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Here's Why You Shouldn't Back a Candidate Just Because He's Gay

Michelangelo Signorile   |   September 11, 2014    2:53 PM ET

Do you think it's in the best interest of LGBT people to add another GOP seat to the House of Representatives? Whether you're gay or straight, pro- or anti-LGBT, you couldn't answer that question with anything other than a firm "No!"

Of course, if you're anti-LGBT, it would be a good thing, keeping back LGBT rights, since House Speaker John Boehner has refused to allow a vote on an LGBT-rights bill of any kind and hasn't done anything to dissuade the introduction of anti-LGBT bills by Republican House members. He also had the House defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, right up to the Supreme Court, wasting millions of taxpayer dollars in the pursuit of bigotry. And just this week Republicans on a House committee blocked an effort to extend spousal benefits to gay and lesbian veterans who don't live in a state with marriage equality.

But the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, an LGBT group, actually believes it is in the best interest of LGBT people to give a Republican another seat in Congress, helping the anti-LGBT GOP maintain its majority and keep pro-LGBT votes from happening. Yep, I'm not kidding. The group, which works to elect LGBT candidates across the country, is backing Richard Tisei, a gay Republican in Massachusetts who is running for Congress in the sixth district, which includes the city of Salem. The Victory Fund backed Tisei in 2012 as well, but he narrowly lost to longtime incumbent John Tierney, a Democrat who, for years, has been a champion of LGBT rights but was vulnerable after his wife was convicted on federal tax charges after helping her brother hide his multimillion-dollar offshore-gambling operation.

This week, however, in a surprise for Tisei and the Victory Fund, still-embattled Tierney lost the Democratic primary to a young, progressive Democrat, Seth Moulton, a former Marine, an Iraq War veteran (who opposed the war), a Harvard graduate and a man who, on his official website, calls the late Rev. Peter Gomes his "mentor." Gomes, who died in 2011 at the age of 68, was the esteemed Harvard minister, theologian and author who put his entire career on the line when he came out as gay. I interviewed him several times, and he was, to say the least, a boldly positive force to be reckoned with.

"I now have an unambiguous vocation -- a mission -- to address the religious causes and roots of homophobia," Gromes told the Washington Post months after he came out in 1991. "I will devote the rest of my life to addressing the 'religious case' against gays." And he did just that, speaking around the country and writing books taking on fundamentalist condemnations of homosexuality among Christian evangelicals, and coming on radio shows like mine to help LGBT people talk to conservative Christians in their families who've wrongly used the Bible against them.

That Gomes was Moulton's mentor at Harvard says a lot. It also says a lot that on Moulton's website, under the "LGBTQ Rights" section, Moulton states, "My brother is gay, and it's fundamentally wrong that he and I don't share the same rights just because of who he is." Moulton vows to "bring marriage equality to every citizen in America," and to "fight to extend the leadership my own city of Salem is providing on transgender laws to the rest of the country."

Some might argue that Tisei, a gay man who married his partner last year, has vowed to try to do the very same things. But he's also going to do something else that Seth Moulton won't be doing if elected: The very first vote Tisei will cast as a member of Congress will be to make John Boehner -- or perhaps someone more extreme as the tea party tightens its grip -- Speaker of the House.

The Victory Fund does a lot of good work, backing LGBT candidates in places where there's no visibility and getting them the training and support they need to win. While most of those candidates are Democrats, I believe it's important to elect LGBT people to the Republican Party, to try to change it from within, and there are instances in the states and localities where I'd support that -- but not when it's going to hurt us all, and certainly not in the current House, where taking a Democratic seat only gives more power to the people who want to strip LGBT people of our rights and hold us back. With the Victory Fund's longtime CEO Chuck Wolfe announcing this week that he is stepping down, perhaps the new leadership will realize this and stop engaging in actions that are destructive to LGBT rights.

Tisei is getting GOP super-PAC money from people like Paul Singer, the hedge-fund billionaire who supported Mitt Romney, loves Chris Christie and is working to help the GOP get control of the Senate -- which would be disastrous for LGBT rights -- but who helps soften the GOP's anti-LGBT image by getting puffy pieces written about him for giving money to candidates like Tisei.

And the Victory Fund is doing everything it can to get Tisei elected too. That's why we all need to stand up against those who, even if well-intentioned, are wrongheaded, making sure the Democrats don't lose yet another seat to the party of intolerance and bigotry, and making sure Seth Moulton gets a seat in Congress. I'll certainly be introducing him to my radio listeners, and I'll be telling everyone I know all about him. I hope you'll all do the same.

Catholic League Leader: Gays Must Keep Pants On If Marching In St. Pat's Day Parade

Michelangelo Signorile   |   September 4, 2014   11:47 AM ET

Responding to the decision by organizers of New York’s St. Patrick's Day Parade ending its ban and allowing for the first time an LGBT group to march behind its banner, Bill Donohue of Catholic League, a longtime opponent of allowing gays to march, asked, “Will the gays behave?”

“The reason I have to ask is that, unlike others,” he said in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress, “they have a tendency to act up, [not keeping] their pants on.”

Donohue, who has been opposed to gay marriage and other legal protections for LGBT people, and defended organizers in their claims that the St. Patrick's Day Parade is a Catholic event, said he now supports allowing LGBT people to march behind a banner provided his conditions are met.

“My support for the rule change is that they’ve made a formal rule change,” he said. “Now I must tell you in all honesty I have not seen the written statement on the rule change yet. So my support is conditioned on allowing pro-life Catholics to march under their banner just as the gay group can.”

And he said, if that condition is met he’d be "in favor of allowing any group to march as long as the attention is not on their cause.”

He was responding to a question about how, though the organizers are allowing Out@NBCUniversal, the employee LGBT group at NBC, whose affiliate broadcasts the parade, to march in 2015, other LGBT groups are still being barred. Groups such as the Irish Gay and Lesbian Organization, which campaigned for years to be included in the parade, have been told they can “apply” in the following year.

"Here’s the hitch,” Donohue said, about allowing gays to march. “They do have dress requirements and other kinds of strictures. The question is, ‘Will the gays behave?’ Gays have been known to take their clothes off in the parade. They can’t keep their pants on sometimes when they march in the gay pride parade.”

When told that in fact the St. Patrick's Day Parade gets quite unruly, with reports of drunkenness, violence and police run-ins each year, with heterosexual people certainly not “behaving,” Donohue insisted that they still “keep our pants on,” though he acknowledged he's never been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans where many heterosexuals certainly engage in sexual expression, sometimes unclothed.

“We keep our pants on,” he said. “You guys have masturbated on the street. I have pictures of what went on in the Stonewall 1994 gay pride parade that you couldn’t put on CNN or publish in The New York Times. Men and women went naked in the street in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral. I think it is a ‘wow’ when men can’t keep their pants on when they march.”

Reminded that earlier in the year, he’d dared the organizers of New York's LGBT Pride Parade to allow him to march behind the Catholic League banner, only to back off when they welcomed him, Donohue said he pulled out when they required him to go to a training session and said, “I don’t do trainings.” He said, however, if he did march, he’d keep his pants on.

“If I went to the gay pride parade,” he explained, “I insist on keeping my pants on. Why would you want me to take my pants off?”

