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Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 15, 2016   11:44 AM ET

“Glee” star Chris Colfer is reveling in his role as an author, just releasing the fifth installment of his hugely popular fantasy series, The Land of Stories (This one is titled An Author’s Odyssey). And he’s excited about what he describes as the “closest thing to going to the homeland”: having a role in “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie,” due out in the U.S next week.

But Colfer, 26, is also currently energized by the presidential election. He’s helping to turn out the vote and raise money for Hillary Clinton, whom he’s looked up to and supported for many years. He even surprised her by showing up at one of her book signings in 2014.

“Being a child in the ‘90s, I grew up in a very conservative household,” he told me in an interview on SiriusXM Progress. “All of my family were Republican — they’re still Republican. Our dinner table arguments should be filmed, because they’re so hysterical. She was constantly on the news for being ambitious. I remember even as a kid people were labeling her as, ‘How dare this first lady be ambitious?’ like it was a negative quality. And I remember seeing how many times she was publicly told, ‘No, you can’t do that. No, no, no.’ And she always said, “Yes, and…Yes, and…’ I remember as a kid secretly looking up to her. I think she’s quite extraordinary.”

Colfer is, however, reticent when it comes to speaking about Donald Trump, simply because he thinks the GOP candidate just gets too much attention.

“If I’m gonna have a voice politically, I want it to be positivity for Hillary,” he explained. “I don’t want it to be negativity for Donald Trump. Because I feel like people get trapped in that. As soon as you say something negative about Trump that’s all that people post, that’s all that people write. Because he’s a click hole.”

Colfer, an openly gay actor who played the openly gay Kurt Hummel on the groundbreaking “Glee,” also weighed in on how much things have changed in the seven years since the musical TV series first aired.

“The world has changed so much during that time,” he said. “And when I first started, actors were told, ‘Do not come out of the closet if you want to have a career. Keep it to yourself. You don’t make it known.’ The world has changed so much ― it’s strange to think of the mindset that I was in pre-‘Glee,’ pre-’Modern Family,’ pre-marriage equality.”

The Complete Moral Bankruptcy Of 'LGBT For Trump'

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 12, 2016    9:34 AM ET

There are some notable LGBT Republicans who are not supporting Donald Trump, probably for the same reasons that many other Republicans aren't supporting a man viewed not only as unfit for the job and unstable, but who breaks from GOP orthodoxy on several key issues. Ken Mehlman, for example, former George W. Bush campaign manager and one-time Republican National Committee chair, is part of the "Never Trump" crowd.

But then there's billionaire and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who is a Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention next week. And Caitlyn Jenner, who had a phone call with Trump, and is now all in. And, perhaps most hypocritically, Chris Barron, the former GOProud leader who now has founded an LGBT for Trump campaign. Barron agrees with the Log Cabin Republican leader Gregory T. Angelo that Trump is "one of the best, if not the best, pro-gay Republican candidates to ever run for the presidency," impressed that he "mentions" the LGBT community often.

I've refuted this ridiculous, dangerous notion several times, a notion that has almost single-handedly been blown up among those in the media by New York Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Jeremy Peters, who, seemingly for the sake of a sexy story, continually downplay Trump's opposition to marriage equality -- the biggest civil rights issue for LGBT people of our time -- and his promise to overturn the "shocking" Obergefell ruling, and, like the Log Cabin GOPers, play up the fact that he has had gay friends and associates.

But let's give them this for a minute and presuppose that Trump is pro-gay. It means that gay GOPers are behaving exactly the way they've accused gay Democrats of behaving for years: as single-issue voters. For several decades gay Republicans have decried LGBT people who support Democrats as being in the pocket of the Democratic Party and voting only on a single issue -- support for LGBT rights -- while gay Republicans are looking at a broader spectrum of issues (and, in their case in particular, at conservative fiscal issues with regard to taxation and government spending.) This of course isn't true, as most LGBT people, like the majority of members of other minority groups, tend to be progressive on other issues.

But putting that aside too, gay Republicans supporting Trump truly are doing so based on his supposed support of LGBT rights even as he has broken with the GOP on bedrock issues that these same gay GOPers have championed, from tax cuts (Trump has been all over the place on this, but has said taxes have to go up on some people at some point) to cutting Social Security and other programs, which Trump has opposed. So LGBT GOPers supporting Trump are the very single-issue voters they've decried all these years.

And of course, even on that single issue, no one could say Trump is better than Hillary Clinton -- who supports marriage equality while Trump does not. So, people like Barron defend support for Trump by claiming Trump would be better on national security -- yes, even with his reckless stubby fingers on the buttons -- protecting gays against terrorism. And then they blather on about the same things that reporters like Haberman and Peters promote: that Trump has long had business and personal associations with gays and that he's now saying he's a better choice for gays over Clinton, even as he recently met with and made a pact with hundreds of anti-LGBT leaders.

Peters even wrote a piece this week in the Times on the battle over the GOP platform at the convention in which he claimed Trump was distancing himself from the platform on gay rights and viewed that, somehow, as pro-gay. The logic here is that Trump is better on gay issues than prior candidates, who would be making sure the platform was anti-LGBT and would be very much involved. Instead, he was allowing pro-gay GOPers to battle it out with anti-LGBT religious conservatives on the platform committee and he was staying out of it.

Well, surprise, surprise: the proposed platform hammered out yesterday is the most anti-LGBT platform we've seen. It strongly reaffirms opposition to marriage equality and gay adoption. It calls for regulating where transgender people can go to the restroom, supporting draconian laws like HB2 in North Carolina, and it supports the First Amendment Defense Act, which anti-LGBT GOPers in Congress are debating and allows for discriminatory religious exemptions among businesses, organizations and taxpayer funded nonprofits.

And it's unclear why Peters viewed Trump's campaign as not being actively involved, or distancing itself, from the platform regarding LGBT rights, since Trump's anti-trade-deal policies and his wall at the Mexican border are very much part of the platform. The truth is, Trump agrees that Obergefell should be overturned -- promised to appoint judges who would do so -- supports the First Amendment Defense Act and believes that states should be able to pass transgender bathroom bills even if he disagrees with them personally. So, if indeed Trump distanced himself from the platform on LGBT rights it was because he agreed with the religious conservatives who wrote it and let them do what they wanted.

