Inspired by New York legalizing same sex marriage, the extraordinary LGBT ally Frank Rich has written an important essay for New York Magazine on "Whitewashing Gay History."
While celebrating that achievement and others since, Rich wrote "last June's celebration has gradually given way to morning-after sobriety...something is wrong with this cheery picture." First, "[f]ull equality for gay Americans is nowhere near at hand.... we do not yet live in the United States of Glee." And, "some of the discomforting history that preceded that joyous day has been rewritten, whitewashed, or tossed into a memory hole....What's been lost in this morality play is the role that many liberal politicians and institutions have also played in slowing and at some junctures halting gay civil rights in recent decades.” That includes former President Bill Clinton's "shifting justifications for signing DOMA."
Appearing with openly gay MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, Rich also discussed how some good pro-gay Republicans who advocate for marriage equality also supporting Mitt Romney, which Maddow calls “hypocrisy.” In her lead-in to the Rich interview, Maddow asks: “[H]ow do you explain ardently pro-gay rights zillionairs putting their money where their mouth was - even against the interest of their party in New York state politics – and then those exact same people bankrolling with even more money the most ardently antigay Republican presidential campaign in history?" (See videos below)
In his essay, Rich notes the uncertainty of politics:
We could yet end up with President Santorum, who lumps homosexuality with "man on dog" sex and even vows to reinstate Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell." Or with President Romney, who lately boasted of how hard he fought to prevent Massachusetts from becoming "the Las Vegas of gay marriages"--a claim he made only days after accepting an endorsement from that paragon of "traditional" marriage, Donald Trump, in Las Vegas. Though a cadre of conservative financiers, at least one with a gay son, helped bankroll Cuomo's successful strong-arming of Republican same-sex-marriage votes in Albany, there doesn't seem to be a single major Republican donor or leader, or even a mainstream conservative pundit, with the guts to call out these candidates or the party's congressional leadership on their corrosive anti-gay rhetoric and agenda.
The GOP is on the wrong side of history for sure, with gays no less than Hispanics and every other minority group. Generational and demographic turnover is remaking America even as the right tries to turn back the clock. But over the shorter term, the party's hard line will continue to inflict real injustice on citizens of all stripes--not just on gay adults (whether they are seeking marriage or not), but on gay kids struggling to find a safe place for themselves in the world and straight children who love their gay parents. So uninhibited is the animus of the Republican base that it thought nothing of booing a gay Army captain serving in Iraq when he presumed to ask a polite question via YouTube during a campaign debate on Fox News. Not one of the nine presidential candidates onstage spoke up to defend the soldier.
That's why the celebrations in New York last June, while merited, must be seen as provisional. That's also why Democratic leaders who profess fierce advocacy of gay civil rights must be held to account. Back in a day that was only yesterday, too many of them also fell silent--and when it counted most. While same-sex weddings are indeed a happy ending, they are haunted by the ghosts of many gay men, too many of them forgotten, who died tragically and unnecessarily while too many good people did nothing. Like Andrew Cuomo, those good people could yet make a big difference and, in the bargain, exorcise the multitude of past sins they keep hoping the rest of us will forget.
In setting up her interview with Rich, Maddow talks about the "three hedge fund zillionairs - Paul Singer, Cliff Asness, and Daniel Loeb" who helped secure marriage equality - "and all three are now supporting Mit Romney for president" - the same Mitt Romney who said that "under my watch, we prevented Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage." Romney also promises to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and fight for a "constitutional amendment to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman."
Romney promised this, Maddow notes, "right after accepting an endorsement from Donald Trump, that paragon of traditional marriage while he was in actual Las Vega. But how do you explain ardently pro-gay rights zillionairs putting their money where their mouth was - even against the interest of their party in New York state politics and then those exact same people bankrolling with even more money the most ardently antigay Republican presidential campaign in history?"
Maddow discusses this with Rich in the second video.