Michael Sam and the NFL's Virulent Homophobia

Michelangelo Signorile   |   September 2, 2014    8:51 AM ET

Michael Sam was cut by the St. Louis Rams over the weekend. Over the following 24 hours, no other team had decided to claim the first openly gay player drafted to the NFL. Then came the news that the Rams didn't choose him for its practice squad. And though he could be picked for a practice squad for another team this week, NFL watchers believe his options are dim.

There have already been lots of arguments on social media, and it will continue this week, over whether or not this represented homophobia in the NFL. Frankly, I'm astounded that anyone can even debate this. One person on my Facebook page said that if Michael Sam were good enough he'd be playing. I don't know how this person could possibly justify such a statement since the NFL's record -- of giving slaps on the wrist for ugly homophobic incidents and hiring known haters -- suggests otherwise, and no openly gay player had been drafted before.

We witnessed players tweeting hateful comments after Sam came out, and saw stories in the sports media quoting unnamed officials saying open gays would mess with the locker room "chemistry" and that the NFL just wasn't ready. Even if we accepted that Sam's performance wasn't up to par and that that was the sole reason for his fate, there is nothing beyond the hollow words of NFL officials to suggest that if he were "good enough" he'd be playing -- and much to suggest otherwise.

And, of course, there are many who are saying Sam was more than good enough. The Rams gave Sam a fair shake, drafting him late when many sports commentators thought he'd be drafted earlier, based on his college performance. Already it seemed like general managers were fearing him. Sam performed well for the Rams but in the end it appears he wasn't what they needed. The coach still praised him. His cut there seemed to be a football decision. But what of any other teams not picking him up in the next 24 hours, or the Rams declining him for its practice squad, and the possibility that he won't make any practice squad?

Let's defer to the experts for some facts and observations.

Heres' Adam Scheftler of ESPN:

And here's Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report:

It can't be stressed enough how Sam not being signed despite a productive preseason is almost unprecedented. In my two decades of covering the NFL, it isn't just rare; it's basically unheard of for a player to not make the league after playing well in the preseason. A player who produces like Sam did almost always makes it on some roster in the league, either on a practice squad or a 53-man roster... In interviews with a number of team officials, I can't find one who will actually say to me, "He can't play." They all point to the media and say he's too big a distraction.One general manager told me, "Teams want to sign Michael Sam but fear the media attention."

The NFL is a league that tolerates homophobia, the lofty words of its officials notwithstanding. San Francisco 49er Chris Culliver saw no suspension for saying gays shouldn't even think about coming out -- sent to sensitivity training, the feeble penalty we've seen in similar instances with players. Special team coordinator Mike Priefer of the Vikings said all gays should be put on an island and "nuked," and got a three-game suspension -- two if he goes to sensitivity training. Just imagine if he'd said that about Jews or any other group. Would he still be on that team?

And the New York Giants got away with hiring former giant David Tyree as director of player development, a man who campaigned against gay marriage as "tyranny," supported an "ex-gay" therapist on Twitter just a few weeks ago and has a "spiritual mother" (and co-author and business partner) who is a leader in the extreme New Apostolic Reformation, which believes homosexuality is an abomination and that Christianity needs to take over government, media, Hollywood and sports. With a guy like that directing "player development," would Michael Sam even feel comfortable if the Giants remotely expressed interest? What about the closeted player who may be on the Giants now? Is he even thinking of coming out after Sam's treatment and with Tyree as the guy to go to?

Worse still, there's no real pushback on homophobia in the NFL. GLAAD has sadly become a joke when it comes to taking on defamation, particularly within sports. The LGBT group defers to the gay ally groups working with the teams, like You Can Play, co-founded by Patrick Burke, a straight man who has a foot in the door of professional sports, working for the NHL. These groups do not see it as their role to hit hard against the teams and the leagues, working to educate from inside (and probably don't want to mess up professional relationships either).

The Human Rights Campaign, though a Washington lobbying group, clearly saw a void in GLAAD's negligence and rightly sent out a blistering press release about the Tyree hire a few weeks ago, only to be slammed by Burke, the straight guy lecturing the gays on how they should criticize homophobia.

So, there's no real pressure from the outside, certainly not like the sustained pressure we've seen on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell regarding domestic violence, which at least forced him to finally change course last week, even if it will require continued pressure. Or like the corporate and political pressure, even from U.S. senators who signed a letter, to get the Washington Redskins to change its racist name. Until we see that kind of shaming from the outside regarding homophobia in the NFL -- a non-profit, by the way, which gets all kinds of tax breaks -- until LGBT groups and politicians stand up and take it on rather than cowering, homophobia will continue to get a pass.

Also on The Huffington Post:

Who Cares If Burger King Is Pro-Gay When It's Hurting Every One of Us?

Michelangelo Signorile   |   August 26, 2014   12:54 PM ET

I'm really getting tired of companies, politicians, donors and other entities using their support of LGBT rights -- something much easier to do these days -- as a way to pose as progressive, often as a PR move to blunt criticism of a bad record or even nefarious actions. And it's time that LGBT activists stop letting them get away with it. At this point, many of these entities need us more than we need them. Let's demand more.

The latest is Burger King, which only weeks ago unveiled "The Proud Whopper" to support LGBT pride -- receiving accolades from many LGBT activists -- but now is fleeing to Canada, buying up Tim Hortons, following other American companies engaged in so-called tax inversions, all to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Who cares if Burger King wraps its Whopper in the rainbow if the company is hurting the American economy, American taxpayers and American workers, including LGBT workers?

Last week I wrote about GOP megadonor Paul Singer, the hedge-fund billionaire who says he supports marriage equality and has given money to LGBT groups and GOP politicians who already support LGBT rights. But he's done nothing to actually take down the scores of viciously anti-gay Republican politicians -- by, for example, backing pro-gay GOPers in primaries -- and is giving millions to anti-gay candidates via right-wing groups and super PACs. While the super PAC he founded is backing a meager seven GOP candidates who already support LGBT rights -- and getting puffy media pieces written about it, which make it appear as if the GOP is more pro-gay than its record bears out -- he's doing everything he can to make sure the GOP gains more House seats and takes control of the Senate. That will only hurt LGBT rights and all progressive causes.

It's not just Republicans. It was a major triumph when marriage equality was passed in New York in 2011, pushed hard by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and gay activists should be thankful. But in the years since, Cuomo has been less than progressive and has sucked up to big business, hurting workers -- and now isn't even getting endorsed by New York's major labor unions. All the while he and LGBT supporters have used his marriage-equality win to give him progressive bona fides. But budget cuts and diminishing workers' rights hurt all of us, gay and straight, and Cuomo shouldn't get a pass and be allowed to use LGBT rights as cover.

Back in 2012 the largest LGBT group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), gave its Workplace Equality Innovation Award to Goldman Sachs, one of the very Wall Street firms that made billions during the economic crisis, in which millions of Americans lost their jobs and their homes -- and many still haven't recovered. Among other things, Goldman benefited directly from the government's financial bailouts, getting $2.9 billion alone from its client, AIG, after it received government relief. The award was simply tone-deaf on HRC's part, doing the wrong thing at the wrong time -- but it was the right time for Goldman Sachs and its PR operation, which needed to soften the company's image. As Andrew Beaver wrote at the time:

In 2012, honoring a New York company for being good to its gay employees is like congratulating it for a passing second grade, since New York City has strong anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people, and most of New York's banking industry has policies protecting LGBT employees. Let's be clear: HRC honored Goldman for money and prestige on Wall Street.

