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Why the Boy Scouts New Policy on Gays Sets A Dangerous Precedent

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 28, 2015    9:08 AM ET

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has finally lifted its ban on gay adults -- except for those groups that still want to discriminate. Sure, it's cause for optimism that the BSA is not enforcing the ban on every chapter and group. But by allowing some to discriminate by choice -- at this particular juncture in American politics -- the BSA is setting a dangerous precedent. By allowing the religiously-affiliated troops to still ban gay adults, the BSA is making a religious exemption seem like a reasonable compromise when in fact it is allowing the very people who would discriminate to keep discriminating.

And if I were a Republican contender for the presidency I would immediately come out in support of the policy and claim victory, because this is just the kind of policy that GOP presidential candidates, and Republicans in Congress, have been promoting as a way to keep the anti-LGBT base of their party energized heading into the 2016 election, just as I described last week.

We've heard over and over from Jeb Bush about how we have to "safeguard religious liberty," even as he claims to "respect" gay couples. While he recently came out for the idea of states -- not the federal government -- banning discrimination against LGBT Americans, he said there should be a religious exemption so that a florist, for example, should not have to serve a gay couple for their wedding. Ted Cruz has been championing as heroes an Iowa couple who are closing their for-profit business -- a restaurant, gift shop, floral boutique and wedding chapel all in one -- because they refuse to follow Iowa law, having turned away gay couples for their weddings.

A GOP-promoted bill in Congress right now, the First Amendment Defense Act, described by the ACLU as "Indiana on steroids," would put the sentiment of the Boy Scouts' policy into law, allowing individuals -- as well as organizations, companies and public servants, as "individual" is defined broadly in the bill -- to opt-out of engaging in actions or business if they have "a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage."

The BSA has been using the incremental approach, having ended the ban on gay youth -- until the age of 18 -- in 2013, and now moving to this new policy ending the ban on adults but with a religious exemption. Clearly they're going in the right direction, but the 2013 partial-change satisfied no one -- not most LGBT activists, nor most religious groups. And attempting to "compromise" on civil rights sends a horrible message to young people.

The bright side is that this new policy doesn't seem to be supported by the Mormon Church, whom the BSA leadership thought was down with the new policy and which pours millions of dollars into the BSA. In a surprise, leaders of the church yesterday threatened to pull support from the BSA now that a blanket ban is gone, even though they'd still be able to discriminate in their troops but unable to stomach even a half-measure of equality for others. If they leave, good riddance, and hopefully the Catholic Church will follow if it can't accept gay adults either. The quicker the BSA can move to banning discrimination entirely, the better. That will not only send the right message to all youth but it will diminish an absurd, dangerous notion of "compromise" on equality that the GOP and its faithful are right now trying to peddle to America.

The GOP Plan to Stoke Anti-Gay Bigotry in 2016

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 23, 2015   11:33 AM ET

There have been predictions for several years that gay-bashing by GOP presidential candidates would be dead by 2016, some of it wishful thinking by gay advocates. Back in 2012, Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, for example, commenting on the lack of discussion of gay issues in the three debates between President Obama and Mitt Romney, said, "What we're seeing is proof positive that gay issues aren't the wedge they used to be." The public, he said, has "moved on."

Fast forward to 2015: Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and Rick Perry have expressed blatant anti-gay positions, from banning gay scout leaders to supporting yet another marriage amendment. Some pundits believe this to be politically dangerous, certainly in a general election, and they're right when it comes to the more overt bigotry. As I noted last week, Scott Walker clearly crossed a line -- and walked back -- when he said the Boy Scouts' ban on gay adults "protected children."

But new polling underscores that covert messaging -- the dog whistle -- could do the trick for the GOP, just as it has worked for the party on race and gender for decades now. Jeb Bush has defended "religious liberty" -- the new code words for anti-gay positions -- even while saying gay couples deserved "respect" for their relationships. And just last week, Bush said he supported the idea of anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people, though he thought they should be handled "state-by-state" (contrary to a comprehensive federal bill introduced by Democrats in Congress today that would protect LGBT people nationally).

But in comments that directly followed, Bush said that he believes there should be an exception for people with religious objections to allowing gays and lesbians to marry, such as a florist who refused to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding. In other words, those who would discriminate in the first place should be exempt from laws banning discrimination. This will in fact be the more subtle -- but no less vile and discriminatory -- gay-bashing of the 2016 election.

Right on schedule, GOP legislators in Congress introduced -- and last week publicly promoted -- the deceptively-named First Amendment Defense Act, a bill which appears to be designed to do what the George W. Bush-backed Federal Marriage Amendment was meant to do in 2004 and the year preceding it: Fire up the anti-LGBT evangelical base and create excitement among them for candidates backing it.