That's because, on LGBT issues, Trump needs anti-LGBT groups to win the election and will surely promote their agenda in return for the votes. And beyond LGBT issues, what does it say that gay Republicans would support a candidate who is blatantly racist and misogynistic, having made outrageous comments and getting the lowest poll numbers among women and minorities we've seen? It's as if they don't realize that women and people of color together make up the majority of LGBT people and couldn't possibly see this man as their champion. And how could any LGBT people not stand with other minorities being blatantly attacked by Trump? This isn't, after all, just a matter of policy difference: the man has called Mexicans "rapists," flirted with white supremacists and even defended an anti-Semitic tweet.

As Robert P. Jones, author of the "The End of White Christian America," wrote in a Times op-ed, there's a reason why Trump has garnered enormous support from anti-LGBT evangelicals. While Ted Cruz promised incremental change, if you will, by vowing to "secure them exemptions from the new realities" by promoting religious liberty laws, Trump promises to fully take America back, to "make America great again" in the eyes of white Christian evangelicals. To do that, you need, as Trump supporter Rev. Robert Jeffress said, "the meanest, toughest, son-of-a-you-know-what."

Trump, Jones notes, thus offers something much more radical than Cruz because Trump "promised to reinstate their central place in the country" and to "turn the clock back." In that light, any LGBT GOPers who thinks Trump is going to support LGBT people aren't just hypocrites, now defined as single-issue voters; they're totally delusional as well.

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 8, 2016   12:43 PM ET

Misty K. Snow became the first major party transgender candidate for the U.S. Senate when she won the Democratic nomination in Utah on June 28. And no matter what happens in November – when she has a tough fight up against Utah Republican incumbent Mike Lee, though Democrats have been a bit more competitive in the deep red state lately ― her nomination is a sign of the times and a symbol of a new generation in politics.

That’s because Snow would not only be the first trans person elected to the U.S. Senate if she won (and the first woman elected to the Senate from Utah); the 30-year-old would be the first millennial elected to the Senate as well. And she won the Democratic nomination – beating an opponent with far greater resources, who outspent her four to one – on the energy and progressive values of millennials who’ve turned out in huge for Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid.

For those younger voters, who’ve grown up with LGBT rights as a civil rights issue of their time, Snow’s identity is just another fact of life about someone who speaks to them on a host of issues about which they share a passion.

“I didn’t have as many resources as my opponent, and he started his race six months sooner,” Snow told me in an interview on SiriusXM Progress. “He had more volunteers, more time. He knew more people and had about four times as much money as I did. But we were able to get my message out and it resonated with voters. Talking about raising the minimum wage, paid maternity leave. We were talking about clean energy. We were talking about affordable college and affordable health care. And those issues really resonated with voters.”

 “A lot of young people are excited about me, young people across the nation,” she continued. “A lot of Bernie Sanders supporters. They see me as carrying the same torch that Bernie was carrying ― someone who wants to fight for that same progressive agenda.”

Snow works as a cashier in a grocery store and grew up in a lower income family, aspects of her life that she said connect with many Utah voters.

“I think that coming from that kind of background resonates with people,” Snow explained. “They know I have empathy. They understand that I know what it’s like to be poor, that I can relate to the lower class, the working class, the middle class. Which is something that’s really missing in Congress because most of Congress ― they’re millionaires, they’re bankers, they’re lawyers, they’re business owners...They don’t know what it’s like to scrape by, paycheck to paycheck.”

Snow, of course, sees the significance of the history she’s making as a transgender politician ― in making that history, she’s joined by Misty Plowwright, a trans candidate running for a House seat in Colorado, who also recently won the Democratic nomination― and the battles ahead for LGBT people.

“We need full protections for LGBT people in housing, employment, public accommodations, with no exemptions,” she said, vowing to fight for full equality. While that work is hugely important and shows the struggle moving forward, by simply winning a major party nomination in deeply red Utah, Misty K. Snow is a bright reminder of how far we’ve come.

Pope Francis Can Begin By Apologizing For His Own Hateful Words Against Gays

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 6, 2016   12:27 PM ET

Last week the media gave a lot of attention to Pope Francis agreeing that the Catholic Church owed an apology to gays. But his statement, while positive on its face, deflected from horrendous remarks Francis himself made in the past and which he can and should personally apologize for right now. Before diving into that, however, let's review Francis's journey on the issue of homosexuality since he became pope in 2013.

There's no question that Francis quickly helped changed the dialogue about homosexuality -- if not Catholic Church doctrine itself -- in a more positive way simply by refocusing priorities. From day one Francis shifted the public priorities of the Vatican to the issues he cares about most, like world poverty, and away from issues he seems not to care much about, like gay marriage.

Francis stayed silent as country after country in Europe and the Americas legalized marriage for gays and lesbians over the past few years, in sharp contrast to his predecessor, Pope Benedict, who railed against Spain when it was out front on marriage equality in 2005; he even traveled there to speak out against it. And then came Francis's "Who am I to judge?"response to a question about a gay priest, and several other comments that indicated his emphasis would be different.

Like an artful politician, however, Francis has seemed to play to his audiences. Six months into his papacy he told a fellow Jesuit interviewer for a Jesuit journal that he is not a "right-winger" and criticized those in the church who had become "obsessed" with gay marriage and abortion. But then in January of last year it was Francis who seemed obsessed with the issue while speaking to an audience in the Philippines, a traditional Catholic country, suggesting that gay marriage threatens families.

But then, after marriage equality came to the U.S. last year, he stayed clear of addressing it directly in his speech before Congress last fall, focusing on his key issues of climate change and poverty. Days later he had the Vatican give a rare rebuke to some of the hardliners in the church in the U.S, after they appeared to ambush him into a meeting with Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, which she used to promote her anti-LGBT agenda.

And now these new comments from the pope last week have reverberated after he was asked about a German cardinal's opinion that, in light of the Orlando mass shooting at the Pulse LGBT nightclub in Orlando, the church should apologize to gays.