The fact that Burger King so publicly supports LGBT rights shouldn't matter. We should be past the point of being giddy over a nice wrapper. Corporations that dodge paying U.S. taxes while making billions from American consumers are wreaking havoc. We should all be sending a message to the fast-food giant that it is hurting America -- gay America, straight America, all of America.

When Backing Pro-Gay GOPers Is Actually Something Nefarious

Michelangelo Signorile   |   August 19, 2014   11:32 AM ET

Yesterday there was a very puffy piece in USA Today about Paul Singer, the Republican hedge-fund billionaire who supports same-sex marriage (his son is gay) and founded a super PAC that has financially backed GOP politicians who voted for gay marriage in several states that passed marriage equality. The headline: "GOP Super PAC Plans Gay-Rights Push This Fall."

Now, judging from that headline, if it were earlier in the primary season, I would have thought this super PAC is working to defeat anti-gay Republicans -- of which, by their voting records and rhetoric, there are well over 200 in the House and nearly 40 in the Senate. Wouldn't you?

But actually, no, the super PAC in question is putting money behind mostly incumbent GOPers running this fall who happen to vote pro-gay, of which there are... well, hold out your hands and count and you won't use up all your fingers. From the article:

A Republican group tied to hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer plans to spend at least $2 million up to Election Day to boost congressional candidates who share its views in favor of gay rights. ...

The group has drawn up plans to back seven congressional candidates ahead of November's elections and could add more to the roster, said Jeff Cook-McCormac, a senior adviser to American Unity PAC and its policy arm, American Unity Fund. They include incumbents such as Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican who announced his support for gay marriage in May and Richard Tisei, an openly gay Republican making his second bid for a U.S. House seat in Massachusetts.


And what is the number of incumbent GOPers who are ardently against marriage equality whom Singer has helped defeat?


Singer has financially backed Sen. Marco Rubio, a possible presidential contender who is very clear in his opposition to marriage equality, and, of course, in 2012 Singer backed Mitt Romney, who supported a federal constitutional amendment banning marriage equality nationwide. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- who is telling Republicans they should still oppose same-sex marriage nationwide even though it is "settled" in New Jersey -- is still among Singer's favorite candidates for 2016, even after Bridgegate.

Singer has given lots of money to the Republican Governors Association (RGA), which Christie heads, including the largest contribution the group received in 2013. From Lee Fang in The Nation:

In his second year in office, Christie's administration proposed giving Singer's hedge fund, Elliott Associates, a contract to manage $200 million in state public pension funds. Elliott Associates won the contract in 2012. Singer again demonstrated his political loyalty to Christie in December 2013, shortly after Christie became chair of the RGA, a coveted post for GOP presidential aspirants. This time, Singer gave the group $1.25 million, making him the largest contributor that year and significantly enlarging the RGA's war chest under Christie.

But is there even one GOP governor who supports same-sex marriage? Nope.

I don't expect Singer, a Republican, to back a Democrat just because of this one issue. But why hasn't he funded pro-gay Republicans in primaries to beat Republican officeholders who are anti-gay, or why hasn't he at least promoted the idea? The only non-incumbent of the seven slated to get money from Singer's group in the fall is Tisei, the gay Massachusetts GOPer trying again to unseat a loyal, pro-gay Democrat, John Tierney. But electing Tisei only helps the hostile, anti-gay Republican leadership maintain control of the House and get yet another seat. Tisei's first vote, if he wins, will be to elect John Boehner (or perhaps someone more extreme) as Speaker of the House, which would effectively ensure that no pro-LGBT legislation gets voted on.

Singer has funded anti-gay Senate candidates in contested races this year, donated to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and given $1.25 million to Karl Rove's American Crossroads. He's also putting his efforts toward getting women elected to the GOP -- anti-gay women, to be precise. He's headlining a fundraiser next month to back women running in the House and Senate, including Joni Ernst, running for a House seat in Iowa, who supports a federal marriage amendment, and Shelly Moore Capito, a West Virginia House member who has voted anti-gay every chance she's had.

Singer was heralded in a press release from the largest gay group, the Human Rights Campaign, when his foundation and the Daniel S. Loeb Family Foundation committed to more than $3 million in grants curiously targeted solely to efforts to fight homophobia and transphobia internationally. "Some of the worst offenders in this area also happen to be the same regimes that have dedicated themselves to harming the United States and its democratic allies across the globe," Singer said in a statement that sounded like he was talking about Iran and other places that are the focus of right-wing foreign policy. (Something tells me he wasn't discussing Saudi Arabia, our oil-rich ally, which is just as brutally anti-gay but helps American oil companies make lots of money for Singer and his investors.)

Sure, it's great that Singer has helped pass marriage equality in states and raised money for four Republicans who voted for equality with the vast majority of Democrats in New York at the time that anti-gay groups were targeting them. But when you read big, puffy pieces like the USA Today piece, or this one in the Washington Post about how he's "quietly shaping" the GOP on gay marriage, and read the HRC's accolades, you can't help but think they're meant to play to GOP moderates who might feel icky voting for the GOP now because of its homophobia and who want to feel better about doing it.

Meanwhile, Singer is undermining LGBT rights -- and all progressive causes -- by helping opponents of equality win more House races and helping Republicans win control of the Senate. And if that happens we're all screwed.

17 Minnesota Lawmakers Demand Vikings Impose Harsher Penalty On Coach For Anti-Gay Comments

Michelangelo Signorile   |   August 7, 2014   10:49 AM ET

State Senator Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) put it very simply to Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf: The taxpayers of Minnesota are footing the bill for the Minnesota Vikings’ $500 million "brand new shiny stadium,” and if the Vikings want more tax breaks for the Super Bowl in Minneapolis in 2018, then Vikings special team coordinator Mike Priefer must experience a harsher penalty, perhaps even lose his job entirely, for having said, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”

Dibble, the gay legislator who spearheaded marriage equality in Minnesota, wrote a letter on July 25 signed by 16 other state lawmakers and copied to Gov. Mark Dayton, to the Vikings owner in the wake of the release last month of a 29-page summary report regarding former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe’s allegations of homophobic remarks by Priefer. The Vikings penalized Priefer with only a three-game suspension, which could be reduced to two games if he completes sensitivity training. Kluwe has said he now intends to sue the Vikings for the coach’s remarks and for allegedly firing him because he wouldn't suppress his public advocacy of marriage equality.

“Mike Priefer said something that was pretty horrendous,” Dibble said in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress. “And he lied about it repeatedly until finally there was evidence corroborated… and he provided a kind of a half-measure apology for what he said. And [his comments have] been dismissed in various reports, including by leadership of the Vikings, as, ‘Well, you know, people say these things. He said it in jest. He doesn't mean it. He’s a good man, etc., etc.’ It wasn’t just homophobic -- it was genocidal. It was violent. It was really horrific. And when you contemplate for just a second: If he had said anything like, ‘Let’s destroy all African-American people. Let’s destroy all Jewish people in this country. Let’s put them on an island and nuke it until it glows’ — that’s what he said — he wouldn’t have his job today.”

