There is an extraordinary contrast in the Republican Party when it comes to gay rights and same-sex marriage. On one hand, as I pointed out earlier, CPAC is busy throwing GOProud out of the shrinking GOP tent. On the other hand, the amici brief in the gay marriage cases before the Supreme Court, which challenge the Defense of Marriage Act, are compiling an impressive list of Republicans. Right Turn has learned that the latest big-name co-signer to a brief asking the court to strike down the act is Paul Wolfowitz, a former president of the World Bank and deputy secretary of defense.

Wolfowitz joins a 100-person list that includes some well-known names: Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the American Action Forum, former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, former California congresswoman Mary Bono Mack, former national security adviser Stephen Hadley, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), technical whiz and GOP consultant Patrick Ruffini, Meg Whitman, and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.

In addition, consider that one of the hot names on the right, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), has always favored making marriage a state issue.

Contrast that with CPAC’s move to toss out GOProud, a group that is not seeking any agreement on gay marriage. As one smart consultant explained, the American Conservative Union, which puts on CPAC, is the only true umbrella group in the conservative movement (with groups as diverse as the National Rifle Association, Americans for Tax Reform and Right to Life), yet it is beset by the same problem that afflicts the party more generally: The loudest voices are the most intolerant among social conservatives. That is a recipe for disaster, and it raises the question why there is not more pushback from those who seek to expand the party.

As former PJ Media CEO Roger Simon put it, “No matter how you stand on same-sex marriage, the exclusion of GOProud from CPAC is perilously close to a suicide pill for the conservative movement and ultimately for the Republican Party. For young people especially (and I’m almost talking under age forty here) gay marriage is a fait accompli – and this is true for many of those same youths who are completely simpatico with conservatives on fiscal and foreign policy issues.”

Jeff Frazee, the executive director of Young Americans for Liberty, told me, “I just wish CPAC could be a discussion about conservatism and not a discussion over whether or not gays should be invited. It’s getting old and a continuing distraction more than anything. I say we invite anyone — regardless of sex, race, or religion — that calls themselves a conservative.” He added, “But if we are going to start purging people because they don’t represent conservative values, then why is Newt Gingrich speaking?” Good question.

When I attempted to interview Al Cardenas, who heads the American Conservative Union, I got a nasty e-mail from its national communications director, Laura Keehner Rigas, that referred to my piece this morning: “Why? You already wrote your story.” She refused to respond when I explained I would be covering CPAC and writing many stories. Plainly, CPAC is not in the business of making friends or influencing others.

The question is which way the GOP is going to go: backward or into the 21st century? A senior aide to a conservative senator who was annoyed with CPAC’s move e-mailed me, “Can we please get out of the dark ages?” I honestly don’t know.