Francis agreed that the church owed an apology to gays, and it drew headlines around the world. He repeated his "who are we to judge?" line, though was was careful to add in that the church should apologize to a lot of groups, which mitigated his statement somewhat:

I believe that the church not only should apologize to the person who is gay whom it has offended, but has to apologize to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labor; it has to ask forgiveness for having blessed many weapons.

Nonetheless, it was a major statement -- enough to drive anti-LGBT forces into a frenzy. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League emphatically said "No!" when asked if he agreed with his pope that gays deserved an apology.

LGBT Catholic groups, however, were right to criticize the pope for saying nothing of church doctrine that condemns homosexuality as "intrinsically disordered" -- and pointed to the fact that young people, including LGBT people, are taught this from a young age and that teachers in Catholic schools are fired if found to be gay. Francis referred to the catechism to back his stance that gays shouldn't be discriminated against, yet it is that same catechism that condemns homosexuality -- and it needs to be re-written.

That's an immense undertaking that he likely doesn't have the will for -- if it could even be done at all in the current climate at the Vatican. Again, Francis' focus is on other laudable issues. He has an interest in neutralizing the gay issue so it doesn't distract from those other issues -- but that's different from actually doing something about changing the church's doctrine on LGBT people, which is a much larger enterprise.

One thing, however, that the pope could easily do is apologize for his own harsh and, yes, violence-inciting words about gays when he was Cardinal Bergoglio in Argentina in 2010.

As the Argentine government was moving to legalize marriage for gays and lesbians, Bergoglio was quietly lobbying for civil unions instead, having spoken to at least one gay activist, realizing that the rights gays were deprived of were real and knowing that he and the church couldn't support marriage.

When that didn't work, and the government made it clear it was moving forward on marriage, Bergoglio did what the Vatican expected of him and which, like a politician, he knew he likely had to do if he were ever to have a shot at becoming pope in Benedict's Vatican: He issued an ugly, earth-scorching attack against gays, equating gay marriage and adoption by gay couples with the work of the Devil, and declared that gay marriage was a "destructive attack on God's plan."

Those kinds of words are the kind that killers of gay people take solace in. Those are the words that empower those who bash gays, and those who fire gays from their jobs. And those are the kinds of words that Francis clearly is saying the church must apologize for. If it's not those words, after all, then what exactly is Francis referring to?

So, Francis didn't have to say the "church" should apologize, and thus distance himself from an institution that, though he leads it, he likely rightly sees as difficult to change. All he had to do was say, "I apologize" for the harsh words that "I've made," in the name of the church by equating gay people with evil -- words that inspire those who would do harm to LGBT people.

Rather than wait for "the church" to make the apology for which he called -- which could take eons -- he could still make that personal apology himself right now.

Michelangelo Signorile   |   June 23, 2016   12:19 PM ET

Yes, there’s been an enormous outpouring from many Americans who raised millions for local LGBT groups, victims’ families and survivors of the Orlando massacre. Politicians have spoken out in powerful ways, supporting LGBT rights, with at least one even apologizing for past actions. And many prominent public figures and performers have rallied, like those big names in the Broadway community that came together for a fundraiser to record, "What the World Needs Now," a vital show of support.

This is light years from what might have happened – what did happen -- in the past when the LGBT community was hit with tragedy. But there’s another reality that has come into focus as well: The backlash to equality is very real, the hate against LGBT people is alive and well and the indifference and fear by even those we’d expect to support us is ever present. Here are just a few examples:

  • Within in days of the Orlando massacre, at least a half-dozen evangelical pastors around the country -- Christian extremists, from New York to California -- praised the shooter for killing gays, hoped more had died or called it "God’s wrath" against homosexuality, sending their chilling message to dozens of congregants and followers who themselves are further armed with virulent hate.

  • A federal judge in Mississippi, a week after the attack, refused to block that state’s draconian “religious liberty” law while a lawsuit against it proceeds, allowing rampant discrimination in public accommodations – including regulating what rest room transgender people use – against LGBT people.

  • GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan refused to even allow a vote by Democrats, days after Orlando, to protect President Obama’s executive order banning discrimination against LGBT people among federal contractors after Republicans voted to rescind it in April.

  • And a GOP congressman who supported rescinding those protections said last week that he had no regrets about having read a Bible passage aloud that suggested gays are “worthy of death.”

  • The media coverage of Orlando -- from major news organizations and television networks we’d thought had an understanding of LGBT rights -- was hellbent on proving what seemed like a pre-determined narrative about international terrorism and ISIS, even as any direct connection was later completely dispelled. In the first hours after the attack many news organizations, like CNN and The New York Times, still hadn’t reported that Pulse is an LGBT nightclub, and it took almost another day for many outlets to report that most of the victims were LGBT Latinx there on Latin night. Even now, homophobia and the LGBT community are compartmentalized in much of the media's reporting, often not presented as the core of this story.

  • Many celebrities, particularly among the Hollywood community and among pop stars, have been criticized for not responding to Orlando in quite the way they responded to other mass shootings, such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, with many speaking out only after fans and bloggers shamed them online and on social media. Somehow this seemed too political for many to get involved in.

  • Donald Trump this week met with hundreds of anti-LGBT activists and vowed to lift the ban on politicking by churches and other tax-exempt groups  -- which would include trying to get anti-LGBT laws passed -- and called "religious liberty," the code phrase for anti-LGBT sentiment, a top priority.

All of this and more shows that, no matter what the motives of Omar Mateen, whatever combustible mix of influences – and new details are emerging every day – LGBT people are still very much under attack in this country and can’t often count on media and allies to present our story properly or come to our defense. And anti-LGBT politicians carry on with their agenda against us. North Carolina's GOP governor, Pat McCrory, continued this week to pummel transgender people, defending HB2, while, in state legislatures across the country, anti-LGBT politicians are back to business as usual, trying to pass the over 100 bills that will stop LGBT rights from advancing.

While it’s important to talk about the outpouring of support, we can't let it seduce us into believing the hate isn't still a very real and dangerous threat. That hate empowered the mass shooter to go into the Pulse nightclub. And that act is now empowering more haters to spread their hate. Now is the time to take our grief and sorrow, turn it into anger, and direct that anger into action against the preachers and  politicians in Congress and across the country who are exploiting fear and hate, and keeping us from achieving full equality.