The First Amendment Defense Act, as written, would do exactly what Jeb Bush believes -- and much more. Introduced by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), it states that government "shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage."

The ACLU describes it as "Indiana on steroids," referring to the initial, notorious Indiana Religious Restoration Freedom Act. Could a bill like this really gain traction in a post-Obergefell world? While we've seen breathless poll after breathless poll proclaiming majority support for marriage equality and anti-discrimination laws, this week the Associated Press released a poll that worded the questions a bit differently. And we had better pay attention, because this is how backlash to equality operates.

First off, the poll saw no surge in support for marriage equality after the Supreme Court's historic ruling, and, the AP reported, "[i]f anything, support was down slightly since April." Secondly, when people were given more than two choices, and given the option to say they "neither approve nor disapprove" of the court's ruling, 18 percent chose this category. Thus, only 39 percent approved while those who disapproved of the ruling is at 41 percent. Likely, much of the 18 percent would have said they approved if given just two choices, and this may be why in most other polls we see majority support for marriage equality. But it is clearly a lot of soft approval. In fact, while only 30 percent in the poll chose "strongly approve" (over "somewhat approve"), 35 percent chose "strongly disapprove," showing passion is higher among those opposed to marriage equality.

Still, it's true that a large portion of the country supports marriage equality and public opinion has moved quickly in a positive direction on that issue. But as the AP reported, the poll found that when religious objections are thrown into the mix, the public has a jarring reaction, and one that LGBT activists should be taking heed of rather than simply trumpeting new and breathless polls claiming more support:

When the two are in conflict, 56 percent of those questioned said it's more important for the government to protect religious liberties, while 39 percent said it's more important to protect the rights of gays and lesbians.

People were split over whether officials who issue marriage licenses should be allowed to say no to gay and lesbian couples because of religious objections. Just under half said those officials should not have to issue the licenses, about the same proportion saying they should.

Also, 59 percent think wedding-related businesses should be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples, compared with 52 percent in the earlier poll. By comparison, 46 percent said businesses in general should be allowed to refuse service because of their religious principles, while 51 percent said that should not be allowed.

So, in the AP poll we're actually now seeing nearly 60 percent of Americans agreeing with Jeb Bush's position, and this is up sharply since the Supreme Court ruling, from just over half. There's a sharp difference between Republicans and Democrats, too. Among Republicans, 82 percent said it was more important to protect "religious liberties" than gay rights -- which is why this is an issue GOP candidates will feel compelled to push big time -- while 64 percent of Democrats saw gay rights as more important to protect. But with 32 percent of even Democrats viewing "religious liberties" as more important, it's certainly something to be concerned about.

While it may be accurate to say that a majority of the American public has "moved on" with regard to marriage equality, that's not true among the base of the GOP. And, more critically, the majority of Americans in general hasn't "moved on" when it comes to "religious liberty" vs. "gay rights," not by a long shot. I've pointed out over and over, both in pieces covering conservative conferences over the last few years and in my recent book, that anti-gay bigots have been re-crafting their messaging. They've been searching for a new wedge, looking for what one anti-gay strategist described to me as the gay version of "partial birth abortion," as they study LGBT rights in a post-Obergefell world in the way they studied women's rights in a post-Roe world.

The First Amendment Defense Act is quickly gaining co-sponsors: 136 in the House (including one Democrat, Rep. Daniel Lipinski of Illinois) and 36 in the Senate. Mitch McConnell, responding to a question from the Washington Blade on whether or not it would get a vote, certainly didn't rule it out. "I think at some point this year we'll obviously take a look at that," he replied. It's unlikely this bill could get 60 votes in the Senate, nor would it likely be signed by President Obama. But the Federal Marriage Amendment had even worse odds. The real goal wasn't to get it passed, but to engage anti-gay voters in the presidential and congressional races.

That may or may not be enough to garner GOP wins in 2016, but it will surely have the effect of injecting bigotry into the 2016 political discourse -- which is already happening -- and legitimizing religious hatred and discrimination. And that's always a loss for the average gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person, still not legally protected in the majority of America and subjected to derision, discrimination and violence every day.

Michelangelo Signorile's new book, It's Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

How Scott Walker's Gay-Bashing Blew Up In His Face

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 15, 2015    1:58 PM ET

Scott Walker thought he was playing a deft game. For a while the Wisconsin governor, running for the GOP nomination for the presidency, has been engaging in his own version of dog-whistling to homophobes, as he and the GOP struggle with the reality that the base of their party is still in the Stone Age on LGBT rights, while most Americans support equality. But this week it blew up in spectacular fashion as Walker stepped on the Ben Carson third rail and blatantly implied gay men are predators who can't be trusted around children.

