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Gay Republicans draw support, concern at CPAC

From Brianna Keilar, CNN congressional correspondent
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Gay conservatives have voice
  • GOProud's nontraditional conservative views are rankling some attendees at CPAC
  • GOProud hopes to highlight the beliefs it shares with other Republicans
  • Liberty University Law School boycotts event after GOProud announced as co-sponsor
  • GOProud participating in a roundtable on Saturday about technology and outreach

Washington (CNN) -- An unlikely sponsor at this year's annual conservative conference is hoping to not only promote the issues that set it apart from many Republicans, but also draw attention to the beliefs they share.

The group is called GOProud -- a name that combines GOP and gay pride. So far, the group is getting a mixed response at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

GOProud was founded by former members of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian Republican grass-roots organization.

GOProud has a booth at CPAC just two spaces away from the exhibition for the National Organization for Marriage, which wants the government to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

The organizations obviously see social issues differently.

"It's the ultimate Washington power grab to say let's have a federal constitutional amendment that will federalize the question of marriage," said GOProud chairman Christopher Barron.

Through speaking at the event, exhibiting a booth and co-sponsoring the conference, GOProud hopes to highlight the views it has in common with other Republicans -- limited government and fiscal responsibility.

But the members' nontraditional conservative views are rankling some attendees at CPAC.

Liberty University Law School, founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, boycotted the event after GOProud was announced as a co-sponsor.

The younger activists, however, are more accepting. About 10,000 people are expect to attend CPAC, and a conference spokesman said at least 60 percent, and maybe as high as 80 percent, of the attendees are expected to be younger than 30.

"People in the under 40 age range have become a lot more accepting of homosexuality," attendee Deborah Corey said. "But I think there's also more of an attitude among Americans that's sort of more libertarian that says people have the right to do what they want to in their own lives and to take the consequences for it, as well."

Chris Plante, who is running the booth for the National Organization for Marriage, said being two booths away from GOProud wasn't an issue.

As cameras rolled, he introduced himself to Barron.

"I hope we'll have more time to talk over the next four days. Maybe we can have a beer later," Plante said.

"We can have a beer summit later. It worked for Obama," Barron joked.

A meeting, yes. But don't expect a meeting of the minds.

"Gays and lesbians have the right to live as they choose, but they don't have the right to redefine marriage for the rest of us," Plante said.

The organizers of GOProud will be participating in a roundtable on Saturday, but they won't be talking about issues that affect gay Americans. Instead, they'll be talking about technology and outreach. They say that's their choice.