Michelangelo Signorile   |   June 19, 2016    9:40 PM ET

Openly gay Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, a New York Democrat, didn't hold back in talking about members of Congress who blocked a vote to protect LGBT rights last week, taking aim squarely at GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), as well as Rep. Rick Allen, a Georgia Republican who,  just two weeks before the Orlando massacre, read from Bible verses that condemn homosexuality as "worthy of death."

"When the guy stood up in their Republican caucus meeting, the morning prayer that they hold, he read Scripture -- he read a passage suggesting that gays are worthy of death," Maloney explained in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress on Friday, discussing Allen. Republicans had passed an amendment in April to rescind President Obama's executive order banning discrimination against LGBT people among federal contractors. And Allen and other GOP lawmakers in the month following have continually blocked attempts by Maloney to protect the president's order.

"That’s what was going on in the days before this tragedy in Orlando," Maloney continued. "And I guess a lot of of us would have liked to think that after this tragedy had occurred, people of good faith would have rethought those positions, and we would have been able to move on this and send a signal to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning Americans that this is something we don’t have any tolerance for in federal law. We shouldn’t discriminate in federal law. But I’m sorry to say, I was once again blocked from protecting the president's executive order this week."

Maloney's own amendment to restore the executive order gained enough votes to pass last month -- after failing a day before --  but House Speaker Ryan stopped the clock and allowed four Republicans to change their votes in order to defeat the measure, eliciting angry chants from Democrats in the chamber of, "Shame! Shame! Shame!"

Now, on Maloney's fifth try last week, after the Orlando mass-shooting that killed 49 people, most of them people of color, at Orlando's Pulse, an LGBT nightclub, Ryan changed House rules, refusing to even allow a vote on the Maloney amendment. Maloney said that's because Ryan knows, especially in light of the horrific events in Orlando, that the votes are there.

"I want people to know that Paul Ryan talks a good game," he explained, pointing to Ryan's holding a moment of silence on the floor of the House last Monday to honor the Orlando victims -- which prompted many Democrats to shout out "Where's the bill?" before walking out of the House chamber. "But he has been rationalizing discrimination against LGBT people in federal law at the same time that he endorsed Donald Trump and rationalized racism. It’s just wrong. They’ve sort of stopped standing for anything."

Maloney is confident, however, that equality will eventually triumph.

"We’re undermining them every day," he said, noting that more moderate GOP supporters are coming forward. "We're gonna win this fight. We just need to keep at it. But man, in the wake of Orlando it just seems like more than we should have to do. But I learned a long time ago that these guys -- they don’t like us. They don’t want us to be equal under the law. We’re gonna have to make ‘em do it."

Why We Need LGBT Pride Now More Than Ever

Michelangelo Signorile   |   June 15, 2016    8:24 AM ET

We've been here before. And it's no less gut-wrenching.

We see the hate, the callous disregard, and the faces of horror, grief and loss.

And, as before, it comes at a time when we thought we'd arrived, when we looked at our old ways of connecting, and when we thought we were too good for them. We'd moved beyond them.

We didn't need LGBT Pride, many of us told ourselves, for various reasons. It was too commercial, too rainbow kitsch, too much for this age group, or for that age group, too much or too little of something. Not for us anymore. And maybe, some of us thought, it shouldn't be for anyone -- maybe we should abolish it because it's been taken over by the corporations and the self-promoters.

But just as has happened before, just when Pride seemed obsolete, we're shocked with a terrible, numbing event, one that reminds us we only have each other, and that, despite our sometimes vast differences, together we are enormously powerful -- but only if we're together.

It happened in the '80s. Many had experienced an electric, magical era of sexual and other freedoms, post-Stonewall, often seductively believing throughout the '70s that being able to dance all night on a dance floor meant we'd been liberated. We'd come out of the closet, forged relationships and America accepted it -- or so we thought.

Then came AIDS and the awful truth that America didn't care about us at all. We may have been chic to some before that, but now we were a diseased people to be disregarded, discarded, left to die. We did, by the tens of thousands, bodies piling up, while much of the political establishment, and the media, ignored our plight -- except for the purpose of using us for their own gain in demonizing us further as sexual deviants with a dangerous "lifestyle."

Pride parades, suddenly, literally became life-saving events where, yes, we celebrated who we are, as before, often with all of our fun outrageousness and creativity. We weren't going to lose that, which is our queer dignity. But we became newly defiant and used Pride to tell the world we'd never be silent again. Pride marches and parades of the time became places at which to organize around so many issues, beyond AIDS -- so many activist groups grew out of Pride and came back to Pride to recruit each year -- and to create change. We fought, we changed the media, transformed the medical establishment, won visibility and gained some rights. And we eventually got the drugs developed that ended the death and suffering.

By the mid-to late '90s, however, it happened again -- that false sense of full arrival. We believed we'd moved into the mainstream. LGBT people actually talked about Ellen DeGeneres' sitcom, "Ellen," after both she and her character came out, as being "too gay." And a British import arrived, the notion of being "post-gay." It was about not being so "ghettoized" and breaking from the supposed chains of the community and the events that had become cliché -- like Pride. We didn't need it, some said, because we were now integrated into the world, with many creating families and having or adopting and raising children. Pride was a relic of the past.

Then in 1998, the brutal attack in Laramie, Wyoming of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard, left on a fence to die, stunned the world. It shocked us, frightened us, galvanized us, and invigorated us. The fact that we were still loathed and condemned by so many came into stark relief. And so, again, did the vigils and the marches -- and Pride.

And here we are now. Marriage equality swept across the country, and many queer people believed the polls and the pundits saying we were truly accepted. But the backlash that began brewing from before the Supreme Court's ruling in June of 2015 well into the year after, with anti-transgender bathroom bills and "religious liberty" laws, began to stir many who realized they were perhaps overcome with what I've called "victory blindness."