Responding to a question about the Boy Scouts moving to lift the ban on adults serving as scoutmasters Walker said he was opposed because the ban "protected children." The implication was that gays are predators, the ugly lie that hate groups like the Family Research Council have promulgated for decades. You'd think in 2015 this kind of blatant defamation would be banished from politics. After much outrage, even from some conservatives who support equal rights for gays, like Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, Walker ridiculously tried to walk back the comments without admitting to and apologizing for hideous, defamatory remarks.

His campaign and later he himself claimed he didn't mean "physical protection" but rather protection from the political debate itself and the controversy. And yet, when Rubin had asked his spokesperson if Walker believed children needed protecting from gay men, the spokesperson had no comment. Moreover, if he truly doesn't believe gay men are dangerous to children, and really wants the political debate to stop being a distraction for scouts, Walker would simply support allowing gay adults in the Boy Scouts.

The entire scenario seemed like part of Walker and his campaign's attempt to whip up support from anti-gay extremists, particularly in Iowa, while they've been aware of not wanting to alienate the mainstream. Walker has trotted out his sons to say they favor marriage equality, even as Walker claims he does not. And his wife, Tonette Walker, has played a sort of motherly moderator role, saying she is "torn" on the Supreme Court's decision. The thinking of his campaign seemed to be that conservatives will respect family differences and Walker's love of his family -- family first, of course -- while seeing that he's standing his ground himself on the issue.

It's an attempt to dog whistle to homophobes while still also attempting to tell moderates that he has modern people surrounding him. Walker also went to a gay relative's wedding reception, you might recall, but then said he didn't go to the actual ceremony. And after the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision, he came out for an amendment that allow states to ban marriage for gays, even as his family disagrees.

It has never been clear that this strategy would actually work with the far right, who don't want to hear that even a candidate's family might be supportive of LGBT rights. Already, Rick Santorum was attacking Walker and his wife, saying that "spouses matter," and that the fact that Walker's wife is "torn" and not on board the anti-gay agenda might sway Walker in his convictions.

So, this has been a questionable strategy from the beginning. And now, as he's trying to fire up Iowa GOP voters further, it completely came unhinged. Uttering the "protected children" term was beyond the dog whistle, and it was heard loud and clear across the political landscape and the media, bringing us back to Ben Carson's meltdowns, in which he's compared gays to pedophiles, only to backtrack but then make more anti-gay remarks.

Ever since Jeb Bush used the words "safeguard religious liberty" in response to marriage equality in Florida, we knew that gay-bashing was going to be a mainstay of GOP presidential candidates, though it would be in code words. It's encouraging to see Walker's overt pandering to bigots blew up. But when Bush used "safeguard religious liberty" in the same breadth in which he said we have to respect gay couples and the "rule of law", even though he still is opposed marriage equality, the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay group, praised him for supposedly supporting gay couples yet didn't criticize him for the "religious liberty" code. The group rightly has been lambasting Scott Walker and his blatantly defamatory comments.

But it's the dog- whistling, like that of Bush -- and which there will surely be much more of moving forward -- that is far more dangerous. And we need to just as forcefully call it out.

Michelangelo Signorile's new book, It's Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The Radio Call-In That Had Everyone Crying on the Day of the Supreme Court's Marriage Decision

Michelangelo Signorile   |   June 30, 2015    5:11 PM ET

It was of course a milestone for the LGBT equality movement when the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that marriage is a constitutional right for gays and lesbians. But for many it meant much more than rights. It was personal, about their relationships, their families and even their own self-worth. It was about having the highest court in the land legitimize them in the eyes not only of the world but of everyone in their lives.

On my radio program on SiriusXM Progress, the calls were coming in fast and furiously as people expressed their joy. Robert in Wisconsin called and talked about how he went into work to find his sisters waiting for him. They then revealed something about their deceased father that had listeners -- and all of us in the studio -- tearing up and realizing how much this decision meant to so many people, far beyond the rights and benefits of marriage. Listen in.


Michelangelo Signorile's new book, It's Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Larry Kramer: 'We Need Activism More Than Ever Now'

Michelangelo Signorile   |   June 29, 2015    1:21 PM ET

“I still have that anger and I would still like to galvanize everyone, but it doesn’t appear that we’re galvanize-able as a population,” AIDS activist, author and playwright Larry Kramer said, discussing why LGBT activism is so necessary at a time in which he fears complacency has set in. That anger is on full display in the new documentary about his life and work as an activist and writer, “Larry Kramer in Love and Anger,” which debuts on HBO tonight at 9 p.m.

