Fred Karger, a former Reagan aide and openly gay minor Republican candidate for president, is threatening to file a discrimination claim against the Washington, D.C. Conservative Political Action Conference, a major annual gathering of the right.
CPAC has been the stage for a series of fights over gay rights, centered on the confrontational gay conservative group GOProud. Karger told BuzzFeed he sought to rent a booth starting in November, but that his application has been ignored by the American Conservative Union, which organizes the gathering. (Last year, he was told his application was too late.)
"CPAC hopes to once again deny my right to free speech by not allowing me to meet thousands of political activists who would come by my booth. I am sure it is because I am gay," Karger told BuzzFeed, reciting a resume that includes 30 years working in Republican politics for a slew of candidates. "Now I do not meet CPAC's moral criteria because I came out of the closet," he said.
"If I am not allowed to rent a booth at CPAC's Trade Show this year, I plan on filing a formal complaint under Washington DC's Human Rights Act," he said. "The Act was established in 1977 to protect all individuals from discrimination under its Public Accommodations' section. The Act clearly states that it is unlawful to deny any person the full and equal enjoyment of facilities."
CPAC communications director Kristy Campbell didn't directly address Karger's charge in an email, but said, "The ACU is sold out of exhibitor space for CPAC 2012, and priority is given to previous sponsors and partner organizations."
Karger has found little traction in the primary process, though he has gotten his name on the ballot in several jurisdictions. The CPAC confrontation, though, may offer a bit of traction for his campaign to force gay rights into the Republican conversation.