Then came the Orlando massacre and the harsh, horrific slap of reality -- right in the middle of Pride month. The hate is still here -- so indelibly that it inspired unthinkable violence. In the wake of that violence, one church pastor in Sacramento nauseatingly praised the Orlando attack, saying that city is "safer" now, while another pastor in Arizona celebrated "50 less pedophiles in the world." There couldn't be more chilling examples of how we are still despised by those who inspire many others.

And once again, Pride has new meaning.

Yes, it's often hokey, and kitsch and commercial and whatever. But it's ours. It's also diverse and vibrant and enormous and powerful.

Most of us don't grow up in families that are like us. We only find our own people when we come together. And Pride is a people -- of all ages, colors, creeds, sexual desires and genders -- coming together.

More than that, it's strength and solidarity. It's empowerment in these painful times. And it's a statement that, when we are one, nothing can stop us.


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Donald Trump Is Proving How Mortally Dangerous He Is To LGBT Equality

Michelangelo Signorile   |   June 10, 2016    2:02 PM ET

Contrary to those in the media and elsewhere who claimed he was "far more accepting" on LGBT issues than other GOP candidates, Donald Trump is proving that he very much will be a force against LGBT equality if elected president. And he's doing it in a more insidious, under-the-radar way than any previous GOP presidential nominee.

Though he rarely raises his positions against LGBT rights on the campaign trail, Trump is making pacts with anti-LGBT forces. Today, Trump spoke at the Road to the Majority summit in Washington, an event attended by Christian right activists and sponsored by the Faith and Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America, both of which fight against LGBT rights. "I'm with you 100 percent," he said, and, knowing the event was televised live on the cable networks, he spoke with a dog whistle on LGBT rights, alluding to attacks on "marriage and family" and championing "religious freedom," which of course has been the term used by evangelicals to deny LGBT people of rights. The crowd roared with approval.

And on June 21, in New York, Trump will have a private meeting with over 400 of the most bigoted, most homophobic and most influential anti-LGBT advocates in the United States -- from Family Research Council's Tony Perkins to James Dobson, founder of the Focus on the Family -- the bedrock of the religious right, which has been a prominent part of the base of the Republican Party for decades. Many of these groups, like Family Research Council, have been labeled as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. No GOP president in roughly five decades has been elected without the religious right turning out in big numbers. No GOP president has been elected in modern times without evangelical pastors railing from pulpits across the country, telling followers that the only way to save the country is to support the GOP presidential candidate. Ben Carson, who has taken a prominent role in Trump's campaign, will moderate the discussion between Trump and the hundreds of anti-LGBT activists, which is closed to the media and thus tightly controlled.

Trump had already quietly made pacts with some anti-LGBT forces, and promised to do what he can to overturn the Supreme Court's historic Obergefell ruling, which he called, "shocking." He promised he'd appoint justices to the Supreme Court who might do that, and certainly the list of extreme judges he provided recently shouldn't give LGBT people any comfort.

But Trump will also likely accept an endorsement from the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR), the gay GOP group that's been desperate to be validated by the GOP for years and is aching for a meeting with Trump -- publicly calling for one -- so they can get behind him. Already, LCR leader Gregory T. Angelo has called Trump "one of the best, if not the best, pro-gay Republican candidates to ever run for the presidency." As in the past, LCR will settle for very little. And the group will help Trump appear more moderate to suburban and independent voters while he quietly makes further pacts with those extremists on the right intent on rolling back LGBT rights or stopping advances -- pacts he will be bound to in return for getting evangelicals out to vote.

How Angelo can even say what he said about Trump is because the bar of course is set very low for GOP candidates, and the media has only fed into this fiction about Trump. Though he opposes marriage equality and supports a bill in Congress that will allow religious exemptions for anti-gay individuals and businesses that don't want to provide services to LGBT people, The New York Times, for example, focused on Trump's sending a congratulations note to Elton John eleven years ago on his civil union as one among several weak examples that supposedly show him to be more gay-friendly.

As I pointed out a few weeks ago, simply having Ben Carson prominent in his campaign -- a man who compared homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia -- is an affront to LGBT people. And as RightWingWatch's Brian Tashman noted, Trump has also "partnered with Harlem's notorious 'stone homos' pastor James David Manning and far-right radio show host Alex Jones, who thinks the LGBT rights movement is a 'suicide cult' bent on the destruction of humanity."

Trump early on got the backing of Jerry Falwell Jr. of Liberty University and some other prominent religious right leaders, and evangelicals have helped him win primaries in several states, enough for him to bellow in Nevada, "I love the evangelicals!" But Trump has met with resistance from others, including from the Southern Baptist Convention's Russell Moore, because they don't trust his past positions supporting abortion rights and also because he has been divorced twice and is vulgar toward women and others, certainly not a paragon of Christian piety.

But make no mistake: Christian right leaders got behind Ronald Reagan, who was divorced, and George H. W. Bush, who formerly supported abortion rights, after they were romanced a bit and quietly forged pacts with the candidates, including regarding stopping advancement on gay rights. That process is happening right now with Trump. His campaign, and certainly Republican leaders, know he cannot win without motivating a large portion of evangelicals. And right now anti-LGBT laws and measures meant to blunt equality are animating religious conservatives in a big way, as a furious backlash to marriage equality plays out across the country. No matter what Trump has said in the past, or what the media or desperate gay Republicans may say now, there's no question that Trump must bow to an anti-LGBT agenda if he wants to win the presidency. That makes him a mortal danger to LGBT equality.

Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

Jeff Bezos Tells Peter Thiel to 'Develop a Thick Skin' About Being 'Outed.' He's 100 Percent Right.

Michelangelo Signorile   |   June 2, 2016   11:19 AM ET

It's been widely reported that Amazon's Jeff Bezos weighed in on billionaire Peter Thiel and his crusade to destroy Gawker essentially because he's angry that the website focused on the fact that he is gay back in 2007. Bezos, responding to a question about the Gawker case at a conference, referred to an old quote, "Seek revenge and you will dig two graves - one for yourself." But, though he made clear he wasn't addressing Thiel's case in particular, Bezos also offered great advise for Thiel, and frankly, for many other public figures, including Hollywood celebrities and politicians, regarding media reporting about sexual orientation.