“[It’s] too bad,” he continued, in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress, referring to the vital work ahead for activists on AIDS and LGBT rights,“because we need activism more than ever now.”

That message – “we need activism more than ever now” -- is actually the message Kramer, who turned 80 last week, has been pressing, sometimes literally screaming it from the top of his lungs, for more than 30 years. And as a founder of Gay Mens Health Crisis and organizer within ACT UP, he’s saved countless lives with that anger.

The film not only captures many of those moments, but charts a childhood, adolescence and young adulthood marred by homophobia and which helped infuse the anger and rebelliousness. The film, receiving some terrific reviews, was made by longtime filmmaker and activist Jean Carlomusto, a friend of Kramer’s who appears in the film at his bedside while he was in dire condition in an intensive care unit in 2013, being treated for complications from a liver transplant.

Carlomusto said she got the idea for the documentary after hearing Kramer read from an early draft of his new book, The American People.

“To hear him read from the book is truly amazing,” she said. “[He] has an amazing voice -- the ancient mariner sits down, to give you this biblical history. That voice. That kind of provocateur that’s going to inspire you or push you beyond where you were comfortable going.”

She continued: “And I thought, why hasn’t a documentary been made about Larry yet? When I asked if I could do it, a number of people had asked him to do it, but he wasn’t keen at the time. But we worked it out and I’m glad. Because for me, it was a real gift.”

"Larry Kramer in Love and Anger" debuts on HBO at 9 p.m. Monday, June 29.

John Waters Reveals The Reason He Never Came Out Publicly As Gay

Michelangelo Signorile   |   June 24, 2015    2:54 PM ET

You simply can’t get more queer than John Waters, director of "Pink Flamingos," "Polyester," "Serial Mom" and "Hairspray," and a man who made an international movie star of the late drag queen Divine, and launched the cult comeback of the formerly closeted Hollywood heartthrob Tab Hunter.

But Waters, whose national bestseller, Carsick, is now in paperback, says he never actually came out as gay -- because no one ever asked.

“I was on the cover of some magazine called Gay News or Gay Times -- I don’t remember what it was -- in 1972, but not because I came out -- but because it was the only person to ask me to be on the cover,” he said in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress. “And a lot of magazines, including The Advocate, did an interview and said, ‘The most out director,’ but they never had the nerve to ask me if I was gay. They thought it was -- like my parents –- it was something worse than gay. So a lot of people never asked if I was gay because they were afraid I’d say, 'No, I’m a necrophiliac' -- which, even that, that’s just fear of performance.”

Waters also talked about the commencement speech he gave last month to graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design, where he weighed in on “trigger warnings,” a term that has become ubiquitous on many college campuses.

“Trigger warnings! My whole life is a trigger warning,” he said. “A trigger warning is when you say, ‘I might be saying something that might question your values.’ I thought that’s why you went to college! I didn’t think you might have to warn somebody, ‘You might have to think here. So this is a trigger warning.’ I really want to change my name to Trigger Warning. I think it’s a great drag king name.”

Waters said he was tickled to be asked to give advice to the students and receive an honorary degree.

“I was the commencement speaker and they made me a doctor,” he enthused. “I got thrown out of every school I ever went to, so it was great. They gave me -- it was like the scarecrow at the end of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ – I got the Doctor of Fine Arts, which, immediately I said, ‘My fee went up. I’m writing oxytocin prescriptions. And I want tenure.”

Waters said he explained to the students and their parents that that not all rich people are bad, and that being rich, for him, means not having to hang around “with a**holes.”

“My definition of being rich is – There are two things that make you rich,” he explained. “You can buy every book you want without looking at the price. I am that rich -- well, I don’t buy the Gideon verse Bible -- and secondly, you’re never around assholes. And I’m not. And it took me -- I’m 69 -- it too me 50-something years to get to that position in my life, that you never are around assholes. That’s power.“

Why Indiana Wasn't a Turning Point on LGBT Rights -- and Why You Should Be Mad About It

Michelangelo Signorile   |   June 15, 2015   12:09 PM ET

Back in March, when Republican Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana and the state's Republican-controlled legislature retreated under pressure on a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), many heralded the Indiana "moment" as a "turning point" in the battle for full LGBT rights. Big business would now lead the way, they proclaimed, and no state would dare cross corporate America again, fearful of its might.

But last week both North Carolina and Michigan passed discriminatory laws far worse than Indiana's ever was, as anti-gay conservatives said "Screw you!" to all that. North Carolina's legislature overrode Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's veto and now allows public officials to opt out of licensing or performing same-sex marriages. In Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill into law allowing state-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against gay couples based on the agencies' religious beliefs.