The 17 legislators who signed the letter are demanding that the full investigation be made public. The Vikings only released a 29-page summary of the report of an investigation carried out by an independent firm that then handed it over to another firm. Dibble believes the summary is “suspicious” and a “PR polish job.” He said the initial firm that carried out the investigation was led by a “highly respected” former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, but it mysteriously gave the report to another firm, which produced the summary.

“I have a hunch — I have no evidence, but I have a hunch — that the lead investigator wouldn’t package his report in this [summary] manner and that’s why they went to another firm to create this summary,” Dibble said. “So, they just need to disclose the full investigation and then deal forthrightly with what’s found.”

Dibble explained that the lawmakers' involvement has everything to do with massive tax subsidies and tax breaks the state has given the Minnesota Vikings.

“The nexus here, the reason a bunch of legislators are getting involved, is that we’re giving the Vikings half a billion dollars, $500 million, to build a brand new shiny stadium for them,” he said. “So they’re spending tons of taxpayer money. They’re bringing the Super Bowl to Minneapolis in 2018. They want a bunch of tax breaks on their ticket sales and other considerations. They’re in partnership with the public. They need to uphold the values we have as a state. It’s a reflection on how our citizens are regarded and treated by this organization.”

Listen to the interview here:

Gay Congressman: ENDA Religious Exemption Will Go, Obama Is 'Leading Us'

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 31, 2014   11:15 AM ET

Openly gay Congressman Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) weighed in on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), at the center of controversy since major LGBT groups pulled their support of the bill in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision because of its broad religious exemption.

While not saying he is pulling support of the current bill (he is a co-sponsor), Pocan expressed his belief that, for a future ENDA, in the next Congress, “where it’s going is what the president just did.” Pocan was referring to President Obama’s signing of an executive order earlier this month banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity among federal contractors and not including the broad religious exemption that is part of ENDA.

But Pocan, in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress, several times expressed his frustration about disputes among activists and politicians over the bill, and the split among LGBT groups. Lambda Legal, the ACLU, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and other groups pulled support of ENDA while the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Work still back the current bill. ENDA passed the Senate last fall and, while it doesn’t appear to have a chance of getting a vote in the Republican-controlled House, some activists are still lobbying for it, while openly lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) expressed strong support for the bill and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently hinted at having “a plan” to still get it passed.

“Actually, I think much of the debate is misguided, to be perfectly honest,” Pocan said in response to a question as to whether he supported the current bill or not, while scoffing at the idea that ENDA will get a vote in the House, what he called an "imaginary 'if we could get a bill on the floor'" discussion.

“I think where it’s going is what the president just did,” he said, referring to the executive order. “That’s the direction it’s going. It’s clear, as we’ve seen so much in the fight for equality, once the president does things and there’s other things like the Supreme Court case that came out, you’re moving in a direction. So for us to kind of have a fight among ourselves around what pace or what best bill does it, I mean, the society is moving us in a direction regardless of all our internal debates and it’s moving us in the direction of what the president did. I think sometimes we spend unfortunate amounts of energy in a misguided attempt to have this debate fixed now, when it’s not what’s actually before us as a real measure to actually pass.”

Pocan reiterated his frustration and urged a shift in focus right now among LGBT activists to this fall’s mid-term elections.

“My belief is, where the direction is going is where the president had, and where the energy should be, that we’re not going to, is to the November elections, to change the majority in Congress and keep the Senate, where you can actually have the very best bill out there," he said. "I think I’ve been more than clear where I stand on the exemption. I think that’s where we should go, I’ve said that. The problem is, I think the movement is right now somewhat disorganized around this. I have to admit I’m a little frustrated watching the fight happening among people who basically agree on it all, rather than focusing on how we get to the point that we actually get this passed.”

Meet New York Giants' David Tyree's Anti-Gay 'Spiritual Mother,' Who Says Jews 'Own Everything'

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 30, 2014    2:26 PM ET

"You can talk about the Holocaust, but the Jews, they own everything!" blared Apostle Kimberly Daniels, who is part of an extreme Christian movement, the New Apostolic Reformation, which believes in a complete takeover of government. Following "7 Mountains" theology, the belief is that Christians must control -- and place individuals at the top of -- the seven pillars of society, from government and media to the worlds of business and entertainment, including sports. Daniels, an African-American woman, is also thankful for slavery, saying in the same sermon, "If it wasn't for slavery, I might be somewhere in Africa, worshiping a tree." The belief regarding the Holocaust and slavery appears to be that only by experiencing these horrors are groups "paid back" or rewarded by God.

This week, in an incredible report, Rachel Tabachnick at Political Research Associates unearthed the New York Giants' David Tyree's business and religious connections to Daniels, his "spiritual mother," and her radical movement. The Giants' recent hiring of former player Tyree as director of player development came under intense criticism last week, including by the Human Rights Campaign in a strongly worded press release, and by me, because of his past anti-gay advocacy, homophobic statements and belief that gays can be turned straight. Daniels is also at the forefront of the Christian extremists attacking LGBT rights and believes that homosexuals can pray away the gay. Here are excerpts from "Confession to Come Out of Homosexuality/Lesbianism" from her 2009 book, Prayers That Bring Change:

I no longer conform to and subject myself under the words and authority of the homosexual agenda. ... I repent for all the people I have recruited to join this army of darkness. ... I come against the vision of the rainbow that represented a covenant between the devil and me.

And here are excerpts from "Prayer Against the Homosexual Agenda (or Same-Sex Marriages)" from the same book:

We curse gay pride to the root and declare that is is nothing to be proud of; it is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. ... We come against the witchcraft that is working behind the scenes of the homosexual agenda.

The year before Daniels wrote that book, she co-wrote a book with Tyree, then a wide receiver for the Giants, who'd been taken into her fold. That book, More Than Just the Catch: A True Story of Courage, Hope, and Achieving the Impossible, is all about how Tyree's famous catch at the 2008 Super Bowl, which helped win the game for the Giants, was a gift from God after he'd been "reborn" into Daniels' radical Christian movement.

Several years later, in 2011, Tyree became a spokesperson for the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM), as I discussed last week, and said that gay marriage would lead to "anarchy" and "lawlessness." He then claimed that he'd met some of the "many former homosexual men and women," and that there are "hundreds of former homosexuals." A year later, in 2012, Tyree spoke to the New York Daily News about his powerful bond with Daniels, revealing that he'd prayed with her the night before the Super Bowl in which he made his famous catch:

She told me four things would happen in that game. The first one was that I would have quick feet. The second was that I would have the feet of a hind, a deer, and I would be able to jump high. The third was that I was going to have glue on my hands and the fourth was the Lord was going to give me the big play. ... God was positioning me to do greater things.

Given the way Tyree spoke of Daniels just two years ago, it's clear that she is someone who may have a grip on his beliefs for the rest of his life.

Last week, after Tyree was named director of player development for the Giants -- a job the coach described as helping athletes deal with personal issues and development, which conceivably could be homosexuality -- the Giants seemed completely taken aback by the criticism, with General Manager Jerry Reese trying to downplay Tyree's past and defending the choice.