Last week in writing about the revelation that Thiel was funding the lawsuit against Gawker by Hulk Hogan, I noted that Thiel wasn't "outed'' by Gawker in 2007 when it discussed his sexual orientation (as Thiel has claimed). As the reporter noted at the time, Thiel was a prominent public figure who'd been out to a wide circle in Silicon Valley, so he was reporting on something that was common knowledge -- and pointing to the ridiculousness of no one in the media discussing it.

As I've written before in more detail, the term "outing" was coined by a closeted, married, bisexual Time magazine critic back in 1990, using it pejoratively -- an active, violent-sounding verb -- to demonize the reporting on public figures' sexual orientation even when relevant to an important story. The term is a relic of the past, and needs to die. We don't have a word for reporting on any other fact about public figures. As a term used by journalists, the word "outing" stigmatizes what should essentially be called reporting, and it stigmatizes homosexuality itself as something so terrible it should not be revealed.

While anyone can remain a private citizen and keep details of his or her life private, public figures' lives, including the most influential and prominent titans of business among us, are open for dissection by the media. It comes with the territory of seeking public life, and that's certainly true from a legal perspective. Once one is in the public eye, the Supreme Court has affirmed, the First Amendment allows for truths to be reported about you.

Peter Thiel, as co-founder of Paypal and an early investor of Facebook, became a celebrated billionaire, and not a reclusive one at that. He's very public about his political leanings, his philanthropy, his funding of anti-aging research and many other projects and opinions. But obviously his sexual orientation is something he wanted to keep from being reported on, even though he was open about it to a wide circle. He can't have it both ways, and using his money now to exact revenge is an egregious abuse of power.

That's not to imply that Thiel, like many of us, didn't possibly have difficulties coming to terms with his sexual orientation. He grew up as an evangelical Christian, and perhaps he was even struggling with it regarding his family. That's all speculation, of course, but I can attest that many of us have been there. I grew up in a Catholic Italian family, and actually hadn't told my parents outright that I was gay before I became public as an AIDS activist 25 years ago. We didn't speak for months (though I'm happy to say they came to embrace me in a powerful way). But I didn't blame that on anyone but myself: I chose to go into public life and hadn't gotten my act together before I did that.

Peter Thiel became a billionaire, an influential person in a powerful industry, out in public as a gay person, known to many, dating and going to gay gatherings, socializing with gay people. It's not incumbent upon others in his life, even those tangentially in his life, to collude in his secret, especially if it means silencing themselves about their own lives -- and they may not even had thought of it or known of it as a secret. And it's not wrong for the media to report on it, nor, as I pointed out last week, do courts, increasingly, view it as defamatory even to falsely call someone gay.

And that's where Bezos' criticism and advice comes in. Again, though he was clear he wasn't directing it to Thiel's case specifically, he appears to believe that public figures have to deal with what comes with their status rather than think they can control the world.

"I would say that as a public figure, the best defense to speech that you don't like about yourself as a public figure is to develop a thick skin," Bezos said. "If you absolutely can't tolerate critics, then don't do anything new or interesting."

I can already see those condemning Bezos, a straight man, for treating the reporting on someone's sexual orientation so cavalierly, especially since even a Gawker defender in recent days (wrongly) called the supposed outing "cruel." But I think it actually attests to Bezos viewing the issue with an enlightened perspective, in a time when we're more open and accepting. Bezos is a prominent ally of LGBT equality, having spent millions to pass marriage equality in Washington State. He's not suggesting the issue isn't difficult, nor is he addressing how it might be for those in private life.

But as a public figure himself, he seems to view reporting on sexual orientation as no bigger a deal than any of the other details and facts that have been reported on about him and other public figures, whether they wanted them out there or not. And that's how it should be.

Gawker Didn't 'Out' Peter Thiel -- Nor Did It Wrong Him in Any Way

Michelangelo Signorile   |   May 26, 2016    9:53 AM ET

Billionaire Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel tells the New York Times that he secretly bankrolled the lawsuit brought against Gawker Media by Hulk Hogan as a "deterrence" in the name of the "victims" -- including himself -- of Gawker's "bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest."

He's been plotting this for years, hiring a team of lawyers to look for cases to bring against Gawker (and spending roughly $10 million) ever since Gawker's now-defunct Valleywag blog ran a post in 2007 with the headline, "Peter Thiel is totally gay, people." The post, written by Owen Thomas, now business editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, reported on what Thomas said was common knowledge about a prominent public figure in Silicon Valley. "As I've said before, I did not 'out' Peter Thiel," Thomas told the Times:

I did discuss his sexuality, but it was known to a wide circle who felt that it was not fit for discussion beyond that circle. I thought that attitude was retrograde and homophobic, and that informed my reporting. I believe that he was out and not in the closet.

There's little sympathy in the world right now for Gawker, which has engaged in questionable and egregious reporting -- including the 2015 story it took down that reported on a Conde Nast executive (hardly a public figure), who was married to a woman but allegedly offered a gay male porn star money for sex. And the Hogan story itself is about private sexual activity: a snippet of a video of him having sex with a friend's wife which Gawker posted and which has now resulted in a jury awarding Hogan $140 million (Gawker is appealing the verdict).

But Thiel has a lot confused here. Simply saying that a public figure who's out and open to many people is gay is not wrong -- nor is it even considered legally libelous, defamatory or an invasion of privacy in 2016 -- or comparable to these cases. Claiming otherwise is, as Thomas says, just plain homophobic. Reporting on a public figure who has been open to many people as gay, and is out in public as such, is not the equivalent of reporting on private sexual activity, but rather is equivalent to reporting on a characteristic akin to religion or ethnicity, and certainly if someone has not gone to great lengths to hide such facts. And that's why Thiel had to go and find other cases, such as Hogan's, in order to take action against Gawker. If he tried to sue Gawker himself for his supposed "outing" it would surely be thrown out of court.