Unlike in Indiana, these laws went far beyond allowing private businesses to decline to serve LGBT people: In North Carolina and Michigan, agencies and individuals who get taxpayer dollars, including public servants, are now allowed to discriminate.

None of it should come as a shock, however, because we'd been through this just last year. After Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, vetoed a RFRA in her state in February 2014, under pressure from big business, so many in the media and among activists thought that we'd seen the "turning point" and the end of this strategy by enemies of equality. But little over a month later, with the national media and big business paying little attention, Mississippi passed a RFRA that was applauded by the Family Research Council as one that would allow businesses to discriminate against gay couples.

Ah, but the Indiana moment, I was told by some activists, was truly different from the Arizona moment. The Indiana moment, they exclaimed with jubilation, was really, totally and completely the true turning point, honest!

Unfortunately, they were swept up in victory blindness, intoxicated by a win, letting their guard down, seduced into believing in the inevitability of equality while anti-LGBT forces moved on to other states. Just last month I penned an op-ed in the Washington Post pointing out that, on balance, anti-LGBT conservatives actually had a pretty good 12 months, despite Indiana and other losses. I noted that they operate through trial and error, and that they'd be back, finding a new way to turn their animus into law. Last week they did, and it was a stellar win for them and an infuriating setback for LGBT people.

And please, spare me the argument that the laws won't hold up in court, which is often yet another symptom of victory blindness. First off, no one knows that, and after the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, we should all be concerned. Secondly, the goal of anti-LGBT conservatives is in fact to keep LGBT equality tied up in the courts as they gather their forces, raise more money and deny us our rights for as long as possible while they attempt to roll them back, just as they do on abortion rights, voting rights and other issues. So, yes, they had exactly the win they were seeking.

In the Washington Post piece I wrote, I focused on reporting from my new book, It's Not Over, in which I quoted anti-gay leaders at the Values Voters Summit in September of last year, discussing what they'd do if the Supreme Court did in fact rule for marriage equality:

[Proposition 8 mastermind strategist Frank] Schubert said they would have to find a political strategy to stop progress on gay rights that was akin to the concept of "partial birth abortion" and its impact on abortion rights. Which gives some clues about the strategy. "Partial birth" abortion is not a scientific or medical term; it was created by abortion opponents to appeal to a wider swath of the public....

Later, he told me in an interview that if the Supreme Court rules for marriage equality, opponents' strategy, "in a broad sense [will be] be similar to the pro-life movement after Roe v. Wade -- regrouping, looking at trying to change the culture ... and of course religious liberty issues will be very much in the crosshairs." An example of the gay marriage version of a phrase like "partial birth" abortion, he said, would be "protecting the right of a believer in traditional marriage from being punished from the government," and another example would be "conscience protections," which are policies that allow religious believers to opt-out of certain duties of their jobs that violate their beliefs.

North Carolina and Michigan were right out of that playbook. And why you should be fighting mad is simply that the enemies of equality made their strategy very clear and very public back then, yet some of our major LGBT groups haven't been paying attention. They've been heralding the wins against bigotry, such as those in Indiana and others, as major turning points -- not to mention the fact that these wins are good opportunities for the groups to fundraise around -- and they have run away from the battles in the states where losses are a real possibility or probability.

For example, I was in Texas last month, broadcasting my radio program there live and reporting for HuffPost Gay Voices, covering the attempts by conservatives in the legislature there to pass over 20 anti-LGBT bills. Texas LGBT activists and politicians and their progressive allies were impressive to watch in action. They did something many thought next to impossible: They beat back every dangerous bill, running out the clock on anti-gay Republicans.

What I didn't see or hear much of a presence of in Texas, however, was the largest national LGBT group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). And where was HRC's president, Chad Griffin, while local activists were fighting the fight in Michigan and North Carolina but came up just short of achieving what Texas activists did? He was taking a marriage-equality victory lap in San Francisco, celebrating the Supreme Court win that actually hasn't even happened yet, and which, of course, would be due to the hard work of the legal groups involved, not HRC. If this isn't the essence of victory blindness, what is? And if national leaders don't snap out of it soon, anti-LGBT forces will continue to regroup and advance.

Michelangelo Signorile's new book, It's Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Kira Brekke   |   June 5, 2015   12:58 PM ET

June is Pride Month for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, in which queers love and embrace the strides made over the years and also take a look forward at how to continue the fight for full equality. But in a time when the attorney general calls LGBT issues one of the "civil rights challenges of our time" and we've reached a so-called "transgender tipping point," do we still need an entire month dedicated to celebrating LGBT pride?