In came the You Can Play Project, co-founded in 2012 by current president Patrick Burke, a straight ally of gay rights. (His now-deceased brother, an athlete, was gay.) Burke works for the National Hockey League and obviously has many connections and friendships within the world of professional sports. You Can Play basically gave cover to the Giants, with Burke tearing into the Human Rights Campaign on Twitter for criticizing the Giants' choice to hire Tyree. Openly gay former NFL player Wade Davis, now the executive director of the You Can Play Project, wrote a piece explaining that he'd met Tyree while doing workshops in which he educates teams and management about LGBT people, and that Tyree had reached out to him. He said he'd also spoken with Tyree after the hire, and that Tyree had given him a statement saying that he'd "support a gay player."

I have a lot of respect for Davis and the work he does educating players and coaches, and I think an inside strategy is vital, but his piece was vague, answering none of the questions, and he acted as a mouthpiece for Tyree, who refuses to give interviews. Davis said that Tyree is evolving, but just two weeks earlier, on Twitter -- and Tyree's Twitter feed has now been shut down, perhaps out of fear that people will dredge up his tweets -- Tyree lamented that there are not enough men for "single Christian women" because too many men are "effeminate."

Cyd Zeigler, a journalist at OutSports whom I've always respected, oddly became a mouthpiece for Tyree too. It was a glaring bit of PR promotion from someone we'd expect to have more distance. He said in a video that he spoke with Tyree, and that Tyree doesn't support conversion therapy and "doesn't even know what conversion therapy is." There was no direct quotation from Tyree, and again, Tyree has refused to speak for himself. Zeigler also criticized those of us who aren't working as insiders in sports, as if criticism from the outside is useless or counterproductive and only he and You Can Play are doing the kind work that gets results. How many times have we heard that before, whether about the Republican Party, Hollywood or any other power structure? It's pretty condescending to silence people -- and as a straight man, Burke shouldn't be slamming a gay group for speaking out on homophobia -- and just plain wrong.

"I am less concerned with Tyree's evolution on LGBT issues than with what his hiring says to current or future closeted players on the Giants," Hudson Taylor, another straight ally working with sports teams as the executive director of Athlete Ally, wrote to me in a statement, obviously disagreeing with You Can Play. "Hiring a director of player development with a known history of anti-LGBT beliefs shows that the Giants are not concerned with providing support to gay and straight players equally."

Given that he's so close to Kimberly Daniels, who's made "healing" homosexuals so much a part of her work, it's impossible to believe that Tyree doesn't know a lot about "ex-gay" therapy. And how could she, as his zealously anti-gay religious mentor and self-avowed "demon buster," possibly tolerate his "evolving" on something that is so fundamental to her belief system? But if it's truly the case that he's evolved, Tyree can let us all know that he completely disavows her radical views on homosexuality.

In 2011 Daniels narrowly won a seat on the city council of Jacksonville, Florida, where she serves now. She downplayed her extreme views during the political race; when they surfaced, thanks to the group Truth Wins Out, she called it an attack on her faith and denied charges of anti-Semitism, quoting the Bible to defend her statement about Jews. She still runs Kimberly Daniels Ministries, which promotes all the same beliefs it's always promoted.

What Daniels did by entering politics is part of the 7 Mountains movement's philosophy: Infiltrate the power structures of society, from government and media to Hollywood and sports, even if it means downplaying views in order to get in. Could that be what David Tyree is doing now? I think Tyree, You Can Play, Zeigler, the New York Giants and the NFL have a lot more explaining to do.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misspelled Cyd Zeigler's surname and erroneously referred to Political Research Associates as Public Research Associates. It has been updated accordingly.

The Stupidity of the New York Giants Hiring Anti-Gay David Tyree

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 24, 2014   12:41 PM ET

This week the New York Giants announced the hiring of former Giant David Tyree as director of player development. I thought this report had to be some sort of sick joke. Coach Tom Coughlin described the job like this:

It is the working relationship with the players to aid them in their continuing education, their development as young men.... It is there to help instruct them, make them aware of the issues and the problems that exist out in the community and the world to try to keep them focused on their job and not fall into trouble.

How exactly is a homophobe -- a man who has worked tirelessly against LGBT rights, supported harmful "pray away the gay" therapy, and condemned gay marriage; was a spokesperson for the notoriously anti-gay National Organization for Marriage; and couches his animus as being based on religious beliefs -- supposed to carry out that job? How is a gay player on the Giants supposed to react to this and feel comfortable and stay "focused" on the job and on his own "development" if he is thinking about coming out or is experiencing anti-gay harassment on the team? How will a player who is anti-gay or doesn't think gays should be open on the team not feel emboldened now to engage in bias, bigotry and harassment himself? What kind of "development" is Coach Coughlin really talking about here? Some have said that Tyree's public stances go back to 2011, when he tried to stop marriage equality in New York, and that maybe he's "evolved" since. But it's been two days now, and we've heard nothing from him, though the Giants defended the hire, saying he's "qualified for the job."

The NFL has been doing its best to clean up a battered image of professional football as being filled with raging homophobes. The groundbreaking drafting of Michael Sam by the St. Louis Rams went a long way after years of anti-gay tirades by players getting only a slap on the wrist from the NFL.

But clearly Michael Sam didn't solve professional sports' gay problem, as his drafting exposed the homophobia that still permeates the culture. We saw players tweeting homophobic remarks and sportscasters who couldn't deal with Sam kissing his partner on live television. And in the past few days former NFL coach Tony Dungy said he wouldn't have drafted Sam, not because he's not a good player but simply because he's gay and would be some sort of distraction. That is flat-out bigotry, and Dungy's clarification did nothing to change his original comments. The St. Louis Rams' coach responded that Sam is "not a distraction" of any kind, and since his drafting, Sam has received enormous support from many players in professional sports, and from the NFL and its executives.

But the hiring of Tyree by the Giants is a stain, and it's unacceptable. Giants General Manager Jerry Reese tried to defend the hire by saying that Tyree's anti-gay views are his personal religious beliefs, and that he is allowed to have them:

Number one, he was qualified for the job. He's a terrific fit for us and we're happy to have him on board. Sometimes you say some things that maybe you don't want to say or shouldn't have said and can get blown out of proportion to some degree. But I'm not here to talk about social issues or somebody's personal opinion about their beliefs.

Well, then, if David Tyree has said "some things that maybe [he didn't] want to say," then he needs to clarify it right now and tell us of his complete about-face and change of heart, that he accepts science and equality and rejects bigoted views. And I'm sorry, but it no longer cuts it to say that the belief that gays can convert to heterosexuality is a "religious belief" that should be respected. That is support for quack science and dangerous therapy that both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association have said not only doesn't work but can be harmful. How on Earth can Reese call Tyree qualified when he holds bigoted views and supports quack therapies that harm children? How can he be qualified when a gay player may be intimidated by him? Does Reese contend that if someone said all Jews are going to hell and couched it as a Christian religious belief, it would be acceptable to hire that person? What if the director of player development had a Christian religious belief in white supremacy, which we've certainly seen in our nation's history and still see today? Would that be acceptable to Jerry Reese?

