Hollywood executives and celebrities supported candidate Barack Obama in his rise to power. They felt betrayed by the president when he held back from backing same-sex marriage. And now, after his historic announcement Wednesday, many are rushing to lend their support once again.
Few illustrate this shift as well as prolific TV director Paris Barclay. The Chicago native has been supporting Obama since he ran for his Illinois senator seat. In 2008, he was a member of Obama's LGBT Leadership Council.
"To me, it was kind of a no brainer; compared to the McCain-Palin ticket, which was so obviously against gay rights, I knew Obama was the one to support," Barclay told The Huffington Post. "It was fortunate for us that the choice was so stark and so easy to make."
But his enthusiasm for the president waned as Obama failed to deliver on his promise to push for gay rights. As 2012 began, Barclay was getting busy with TV projects, so he decided not to assume an official position in the re-election campaign. Wednesday's announcement, though, made him realize that he was right to support Obama all along -- and that he had to lend his whole-hearted support to the president.
"He would have always had my vote. What he's ensured now is my full-throated and more enthusiastic support," Barclay said.
Barclay said (as screenwriter Dustin Lance Black did yesterday) that he had not been sure he would even attend the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-focused fundraiser for the president's campaign taking place June 6 in Beverly Hills' SLS Hotel. But now he plans to be an event chair, which entails a $25,000 donation for two seats.
Another Hollywood bigwig now considering attending this June 6 event with renewed interest is Michael Lombardo, president of programming for HBO. Three weeks ago, he and his husband, Sonny Ward, an architect, hosted a private meeting with Vice President Joe Biden to discuss the administration's support of LGBT issues. Lombardo told The Huffington Post that the terms of the meeting meant that he couldn't discuss what had been said -- but he did not deny that the donors in attendance, who included "Will & Grace" creator Max Mutchnick, expressed dissatisfaction with the pace of the president's "evolution" on gay marriage.
The news, not long afterward, that Biden now officially supported gay marriage, did not come as a complete surprise to Lombardo, given his visit. The same can not be said about Obama's announcement Wednesday.
"I tend to be a cynic and a pessimist about things like this, and [so] I just couldn’t believe that in an election year, on the heels of a major loss to the movement in North Carolina, that the president would make this move -- that he would be as brave and righteous as he was," Lombardo said. "I was thunderstruck, to be honest."
The shift has already prompted action on the part of the gay community and its supporters. Buzzfeed's Zeke Miller spoke with several high-profile bundlers for the Obama campaign who said that it had the potential to be a cash cow. And Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg at The New York Times noted that Hollywood executives -- led by Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg -- had long been pushing the president on this issue.
Yet Lombardo was wary of ascribing too much of Obama's decision to calculations of political gain. He was dismissive of the idea, suggested by NBC's Chuck Todd, that "gay money is replacing Wall Street money."
"People are always talking about the gay mafia. But the truth of the matter is that you can count on two hands the number of out, successful executives there are in Hollywood," Lombardo said. "I can't imagine that whatever additional support he'll get from this will offset what he might lose from taking this position in terms of his support in swing states."
So if the decision wasn't completely motivated by politics, why do Hollywood players think Obama made the move?
"In the statement, he mentioned that Obama's daughters Malia and Sasha had influenced him by talking about their friends with same-sex parents," Barclay said. "The final statement seemed, to me, to say, 'This is really what I really feel and this is what I want to do.' That's the kind of president that I always hoped Obama would be -- and now he is."
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