After two years of participation and controversy, new management at the American Conservative Union have decided to start “vetting” organizations for participation at CPAC — and that means that GOProud, in all likelihood, won’t be admitted as a participating organization in 2012. New ACU chair Al Cardenas says that its individual members will be welcomed to the conservative conference, but as long as the organization itself pursues policies allowing for gay marriage and gays in the military, the ACU will not approve GOProud’s participation. Cardenas explained this on Wednesday in an interview on C-SPAN:

Al Cardenas, the new chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU), announced on CSPAN Wednesday that the his organization, which hosts the annual CPAC event, will now vet organizations before allowing them to participate.

The statement hints that gay conservative organization GOProud, a group whose participation infuriated social conservatives, and other groups determined insufficiently conservative by the ACU may not be welcome at next year’s 2012 CPAC.

Cardenas said that groups advocating for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” or supporting gay marriage would not be welcome.

“If you are a group, and this has got nothing to do with your orientation,” said Cardenes, “of straight couples, and you advocate gay marriage, that’s not within the scope of what we believe the three legs of the stool of the movement are.”

Chris Barron, head of GOProud, attempted to put a brave face on the news:

GOProud Chairman Christopher Barron told TheDC, “We have been told by multiple sources on the ACU board that no decision has been made about GOProud and CPAC 2012.”

“If there is a vetting process that looks at the policy positions held by the participating organizations then GOProud will clearly be back as a sponsor next year,” said Barron.

Technically, GOProud wasn’t a sponsor in 2011 — they were a “participating organization,” one of a record 117 to attend CPAC this year. Their presence sparked a boycott that ended up involving few organizations, but some prominent organizations chose not to attend (Family Research Council, Heritage Foundation) while leaving their motivations less clear. FRC did protest against the inclusion of GOProud while declining to call their absence a “boycott.”

Cardenas’ formula leaves little doubt that he means to exclude GOProud, however. The group does not explicitly call for support for gay marriage, but does have as part of their agenda opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act in their position to keep the federal government out of marriage. They also explicitly supported an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

But that’s not what will keep GOProud out in 2012.  Chris Barron’s interview in Metro Weekly dropped like a bomb on those on ACU’s board that had supported their inclusion at CPAC, with Barron’s slam at ACU chair Cleta Mitchell as a “bigot” (via Erick Erickson):

”I think there’s a couple people in Heritage who, at the behest of Cleta Mitchell – who is just a nasty bigot … she got some of the people at Heritage early on fired up about this,” Barron says. ”We tried very, very hard to smooth this over and to avoid any public fight with Heritage and then when Heritage came up with their excuse about how this wasn’t about GOProud – first of all, we knew it was, we knew it was six months ago – but we were willing to publicly let them.”

Barron later apologized, but the damage was already done. Erick’s reaction was not much different from many of those attending CPAC:

You really should read the whole thing. You’ll learn that should you disagree with GOProud, you are a bigot too. In fact there are lots of delightful quotes. GOProud has taken one of the favorite leftist bullet points and brought it straight into CPAC. You oppose affirmative action? You’re a racist. You oppose gay marriage? You’re a bigot.

Wonderful trick. Sadly, it is being used on real heros within the conservative movement, including Cleta Mitchell, a board member of the American Conservative Union. …

Cleta Mitchell is not just my friend and lawyer, she is one of the keystones of the conservative movement in Washington, D.C. When Sharron Angle’s campaign seemed off the rails right after the primary, it was Cleta who went in to help right the ship. It was Cleta Mitchell who stepped up to defend Christine O’Donnell when no one else would. It was Cleta Mitchell who exerted pressure on wavering conservatives to get on board Marco Rubio’s campaign. It was Cleta Mitchell who helped organize defense and offense for a host of conservative causes headed to court. It remains Cleta Mitchell who does not hesitate to give advice for new conservative organizations and pick up the phone to raise money for conservative causes and candidates.

It should come as no surprise that GOProud won’t be back next year, especially not with Barron at the top of the organization. The new “vetting” standards will certainly please some of the organizations that refused to attend this year, but the real story is that the ACU is not going to welcome back an organization that accuses its board members of bigotry, especially a group whose inclusion cost them standing among their friends for the past two years.