Not only has the Supreme Court for decades given wide latitude under the First Amendment to reporting of simple truths such as sexual orientation about public figures --- the distinction being public figures, not private citizens who do not seek public life -- but as homosexuality itself has become more accepted, so has the reporting on it. In 2012 a New York court ruled that even falsely saying someone is gay is not "per se defamation." The court ruled that earlier cases were "inconsistent with current public policy and should no longer be followed," since they were "based on a false premise that it is shameful and disgraceful to be described as lesbian, gay or bisexual." The Associated Press reported:

The decision wiped out decades of rulings, saying that society no longer treated such labels as defamation. Without defamation, there is no longer slander, the court ruled unanimously.
The New York ruling followed similar rulings in states across the country, including North Carolina. But beyond the legal issues, was it ethically and morally wrong for Thomas to report on Thiel's sexual orientation? From a journalistic perspective, I've maintained that reporting on someone's sexual orientation should be relevant to a larger story, and I'd like to have seen that relevance in the post, such as Thiel's support for politicians and institutions that have backed horribly anti-gay positions. (A long-time conservative libertarian, Thiel backed virulently anti-gay Ted Cruz, for example, giving him $250,000 for a possible run for attorney general in Texas in 2009, and donated to his Senate run as well.) But Valleywag was a gossip blog about Silicon Valley's movers and shakers. And if you're gossiping about straight public figures and their relationships, and thus their orientation, then gay public figures should be treated equally.

Thiel told the Times that, "If America rallies around Gawker and decides we want more people to be outed and more sex tapes to be posted without consent, then they will find a way to save Gawker and I can't stop it."

At once he conflated posting a sex tape with reporting on someone being gay. But on the latter, if attempting to "stop it" relies on what "America" may "want," then he's not been paying attention, because websites and social media have been reporting on the sexual orientation of public figures -- including when the've not wanted it out there -- for years, and judging by the interest and traffic (and little outrage), America has wanted it. Often the public figures eventually confirm what is reported -- as Thiel did, and as did many, many others, from Ellen DeGeneres to Tim Cook -- and life goes on. Or they don't, and the speculation continues. But it's less and less treated as a dirty little secret, which is a good thing for all of American society.

That doesn't necessarily mean people should rally around Gawker and its array of reporting. But it should concern you if Hogan's Thiel-backed lawsuit regarding private sexual activity results in hushing writers and reporters from even discussing the sexual orientation of public figures, even in a positive light, and especially when it's journalistically relevant.

As Jordan Frieman at Death and Taxes notes, the question to be asking, is "Do we feel comfortable with a system where one mega-rich (Forbes estimates Thiel is worth $2.7 billion) person with a grudge can destroy a media company they dislike?" Thiel will be attending the Republican National Convention as a Donald Trump pledged delegate. And Frieman also makes the point that Thiel, despite his support for the Committee to Protect Journalists, is backing a presidential candidate who publicly expressed support for limiting the First Amendment and making it easier to file libel suits.

It appears that on that score -- what the press can write about them and other powerful individuals -- Trump and Thiel are in complete agreement. That should give us all pause.

Michelangelo Signorile   |   May 22, 2016   11:53 PM ET

Jim Gray, the openly gay mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, wants you to know that, despite Kim Davis' crusade, you shouldn’t stereotype everyone in the Bluegrass State as bigoted and antigay. Last week he became the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate race in Kentucky, winning almost 60 percent of the vote and easily beating six other candidates. He’ll now go up against GOP senator Rand Paul in the general election in November.

“Well, I would first say there’s no place for bigotry and prejudice and discrimination, and it always threatens liberty and justice and freedom,” he said in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress, discussing Kentucky’s Democratic voters rallying around him. “I won the primary, [winning in] every county in the state. And we expect momentum heading into the fall. And I see people across the state who are interested in the issues that are really pressing issues. They’re willing to look toward the future in a compelling way. I don't think it's worth, really, a lot of time to stereotype, because I've seen the votes I've gotten. I was overwhelmingly re-elected mayor of Lexington. People care about performance and results above all else."

That said, Gray, who was first elected mayor of Lexington in 2010 (and re-elected in 2014), realizes the historic impact he’s making, adding, “I’m very aware of being a role model, very aware of that in this election, and where I've been in my role as mayor.”

Some political observers believe the bigger liability for Gray may be his being a Democrat rather than his being gay. The last Democrat to be elected to the Senate was in 1992, and Gray has acknowledged the steep challenge he faces. But Gray is betting that Kentucky residents are tired of their junior senator spending much of his time on the road, seeking higher office.

“As soon as he was elected, [Rand Paul] got into the family business of running for president, like his dad [former congressman Ron Paul],” Gray said. "The Paul family business is about running for president. He’s been active in that role since he won the Senate seat six years ago.”

And Gray believes several factors make 2016 a different year.

"At the top of ticket, we don’t know what’s really going to happen in the presidential race,” he noted, pointing to the problems Donald Trump might cause for Republicans down ballot. “It’s a very turbulent time. When I go across the state I see people who are very anxious. Economic anxiety is at a high level. People are really interested in economic security.” 

Gray, who previously served on Lexington's city council and as its vice mayor, came out as gay early in his political career, in 2005. His sexual orientation hasn't been a political campaign issue in more liberal Lexington. But going up against Paul he's taking on an opponent who's won a statewide race and ran for president as a candidate opposed to marriage equality and LGBT civil rights protections.

“Call me cynical, but I wasn’t sure his views on marriage could get any gayer,” Paul stated in a speech to Iowa's Faith and Freedom Coalition in 2012, discussing President Obama.

And Kentucky's new GOP governor, Matt Bevin, ran last fall as a champion of Kim Davis and her refusal to issue marriage licenses as county clerk of rural Rowan County. Within days of taking office he signed an order removing clerks' names from marriage licenses. While the GOP, from past experience, might use Gray’s sexual orientation in overt or more subtle ways to whip up homophobia in the electorate, or, at the very least, will attack his stances on LGBT rights, the mayor said he is confident about the people of Kentucky.

“We can’t predict exactly how a race like this will play out, whether the opposition will play on stereotypes,” he said. “But I have a lot of faith in people and in our democracy -- that people believe in competence. They believe in performance and results.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the date of the last election of a Democrat to the Kentucky Senate. This has been corrected.