In the video above, HuffPost Live's Marc Lamont Hill spoke with HuffPost Gay Voices Editor-at-Large Michelangelo Signorile, the director of Stonewall 50 David Schneider and the content director Of Black Trans Media Olympia Perez, who discussed why Pride month is, and will always be, absolutely important.

Watch the full segment on whether pride month is outdated here.

Sign up here for Live Today, HuffPost Live's new morning email that will let you know the newsmakers, celebrities and politicians joining us that day and give you the best clips from the day before!

Why Hillary Clinton Must Back a LGBT Full Civil Rights Law for Her Own Sake

Michelangelo Signorile   |   June 5, 2015    9:34 AM ET

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), running for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, wants to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include gay and transgender people, assuring a federal law that would ban discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, education and all spheres of American life, with no broad religious exemption. In 1996, he was one of only 67 House members to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which President Bill Clinton signed into law.

Sanders' fellow Democratic presidential contender and former Maryland governor, Martin O'Malley, was at the vanguard of gubernatorial leadership on marriage equality, one of the few governors to spearhead and sign a marriage equality bill into law in 2012, and then fervently campaign in a statewide referendum to ratify it.

Lincoln Chafee, the former U.S. senator and Rhode Island governor, who has now announced a run for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, supported marriage equality as far back as 2004 -- when he was a Republican! -- and similarly pushed and signed a marriage bill into law in his state in 2013. Chafee also said this week that the Pentagon's ban on open transgender military service should be lifted.

And what are we hearing from Hillary Clinton nowadays? Well, she finally said in her own words that marriage for gays and lesbians is a constitutional right -- just two months back -- having previously left that to a campaign spokesperson, while just last year she was still saying it was a state issue, in line with what many Republican candidates say now. And she issued a vague LGBT Pride Month proclamation that said that the work toward equality "is far from finished" without offering any specifics -- like amending the Civil Rights Act, or fully lifting the ban on trans service or creating a whole new civil rights law for LGBT people that does both and more.

It's true that Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, gave an important, groundbreaking speech in Geneva in 2011, pronouncing that LGBT rights are human rights, taking on brutal anti-LGBT regimes abroad. But that was then, and while we all deeply care about our brothers and sisters overseas, there is so much that needs to be done in the U.S. for LGBT people that an American presidential candidate could promise right now.

And at a time when Clinton's Democratic rivals are exploiting a dip in her approval numbers, Clinton should be going on the offensive as the candidate fighting for full equality during a civil rights movement of our time. That would not only energize progressives in the party, it would speak to younger voters, including independents, who she'll surely need. And it's in stark contrast to just about every GOP candidate, most of whom have supported discriminatory "religious freedom" laws and surely do not back anti-discrimination legislation for LGBT people.

It's baffling that Clinton hasn't done this, considering the full force with which she's taken on the issue of immigration, promising to sign executive orders more far-reaching than even the controversial ones President Obama has signed, and the way she took on the voting rights issue yesterday, calling for 20 days of early voting nationwide.

It's likely true that Clinton's slowness on LGBT rights in the past was because, as secretary of state, she couldn't get ahead of the president, who had to be pushed himself on the issue. But even long after President Obama decided not to defend DOMA in court and came out for marriage equality, and after she left the administration, Clinton was still late to the game on marriage.

More than that, Hillary Clinton, rightly or wrongly, carries the baggage of her husband, Bill, who signed both "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and DOMA into law. She has to be twice as good on LGBT rights as everyone else just to counter that past, as unfair as that may seem. Instead, she has been defensive of Bill Clinton on the issue rather than distancing herself. While Hillary, like Bill, came to oppose DOMA and called on the Supreme Court to overturn it, for example, she, like Bill, has defended the signing of the bill into law in 1996, spinning out a narrative about how it was believed DOMA would satisfy the anti-gay crowd and blunt a possible constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

As I've pointed out before, this is false, as there was no talk of a constitutional amendment that early on. Certainly I don't expect Hillary Clinton to say, as I have, that DOMA was a stain on Bill Clinton's presidency. But surely she can be more forceful in being out front on LGBT rights now. And, again, that's doubly true if she wants to stand out from her opponents.

It's likely that Clinton's campaign is taking advice from Beltway gay operatives. That's a mistake because many were wrong the last time around, betting on her only to see LGBT energy and support shift to Obama, because he spoke more forcefully on the issues. She needs a different course this time. She could begin by giving a speech putting her full support behind a comprehensive federal LGBT civil rights bill, like the one that Sen. Merkley (D-Ore.) is set to introduce that would ban discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations, including in the 29 states that have no statewide protections without broad religious exemptions. She could explain how she's going to fight for it in a Republican-dominated Congress that will surely beat such a bill back for years to come. Or she can call for amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Sen. Sanders has, and a go a few steps better, calling for lifting the ban on transgender service, pushing for passage of anti-bullying legislation and getting a law passed that ends "ex-gay" therapy.