It's time for David Tyree to take back every word he said and tell us of his amazing evolution to being a full-blown supporter of equality. If he can't do that, the Giants have to give him the boot if they and the NFL want to maintain any credibility and dignity.

After Marriage Equality, Are Transgender People 'Going To Be Left In The Lurch'?

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 22, 2014   11:21 AM ET

Now that President Obama has signed an executive order banning workplace discrimination against LGBT people among federal contractors, transgender activists are wondering if he’ll get around to doing something else he could do with the stroke of a pen: ending the the ban on transgender people serving opening in the military, which is simply a Pentagon regulation, not a law that would require a vote by Congress to repeal. And they’re wondering if the rest of the LGBT movement, and its leadership, will hold our political leaders’ feet to the fire on the issue.

“It’s important to remind folks that the repeal of 'don’t ask, don’t tell' (DADT), the 1992 law that prevented gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the military, was just the beginning of our work for equality in the military, not the end, as so much of our movement, and frankly, the country, seems to see it,” said transgender activist Allyson Robinson, formerly the executive director of OutServe-SLDN, a group that fought to repeal DADT.

Robinson was one of several activists on a panel, “TransMilitary: The Path to Full Equality,” at this year’s progressive activist and blogger convention, Netroots Nation, held in Detroit last week.

“Transgender people are still prevented, by a series of outdated, obsolete medical regulations, from serving openly in the military,” she said in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress. “[This is] despite the fact that an estimated 15,000 trans people are serving in the military today. Our panel was not only about reminding the Netroots Nation attendees of that, but also about what we can do about it.“

Vice President Joe Biden addressed the attendees this year, and he spoke emphatically about his support for LGBT rights and specifically the work he’s done to promote marriage equality. Transgender activists are interesting in knowing what he and other potential 2016 presidential contenders will do to advance transgender rights.

“I’m not even going to try to hide it — I’m a big fan of Vice President Biden,” Robinson said. “It’s hard to deny that he has played a pivotal role in the way that LGBT rights have advanced over the course of this administration. It didn’t get quite as much press as his comments about marriage equality, but the vice president has actually been out there on transgender rights as well, as least with his rhetoric... [He has] said, ‘Transgender rights are the civil rights battle of our time.' I’m kind of at a place where I’d like to see some meat on those bones. Let’s talk about issues that specifically impact trans communities. When [former GOP senator] Chuck Hagel was nominated [as defense secretary], we heard a lot of rhetoric about how he had grown and evolved on LGBT issues. In those days, when we were watching, we pushed back. We said, ‘We want to hear more than rhetoric. I’d like to see some more meat on the bones. Let’s talk about more than ENDA when we talk about trans communities.’”

And Robinson expressed the concerns of many transgender activists who are questioning whether political allies, as well as the rest of the LGBT movement, will push hard on the specific issues important to transgender people, such as equality in the military, after rights such as marriage equality are fully won.

“I think the fear of a lot of transgender people is that we recognize that we're very close to accomplishing the tent poles of our community’s work,” she commented. “I think a lot of trans people are beginning to feel like, when those issues are off the table, most of the rest of the issues are our issues. Are our allies — whether they be movement allies and organizations, political allies, people in elected office — are they going to move on to the next big thing? Are we going to be left in the lurch here? I think those are legitimate fears. I’m doing a lot of thinking these days about what the movement looks like after marriage equality. It would be really, really interesting to ask some people who may be considering a run for the big job, ‘What do you think? What are the big issues that impact LGBT people? What are you going to be doing for LGBT people once marriage equality is something in the history books?’ It’s a good question."

Listen to the interview here:

ENDA: The Nightmare Scenario in Which GOPers Push a Bad Bill That Gay Groups Dropped

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 15, 2014   11:42 AM ET

Last week I wrote about the trap that gay groups may have set for themselves in a post-Hobby Lobby world, having previously backed a broad religious exemption in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). By week's end, most major groups had pulled their support for ENDA, following a few that pulled out before the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision. But believe it or not, right now some Republicans are working feverishly to get support for ENDA in the GOP and try to pass it in the House in this session, with the dangerous religious exemption that caused LGBT groups to withdraw support.

The irony here is off the charts, but the idea being floated is that Republicans should realize that LGBT rights are inevitable, and that anti-gay GOPers should therefore grab at the chance to pass a bill that could broadly give an exception to religious organizations and the businesses they own and enshrine that discrimination forever.

As an added bonus, the Supreme Court might view the exemption as a way to expand that allowable discrimination to "closely held," for-profit companies owned by people who have religious objections to gays, as it did in the Hobby Lobby case regarding religious objections to some forms of birth control. One of the court's rationales in Hobby Lobby was that the Obama administration was giving an exemption to nonprofit religious institutions, so why not give it to massive for-profit companies that happen to be mostly owned by individuals with religious objections? Legal scholars who've studied the Hobby Lobby decision disagree about whether or not it could affect LGBT legal protections, now or in the future -- though all bets seem to be off if Justice Kennedy retires or dies while a Republican president is in office. But that's beside the point. It's all about what's happening right now.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Florida), who is among the eight GOP co-sponsors of ENDA, told the Washington Blade that he's still pushing to get it passed, with the broad religious exemption, because, among other things, the largest gay group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), still backs it, and he sees hope in attaching ENDA to some larger legislative vehicle. That, ironically, was one option, however unlikely, that many gay groups were banking on for ENDA (before pulling support), knowing it was next to impossible that House Speaker John Boehner would actually bring ENDA up for a vote on its own.

HRC does still back passage of ENDA in this session (as does House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, openly lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin and other Democrats), but in response to the pulling of support by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Transgender Law Center and others, HRC president Chad Griffin wrote in an op-ed last week that the group wants to "narrow" the exemption and also said the community should "throw its weight behind" a comprehensive civil-rights bill. If ENDA doesn't pass, he wrote, that bill would include employment as well as public accommodations, housing, education and credit -- something a lot of us have been demanding for a long time. However, Griffin didn't give any details or timeline regarding what would be an ambitious undertaking and a massive bill, and he refused to give interviews. And his group does still continue to lobby Republicans to support the current ENDA.

As Metro Weekly's Justin Snow reported and discussed with me on my radio program yesterday, the Log Cabin Republicans are dismayed by the pullout of the other groups, and they too are working the Hill trying to get Republican co-sponsors to pass ENDA in the House, as is the American Unity Fund, the group founded by conservative hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer, who backed Mitt Romney in his failed presidential bid. Their selling point to fellow GOPers: ENDA protects religious liberties. You heard that right. Here's Log Cabin leader Gregory T. Angelo, from Snow's piece:

From a lobbying standpoint, I think this [debacle over the exemption] could potentially help ENDA in the House, because it underscores what has long been a lobbying strategy we have employed: this bill is going to pass sooner or later, and Republicans who care about religious liberty and equality would do well to prioritize its passage in this congress.

In truth, Hobby Lobby was an opportunity the other groups used to back out of a bill with an exemption they'd spoken out against for over a year, even as they backed passing ENDA with the exemption in the Senate last year, where it got over the 60-vote threshold with the help of GOP senators who voted for it because of the broad exemption. It's highly unlikely that ENDA will get passed in the House via any option available, with or without the gay groups onboard (and HRC's idea of "narrowing" the exemption would mean going back to the Senate again), but wouldn't it be the nightmare scenario if it did pass, with this exemption, and then LGBT groups had to demand that President Obama veto a bill he and Democrats had heralded for months?