The Gift YOU Are...

  |   May 10, 2016    3:44 PM ET

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Michelangelo Signorile   |   May 8, 2016   11:19 AM ET

In a week in which fans saw Kristin Chenoweth reuniting after 12 years with Idina Menzel for a "Wicked" performance, the actress and singer also weighed in on North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law, HB2, which has drawn a firestorm of criticism across the country, including condemnation from companies and boycotts by artists such as Bruce Springsteen.

Chenoweth, proudly Christian and raised as a Southern Baptist, has been a vocal advocate for LGBT rights since 2005, when she was fired as a spokesperson for Women of Faith in her native Oklahoma because of her pro-queer stance. So, lots of LGBT people were curious to know her response to North Carolina's law. The talented ally didn’t fail to deliver.

“I think it’s so interesting to be alive right now, first of all, if I may, and just look at the shape of things,” Chenoweth said in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress late last week. “And [seeing] performers and companies saying ‘no’ to discrimination.”

Chenoweth thought long and hard about how she would respond, obviously taking note of some artists, like Springsteen, sending a message by refusing to perform in the state, while others, such as Beyoncé, didn’t cancel tour stops in North Carolina but condemned the law and publicly voiced support for Equality North Carolina, the statewide LGBT rights group.

“I will say, as an artist, I was wondering this for myself, how I would handle it,” Chenoweth said. “I think everybody should handle it how they need to handle it. My handling it will be: ‘I’m coming and I’m going to still talk about it.’ I’m going to sing my gospel song. I’m going to talk about the kids in the audience, directly to them, who are gay or feel different. And I want to take whatever I make and make that donation the way I want to make it. It just won’t go in my pocket. That’s how I’m going to choose to handle it.”

Cyndi Lauper had similarly announced last month that, rather than boycott the state, all profits from her June 4th Raleigh concert would go toward the fight against HB2.

“I said [what my response to North Carolina would be], and my assistant goes, ‘Oh, that’s what Cyndi Lauper did.' I said, ‘Oh. well, okay then!'” Chenoweth explained, before breaking into song, singing the refrain of Lauper’s “Time After Time.”

Chenoweth also reflected on her role as a person of faith and a civil rights advocate for LGBT people.

"I will tell you that it has been an interesting part of my journey because I never thought that me, being this little girl from Oklahoma, that this would be a thing,” she said. “But really, the truth is, my Christianity is a big part of who I am. And, my love of — how about this? — people and their rights are important to me... Like I said, I just didn’t know. It never occurred to me not to be a gay rights — for gay, LGBTQ RST rights. It never occurred to me not to be. So I didn’t think of it, until that moment [when Women of Faith fired me], and I was like, ‘Oh, this is kind of big deal. Oops. Oh well. Truth is truth.'"

Donald Trump Is Already Surrounding Himself With Fervent Homophobes

Michelangelo Signorile   |   May 5, 2016   11:38 AM ET

Ben Carson should have been sidelined from GOP politics forever after his presidential campaign tanked. In addition to his major foreign policy gaffes and his bizzaro tax plan, he'd defined himself as a complete troglodyte on social issues, particularly his horrific comments about homosexuality. He'd compared homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, and said prison turned men toward homosexuality, proving being gay is a "choice." He claimed that gay marriage would lead to polygamy and bring something akin to "the fall of the Roman Empire."

But no, Donald Trump has announced that Ben Carson will play a role on his vice presidential selection committee -- and Carson is reported to actually be on the VP running mate shortlist himself. Also reported to be on the shortlist is another enemy of LGBT equality, who's been advising Trump as part of his inner circle for months now and who endorsed Trump early: Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

The GOP senator is among the most anti-LGBT senators in history, scoring a zero continually from the Human Rights Campaign, voting for everything anti-gay that ever came before the Senate, like a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and against everything remotely pro-gay, from a hate crimes bill to protect gays to the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." He's said it would be "a big concern" to have a gay Supreme Court nominee and attacked the "activist judiciary" that ruled for marriage equality. He opposed Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court in part based on her support for LGBT equality as dean of Harvard Law School.

Also reported on Trump's short list, and another man who's been privately advising Trump and publicly praising him, is Newt Gingrich, the perennial homophobe who called gay marriage a "temporary aberration" and compared it to paganism. In 2014 he implied the LGBT rights movement was inspiring the left's "new fascism."

Others on the shortlist, all of whom have been talking with or advising Trump to varying degrees are: Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin, who said gay marriage violates "religious freedom," successfully fought hard against LGBT rights measures in her state, dropped benefits for all couples in the Oklahoma National Guard rather than give benefits to same-sex couples and whom Trump said would be a "great" VP pick; Chris Christie, who's opposed gay marriage for years as a bully to equality in New Jersey; and Florida governor Rick Scott, who fought marriage equality, supports allowing religious-based adoption agencies to turn away gay couples (and is opposed to adoption by gays altogether, though didn't fight a court ruling) and who signed an anti-gay law as recently as this past March.

Trump also will soon release his picks for Supreme Court justices, saying he would choose them in the "mold" of the late virulently anti-gay Antonin Scalia, and even floated in recent days the idea of putting that homophobe from hell, Ted Cruz, on the high court.

A few days ago I wrote a piece about The New York Times' bizarre attempt to portray Trump as "far better on gay issues" than much of the GOP since he had gay friends and business associates in his past and had congratulated Elton John on his civil union in 2005. I also pointed to all the anti-gay statements and positions Trump has recently articulated, which reporter Maggie Haberman left out of her piece. Looking at who he's surrounding himself with now, and the fact that he's received huge support from evangelical voters as well their leaders, like Jerry Falwell Jr., it's even more clear that, like Ronald Reagan, no gay friends from the past will likely get in the way of Trump dutifully bowing to moralists who helped put him in office.

Trump is himself opposed to marriage equality and told religious conservatives during a Christian Broadcasting Network interview to "trust me" to overturn what he called the "shocking" Obergefell ruling from the Supreme Court on marriage equality. While it would be quite difficult to overturn Obergefell, it's safe to say, looking at who Donald Trump is turning to now, that it's not likely there will be any progress on LGBT rights -- and quite likely there could be great harm to them -- under a Trump presidency.