Most of all, Clinton has got to get away from empty platitudes. Things have moved at light speed, and we're way beyond the time when having a gay couple or two in your campaign video is enough, or where a vague Pride proclamation with no teeth suffices. We should be hearing concrete details from Hillary Clinton on how she is going to be a forceful champion of LGBT rights, both for the sake of equality and for the sake her own campaign.

Michelangelo Signorile's new book, It's Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

CORRECTION: This post previously stated Bernie Sanders was in the U.S. Senate in 1996, when he was in fact in the U.S. House.

Meet The Country's First Openly Pansexual Legislator

Michelangelo Signorile   |   May 29, 2015    9:14 AM ET

As the state legislative session comes to a close in Texas, Democrats have impressively managed to beat back the bulk of over 20 anti-gay bills conservative Republicans had created in committees in an effort to blunt a Supreme Court ruling this month that could bring marriage equality to the entire country, including Texas. Some of the bills were stalled by Democrats running out the clock, while Republicans chose not to move forward with others. Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint), a member of the Texas House from the El Paso area and the nation’s first openly pansexual legislator, says one way she tries to change minds among her colleagues in both parties is by fostering a “familial” bond, which she believes goes a long way toward helping people “overcome a lot of their prejudice.”

Sitting in her office at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, speaking with me for an interview for SiriusXM Progress, Gonzalez first wanted to dispel some misinformation about her identity. She first came out as pansexual — which is distinct from bisexual because it defines an individual who is attracted to various gender identities — in 2012 after first being elected, noting that she’d dated transgender and "gender-queer" people. But it had been reported that she came out as lesbian first and then later came out as pansexual. But, she explained, "lesbian" was never an identity that she claimed for herself.

“It’s a more complicated history,” she said. “The media labeled me [as a lesbian]. I always identified as queer or LGBT-identified or pan. When I first came out in politics, I used to say I was LGBT-identified and the media took that [as], ‘Well she must be lesbian’ as opposed to having a more complex understanding of our sexual community. And so, because of that I had to clarify that and say, ‘No, not lesbian. Love them. [laughs] but…’ I identify as pan and talk about what that means. And having those conversations does bring up gender diversity and the trans community. And so, I’ve been able to have a lot of conversations about that in the political world in Texas.”

Changing minds by exposing people to the diversity of gender isn’t easy, Gonzalez says, but it can be done.

“I’m not going to lie — those have a been a lot of difficult conversations at times,” she said. “But I think one of the best ways to combat homophobia and heterosexism is to use your own story as a tool for justice. So I tell my story, and these colleagues, while some people might have an impression about them, they also wind up being my friends. We work on other issues together. I’m on the agriculture committee. So I get to talk to a lot of conservative members and we care passionately about supporting agriculture in Texas. And we bond on those issues and then they really like me and they hear my story. And well, you know, I think that that they start to at least change their minds a little bit.”

Gonzalez tells a story that underscores the there are many ways that work at helping make people connect with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender — and pansexual — people.

“Last session I came onto the floor,” she said. “There were 3000 articles written about me. There were a lot of whispers, ‘Oh, there’s the — they don’t know a lot of language I use — they would go, ‘Oh there’s the gay one.’ And they would whisper. And I could hear it and it would be hurtful at times. But in March — because we started in January — March of 2013, one of the Republican legislators came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Mary Edna, do you know you’re the same age as my daughter?’ And I said, ‘No sir, I had no idea.’ And he said, ‘Well, on this floor you’re my daughter.’ To build relationships that are grounded in familial ways helps people to understand and overcome a lot of their prejudice, their misunderstanding and their stereotypes.”

Listen to the interview with Gonzalez below:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Says Supreme Court Decision On Marriage Equality 'Just the Beginning'

Michelangelo Signorile   |   May 26, 2015   11:46 AM ET

“Our fight for LGBT equality is not nearly over,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) stated emphatically in an interview with me last week on SiriusXM Progress. “And I’m hopeful, very hopeful, that the Supreme Court will say it’s unconstitutional to ban gay marriage. But that’s really just the beginning of fighting for our rights. We have to actually make sure all LGBT couples can have full parenting rights, have full social security and other federal benefit rights. We want to make sure companies can’t discriminate against members of the community because of who they love and who they are. And it’s really important [to take on] discrimination wherever it exists.”

