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Revisiting sinners of the past

Over the past 10 years, I’ve often used this space to target and critique a series of anti-LGBT figures — from politicians to criminals to closeted celebrities. My attacks have ranged from stinging to the occasional angry full-on takedown. It’s remarkable how much things have changed for the LGBT movement in those 10 years. So a quick look back at some of my favorite targets of the last decade and how they have evolved during that time.

1. The Democratic National Committee. This might seem an unexpected target, but the reality is that the party’s support for LGBT rights and legislation is an Obama phenomenon. From Bill Clinton’s support for DOMA to Howard Dean’s firing of a gay liaison and other shenanigans (pitting black delegates against gay ones, denigrating the gay press and threatening to sue the Blade), the Democratic Party has a complicated history with our community. Obama deserves the credit for turning around that sorry record. Today, the Democratic Party includes marriage equality in its platform. Ten years ago, there had been no movement on pro-LGBT federal legislation. Today, we have an expanded hate crimes law and have repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” DOMA is next to go.

2. The Bush administration. George W. Bush became the gay community’s public enemy No. 1 after his cynical assault on marriage equality in 2004, a crusade masterminded in part by former RNC Chair and Bush-Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman. The Bush years were ugly, from his calls for a federal marriage amendment to an odd and stubborn refusal to even utter the word “gay” in public. Ten years later, Mehlman is out of the closet and raising money to support marriage equality. Dick Cheney supports marriage equality, as does Laura Bush. And George has paid a steep price for his horrendous, reckless presidency — relegated to the dustbin of history and rendered persona non grata at last year’s Republican National Convention. He is rightly blamed for the country’s economic mess and will be remembered as among the worst presidents in American history.

3. Martin O’Malley. Another unlikely target, considering O’Malley was popular with LGBT residents of Baltimore from his days as a City Council member and mayor. He even endorsed marriage equality in a TV interview years before running for governor. He later disavowed that interview and was booed off the stage at a private LGBT donor gathering after advocating for civil unions over full marriage rights. After a 2007 court ruling limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples, O’Malley issued a cruel, stinging statement invoking the Catholic sacraments and reiterating a call for civil unions. But after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo successfully shepherded marriage through a Republican Senate there, O’Malley had an epiphany and adopted full-throated support for the cause. He was a latecomer, but ultimately played a key role in passage of the bill and of the subsequent ballot measure last year. He’s now a rumored 2016 presidential aspirant (along with Cuomo).

4. Religion. Perhaps the greatest force opposed to our full equality, organized religion gets a lot of ink. From the attacks of Pope Benedict to the reparative therapy efforts of Scientology, religions (and cults in the case of Scientology) remain a key threat to LGBT people. But even that’s changing. If you visit a local Catholic church, you’ll find openly LGBT people in the pews and gay support groups operating. And they have something to celebrate with the news this week that Benedict is stepping down after nearly eight years of anti-gay pronouncements. More and more religions are moderating their views on our full inclusion in church life, including in marriage. Evangelical Lutherans now recognize the same-sex relationships of church leaders; the U.S. Episcopal Church allows same-sex marriages in states where it’s legal. There’s a long way to go to full acceptance, of course, but progress is undeniable and change is happening at a brisk pace.

5. Anderson Cooper & Jodie Foster. Closeted rich and famous people have come in for a healthy dose of criticism on this page over the years. After all, if the wealthiest and most successful among us won’t come out, how can we expect the schoolteacher in Alabama or the construction worker in Iowa to do the same? Cooper and Foster became the poster children for the closet but in the last year, both publicly came out. Better late than never, right? Maybe Shepard Smith and Queen Latifah will follow their lead.

6. Mark Foley & Larry Craig. The Blade wrote about Foley’s sexual orientation for years before he was forced to publicly acknowledge the truth after his page scandal. Craig’s story is more twisted but both ultimately got what they deserved. Their names haven’t appeared in the Blade for years — two relics of a closeted past. Good riddance. Now if only Lindsay Graham would come out.

Even after all that progress, there’s still no shortage of organizations and public figures to take to task — think Sam Arora, Rick Santorum, Tony Perkins and the National Organization for Marriage. And our work is far from complete. We need a federal law outlawing anti-LGBT employment discrimination; a stop to religion-based bigotry; and an openly gay professional athlete would be nice, too. But the list of our enemies is a lot shorter than it was 10 years ago. Here’s to the next 10 years of progress.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at knaff@washblade.com.

13
Feb
2013

Million-dollar ad campaign to promote marriage equality

Gay News, Washington Blade, HIV/AIDS

Former First Lady Laura Bush is among the public figures in a new ad expressing support for marriage equality (Blade photo by Michael Key)

A new ad campaign has been launched promoting marriage equality that  showcases a bipartisan group of high-profile figures promoting the same message: “It’s time for marriage.”

The campaign — a project of the Respect for Marriage Coalition, a group of more than 80 groups led by the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Marry — consists of a 30-second TV ad featuring a number of public figures who’ve expressed support for same-sex marriage. The coalition has pledged to spend more than $1 million in the coming weeks to broadcast the ad on national TV.

The ad features clips from former first lady Laura Bush, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Vice President Dick Cheney. The final clip is from President Obama’s inaugural speech in which Obama says, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”

“None of us would want to be told we can’t marry the person we love,” says the voice over in the ad. “That’s why a growing majority of Americans believe it’s time to allow marriage for gay and lesbian couples.”

The voice over concludes at the end of the ad, “It’s time for marriage.”

According to the coalition, the ad will begin airing Wednesday on cable and is set to broadcast during national Sunday shows in the coming weeks. Full-page print versions of the ad featuring the same officials are set to run in major national newspapers – including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post – as well as online ads on top online news sites.

A news release from the coalition states, “Against the backdrop of President Obama’s historic comments about marriage rights in his inaugural address, freedom to marry legislation pending in a number of states, and two landmark marriage cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Coalition is working to grow support for marriage rights for same-sex couples across the nation.”

The TV ad is similar to another ad from HRC that began airing in November in which acclaimed actor Morgan Freeman says the Election Day results delivered a “mandate” for full equality for LGBT people.

The ad is running in the wake of the two national polls that made public on the previous day: one showing that 59 percent of the American public opposes Section 3 of DOMA, which prohibits federal benefits from flowing to same-sex couples, and another showing that 77 percent of the American public believe same-sex marriage will be made legal nationally regardless of their personal views within the next couple years.

Watch the ad here:

20
Feb
2013

Year in review: D.C. hosts International AIDS Conference

Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Uganda

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honored Ugandan human rights advocates at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

More than 30,000 people from around the world gathered at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C. in July for the International AIDS Conference.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton, former First Lady Laura Bush, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.,) Bill Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg and gay singer Elton John were among the politicians, public health officials and others who spoke during the gathering that took place in the United States for the first time since San Francisco hosted it in 1990. (President Obama in 2009 completed the process that lifted the ban on people with HIV/AIDS from entering the country.)

Mayor Vincent Gray and other D.C. officials used the conference to highlight the city’s ongoing efforts to curb the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the nation’s capital. The NAMES Project showcased tens of thousands of panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt throughout the metropolitan area in July, while the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and other HIV/AIDS service providers protested what they contend is a lack of commitment from the White House and other American politicians to combat the epidemic. U.S. Park Service police arrested Housing Works President Charles King and 12 others who tried to tie red ribbons, condoms and other items to the White House fence following a protest in Lafayette Park.

The 20th International AIDS Conference is scheduled to take place in Melbourne, Australia, in July 2014.

26
Dec
2012