be in direct violation of the District of Columbia’s 1977 Human Rights Act.
The Washington, DC Human Rights Act was passed to “secure an end in the District of Columbia to discrimination for any reason other than that of individual merit” and specifically forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Human Rights Act forbids discrimination in “any place of public accommodation.”
The Act further states, “It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice to do any of the following acts, wholly or partially for a discriminatory reason based on the actual or perceived… sexual orientation… To deny, directly or indirectly, any person the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodations.”
CPAC has held its annual conference at the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel for many years. This hotel is located at 2660 Woodley Road NW, Washington, DC 20008. The hotel is well within the jurisdiction of the District of Columbia and well within the authority of the Human Rights Act.
My individual merit has me currently as one of the top six candidates in the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary. My individual merit has convinced Secretaries of State across America to include me on their state ballots. My individual merit has convinced thousands of voters to vote or caucus for me.
My individual merit should qualify me to rent an exhibitor booth at CPAC’s 2012 trade show. CPAC discriminated against me when it denied me equal enjoyment of the facilities of public accommodations at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington DC for the second year in a row.
The District of Columbia has always been a leading advocate for Human Rights and a leader in equality for all. Therefore, I ask the DC Office of Human Rights to immediately investigate my claim of discrimination by the American Conservative Union Foundation. I would like to be allowed to rent a booth at this year’s CPAC Conference which begins February 9, 2012.
Thank you very much for your help.