Again, it's highly improbable that it would get to that, but I write this to underscore how this entire episode was amateur hour for the LGBT community. It's hard to believe it hasn't irked long-time supporters among both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and the House (and the White House) who had the rug pulled out from under them.

ENDA should never have been pushed and passed in the Senate with a religious exemption, not in 2013 -- nor should we have even thought of doing that in 2012, 2011, 2010, or, frankly, 20-anything. HRC, in its usual arrogance, and with blinders on, refused to listen to the community and the growing chorus among the grass roots, the people who've experienced the progress we've made on marriage equality and support by the American public and who were saying "no" to an exemption for years. HRC assured our allies in the House and Senate that the community was behind it, and HRC was expected to keep a coalition together. It failed miserably.

The rest of the gay groups shouldn't be let off the hook either. They all backed ENDA, even after expressing serious reservations, and should have pulled out before the Senate vote. They were likely afraid of HRC's ability to affect their fundraising or their relationships with the White House and leaders on Capitol Hill. Hopefully they now have gotten some guts and have realized that HRC often needs a check on its myopic, access-driven, win-at-all-costs strategies, especially under a new leadership that refuses to even give interviews to the LGBT press, not responding to requests, its president only speaking to the community via vague, meticulously crafted op-eds. There's a critical need for more leadership, and it's time for these other groups to stand up.

John Waters On 'Magic Anuses,' 'Militant Vegans,' And More

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 12, 2014    7:27 AM ET

"You know, I'm sure that Johnny Davenport is probably not looking to be found today," said John Waters, the always hilarious and indefatigable cult filmmaker, talking about a fantasy he conjures up in his new book, Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America, about the 1980s gay porn star John Davenport. "But if he is hearing this, he was great in 'Full Grown Full Blown.' I love that title. I fantasized that he was his age [in the '80s] today...And we do get, actually, raped by a spaceman and then have magic anuses. And my magic anus sings a duet with Connie Francis. So, I guess I let my imagination go."

Indeed. Waters, who says he's always hitchhiked, albeit much shorter distances in his younger years, decided to hitch across the country, from his home in Baltimore to San Francisco, because his life had become too "planned." He records his experiences in Carsick but the first two chapters of the book are his fantasies -- best-case scenarios and worst-case scenarios -- of what might happen on the road. The Davenport story, in case anyone needs it explained, is one of the best-case scenarios.

And the worst-case scenarios?

"Well, I get picked up by a militant vegan that poisons me and I get diarrhea and there's no worse thing that can happen to you when you're hitchhiking than diarrhea, really," he deadpanned in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress. "I was totally afraid to eat anything on the trip, because you can't keep saying, 'Could you just pull over! Could you pull over!' So I get diarrhea. I [also] get poisoned by an insane gay militant who hates all straight people, who is into autoerotic asphyxiation. And I escape him. I meet someone that actually kills me. The [last part] I get murdered -- in a pretty funny way."

Once Waters got on the road, however, the actual experiences were just about the opposite, in which most people he meets turn out to be nice and love to chat. That, however, was if they picked him up in the first place.

"Most people thought I was a homeless man," he explained, regarding the hours he'd stand on the side of the road with a sign while cars and trucks would zip by. "I was 66 years old. I had a sign. I had a baseball cap that unfortunately said, 'Scum of the Earth,' which was not the best fashion choice. No, people didn't really recognize me. And when I got in the cars, sometimes they did, and they'd start laughing and screaming. In real life, [the people who picked me up] were incredibly open-minded, no matter if they were Democrats, Republican, single, male, female. I had a cop pick me up, a truck driver. The only thing that never -- no gay people picked me up. My gaydar is pretty good. I don't think a gay person picked me."

Waters hadn't announced he was working on the book and hitching cross country, trying to keep it all on the down low. But his cover eventually got blown when an indie band on tour, Here We Go Magic, picked him up, members recognized him and sent out a tweet that went viral. A woman who picked him up in Kansas said she knew him only because she had a gay son who was a huge fan. Waters said he then told her to call her son and she put Waters on the phone, exhilarating the young man, who'd just read online all about Waters' adventures.

Waters has in recent years lent his name to gay political causes in his home state of Maryland, helping Governor Martin O'Malley pass marriage equality in 2012, appearing and speaking at fundraisers. But marriage is definitely not for him.

"No, I don't have any desire to get married," he insisted, then giggled. "I hate weddings. You have to try too hard. I've really never had fun at a wedding. But I'm certainly for the right for straight gay people to get married [laughs]... It's great! Are you kidding? I'm militantly for gay marriage. Why would anyone be threatened by anyone falling in love?"

On his enormous success, having begun his career with cult classics like "Pink Flamingos" in the early '70s to eventually see "Hairspray" become a smash film and Broadway musical and now watching Carsick immediately hit The New York Times bestseller list, Waters says it's "all gravy."

"It's amazing to me," he explained. "I certainly have not been misunderstood in my career. I make people puke by saying, 'My dreams have come true.' But they have -- years ago! This is all gravy. But I wonder why you don't ever want to stop. You keep taking the risk because people in show business are insecure. Why do you think they keep having to put out projects that depend on whether strangers tell them they're good?And so, I guess I have not been satisfied. I have to keep doing stuff. I love my job."

Have Gay Groups Set Their Own Trap With a Religious Exemption in ENDA?

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 7, 2014    2:46 PM ET

In the wake of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, and while the White House is still drafting an executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors, a lot of people are wondering if LGBT groups and members of Congress set a trap for themselves and the rest of us by backing a broad religious exemption in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Back in November, the week ENDA passed the Senate, I noted that it was stuck in a '90s time warp. If passed by the House and signed into law, ENDA would ban discrimination against LGBT people in employment but with the same broad religious exemption it had in the early '90s -- a pre-marriage equality era when many would have accepted any protections of any kind.

ENDA was never updated to a time when we should have a full civil rights bill, banning discrimination not just in employment, but in public accommodations, housing and credit, with no broad religious exemptions. ENDA would allow a Catholic hospital or school to fire a lesbian nurse or janitor or cafeteria cashier simply on the basis of her sexual orientation. That is a much broader exemption than allowed for any other group under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And it's abhorrent.

A lot of other people were speaking out about the exemption during the debate in the Senate over ENDA at the time. The New York Times editorialized against it. The ACLU warned about it as did the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Lambda Legal. Meanwhile, groups like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Freedom to Work defended the exemption (and continue to do so). Groups that warned about the exemption didn't go so far as to pull support for the bill. ENDA got over the 60-vote threshold, passing with 64 votes, with the help of several Republicans who voted for it because of the exemption, like Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Now we have anti-gay religious leaders like Rick Warren writing letters to the president urging him, in the wake of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, to include the broad religious exemption that is in ENDA in the order the White House is drafting banning discrimination among federal contractors. Yes, they're actually asking the government to allow them to discriminate with taxpayer dollars. Because of that, HRC is publicly saying that an exemption in the executive order is far different and should not be included.

But, while NCLR and some other groups have now said they won't back ENDA any longer with the religious exemption (a brave stance, since many are afraid of HRC), HRC still supports it and is presumably still lobbying Republicans to support it. That sends the wrong message to the White House, implicitly saying that we will tolerate some discrimination.

Let's be honest: If HRC truly still supports the exemption in ENDA, it will be that much harder to keep it in while pushing for a vote in Congress -- and get ENDA passed with Republican support, which it would need -- if the president doesn't include it in the executive order. HRC may want a win on federal legislation, like all lobbying groups, because it brings in dollars, no matter the cost. But the cost of having the religious exemption is too high. After Hobby Lobby, you could even imagine the Supreme Court deciding the same thing on LGBT discrimination that it did in the Hobby Lobby case: that the administration already gave an exemption to non-profit religious groups on some forms of contraception, so why not allow the same for "closely held" for-profit companies?

Tobias Barrington Wolff, the esteemed professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School who was an advisor to the Obama campaign in 2008 (and got a shout out last week from the president during the White House LGBT Pride Reception), has been very vocal in recent days, speaking out against the exemption. Hopefully the president is listening to Wolff's wise counsel and not to those inside or outside the White House who might be advising him to support religion-based discrimination.

OutWeek: How Queers Started a Revolution in Journalism 25 Years Ago

Michelangelo Signorile   |   June 30, 2014   10:46 AM ET

The first cover of OutWeek (June 1989), which depicted a poster for the first post-Stonewall publication from 20 years earlier, Come Out!, which featured a photo of members of the Gay Liberation Front in 1969.

Twenty-five years ago this month a revolution in journalism was born in New York. It was called OutWeek magazine, and though it only lasted two years and may not be well-known today, it had a major impact on journalism and certainly how queer issues would be covered. It presaged the Internet age, helping redefine advocacy journalism. It forced its way onto the front page of The New York Times and network news broadcasts. And it inspired a neologism, "outing," a word now used to describe many things, and a specific phenomenon with regard to closeted gays in the public eye, still much-discussed today. It's time to celebrate its 25th anniversary with a look back.

OutWeek was founded in June 1989 by editor-in-chief Gabriel Rotello, a writer and musician, and publisher Kendall Morrison, who was a phone-sex entrepreneur, during the height of late-'80s AIDS epidemic, when so many of us became politicized, literally fighting for our friends' and our own lives. I was a co-founding editor -- features editor -- along with Andrew Miller, our news editor. Soon we were joined by editors Sarah Petitt and Victoria Starr. Most of us who were editors and reporters had journalism backgrounds, but we, as well as most of the editorial, production and sales staff, had also come out of the AIDS-activist group ACT UP or other grassroots queer groups, tapping into the new radical queer politics of the time.

OutWeek was inspired by a lot of the New Left journalism of the previous decades, as well as the stellar reporting of groundbreaking gay publications like Boston's Gay Community News, but infused it all with a lot of biting sarcasm and much fun, as well as a queer sensibility that was unmistakable. And, believe it or not, OutWeek was the first to call itself a gay and lesbian magazine. Previously, the two communities were split in terms of news magazines -- and the bisexual and transgender communities were even less defined -- and we decided to come together, changing queer publications like The Advocate from that point on, while often having knock-down, drag-out fights among the editors over gender politics.

The weekly newsmagazine broke major stories that splashed the front pages of the New York tabloids and The New York Times, such as when Mayor David Dinkins brought in a health commissioner, Woody Myers from Indiana, who, we revealed, had advocated for quarantining people with AIDS. Or there were Gabriel Rotello's exposés about Father Brude Ritter and Covenant House, one of the earliest Catholic Church sexual-abuse scandals and one of the most widespread.

OutWeek's commentary, too, was covered above the fold on the front page of the Times, such as when Marion Banzhaf penned a jarring do-it-yourself abortion column amid the New Right's assault on women's right to choose. Gay male activists and lesbian feminists certainly saw the issue of women's choice and the right to our bodies as integral in those days when sodomy was still illegal in many places. OutWeek published an "I Hate Straights" cover that caused a firestorm like I'd never seen, inspired by its reprinting of an essay given out at Pride by "anonymous queers." The magazine was at the forefront of activism in a time of life or death, but also at the cutting edge of nightlife, the arts and queer culture during an interesting and actually quite fabulous time. Our film and theater criticism were referenced across the country; up-and-coming drag stars, from RuPaul to Lady Bunny, often graced our covers; and celebutante and club kid James St. James, who wrote his often sardonic, sometimes poignant "Diary of a Mad Queen" column, was a must-read.

When I say OutWeek presaged the Internet age, I mean in the true sense of netroots organizing and the influence of blogs, and commandeering the mainstream media, forcing stories into the major dailies and the television news. We also pushed the left, which we saw as ineffective, and were often under attack from a very defensive Village Voice (writer Gary Indiana compared me to an infant "crapping in his diapers"), as well as from the right for taking on the rabidly right-wing Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson and The New York Post, whose editorial-page editors and columnists regularly skewered us, even one time having the gall to call us McCarthyites. OutWeek printed phone numbers of editors or politicians for people to call, and the editors of New York magazine, Cosmopolitan and Vanity Fair were favorite targets for their sensationalistic coverage of gay issues at the time and the fear mongering they often created around AIDS. And the publication took on Hollywood executives big-time for anti-gay portrayals in films. These were called "phone zaps," which were the equivalent of emailing, Facebook sharing and tagging or tweeting today. There were even "fax zaps," which would have the target's fax machine going all day.

And then there was the topic of "outing," which I've written a lot about before, and which I was thrust into with my "Gossip Watch" column, literally a watch of the gossip columns and how they closeted celebrities and politicians. But the outing issue actually all began, believe it or not, with a box called "Peek a Boo," which had a list of well-known names in it -- that's it. News editor Andrew Miller and I just sat around one day thinking up names to put in the box. It's hard to believe the sensation this caused. The fashion bible W magazine soon put OutWeek on its coveted "In" list -- even though it was really out, so to speak. OutWeek was on the newsstands of New York, so it couldn't be ignored. Time magazine writer William Henry III, who I'd later learn was a closeted bisexual man (and thus had a conflict of interest), coined the negative, violent term "outing" regarding OutWeek's reporting, and it blew up big-time after my cover story, "The Secret Gay Life of Malcolm Forbes." (Yes, it was controversial then to out even a dead man.)

So many of OutWeek's editors and writers went on to do amazing things, becoming acclaimed novelists and playwrights, documentarians and authors. Sarah Pettit, our arts editor, would go on to found Out magazine with another OutWeek alum, former columnist Michael Goff. She then became Arts and Entertainment Editor at Newsweek before her death at the age of 36 in 2003 due to cancer. I miss her so very much, as well as many other enormous people I loved who were part of that feisty magazine, who succumbed to AIDS in those years but who made a massive difference in their short lives. Like many great things, OutWeek went out in a blaze of glory in June of '91, stirring still more scandals while also at the center of a financial power struggle too complicated to go into here but which brought it to an abrupt end.

Happy 25th anniversary, OutWeek! You changed my life. You changed all our lives. You changed the world. And we're forever grateful.