Toward that end, Gillibrand last week reintroduced the Every Child Deserve a Family Act, which she originally introduced in 2013 and which would bar adoption and foster care agencies that receive federal dollars from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Though Gillibrand says she's seeking bipartisan support in the Senate and will continue speaking with Republicans, so far co-sponsors include a handful of fellow Democrats, such as openly lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

“Only seven states ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in adoption, and only five explicitly ban discrimination in foster care,” Gillibrand said in the interview. “So we have a long way to go. We only have a few states protecting LGBT parents. The reality is, there are two million LGBT individuals and families that are willing and able to take on these parenting obligations, to adopt these children or foster these children who desperately need it. Unfortunately, there are 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system today and more than 20,000 of them are going to age-out before finding a permanent home. So we should be caring for these kids. We should give them the loving families they deserve.”

The bill, if it becomes law, would only affect those agencies that take federal money, and they are free to opt-out from receiving funds.

"If you’re getting the benefit of federal funds, you can’t discriminate,” Gillibrand said. “It’s unconstitutional, and you should not be able to use our taxpayer dollars to discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation and who they love. So I think it’s important we fight against it, particularly when our taxpayer dollars are being used.”

Still, that’s too much for many anti-gay groups, which attacked Gillibrand’s effort and vowed to pressure Congress.

“This legislation would prohibit adoption agencies and foster care agencies, including religious adoption agencies and foster care agencies, from providing services in many cases,” Lori Windham, Senior Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty told the Catholic news agency, EWTN News. Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, is quoted in the same article saying there are “unique problems” with allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children. Claiming there is “overwhelming” evidence while not citing any studies, Sprigg said, “I think it’s legitimate to disfavor them or to exclude them altogether.”

Listen to the interview with Senator Gillibrand below:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified Pete Stark as the representative who introduced the Every Child Deserves A Family Act in the House.

Meet The State Rep. Vowing To Defy Supreme Court Over Same-Sex Marriage In Texas

Michelangelo Signorile   |   May 21, 2015   11:53 AM ET

“I don’t think any bill is dead as long as there’s session left,” Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia), a Texas state legislator, told me this week in the corridors of the massive Texas State Capitol, the largest of all the state capitol buildings, the dome of which, not surprisingly, is seven feet higher than even the U.S. Capitol. Because of security and metal detectors, there’s often a line to get into the building when the legislature is in session — once every two years — though there’s an express line with no metal detectors or screening if you have a concealed handgun license ( “CHL Access”). That line’s acronym may slightly change, too: Days after the biker shootout in Waco last week in which nine people were killed, the legislature moved forward with a bill to legalize open carrying of handguns. Welcome to Texas.

chl

Like the capitol building, Bell, whom The Daily Beast likened to Yosemite Sam, is impressively Texas-sized. With his cowboy hat high atop his head, he seems to stand taller than everything else, like the dome itself. He spoke with me this week about a bill he sponsored — among the more than 20 anti-LGBT bills legislators had worked on in committees in recent weeks — that he says establishes the “sovereignty” of Texas by barring funds for marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples if the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality.

Bell, who represents a district in a conservative suburban area of Houston, claims his bill simply asserts what U.S. Supreme Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed in his decision for the majority striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013. In a creative twist he actually uses the pro-gay U.S. v. Windsor decision to back up his anti-gay bill, House Bill 4105, The Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act. In a victory, Democrats stalled the bill, and HB 4105 failed to get a vote last week as the clock ran out on bills originated in the Texas House. Activists warn, however, that, as Bell says, anything can happen while the legislature is still in session -- and Governor Greg Abbott could call a special session that could drag things out through the summer. Bell is in fact vowing to find another bill to which he would attach his as an amendment in the 12 days left in the session.

“I think if you look at the issue at hand, at least from my perspective, you have Justice Kennedy in his affirm in Windsor saying that it is the sovereign right of the separate states and of the people to define and regulate marriage,” Bell told me in an interview for SiriusXM Progress.

In fact, Justice Kennedy didn’t join the majority against DOMA based on “states rights.” He even stated that though states have much authority over marriage, he agreed with the concept of "limited federal laws that regulate the meaning of marriage in order to further federal policy.” He simply thought DOMA was a mean-spirited law motivated by bias.

But for Cecil Bell and Republicans in the Texas GOP, the Supreme Court’s rulings only appear to matter when they suit them — or when they can twist the words of the justices to serve them. After Bell’s bill ran out the clock, 93 of 98 House Republicans signed a pledge stating they would defy the Supreme Court if it ruled for marriage equality. And Bell says even if he doesn’t get to add his bill as an amendment to another bill in this session, he can pass it at any time in the future.

“4105 can be brought in any session, because it doesn’t usurp any Texas case that might be heard on the matter of same sex marriage,” he stated. “The elements of [the bill] are capable of being asserted by any future legislature -- or this one, as indeed there is still time left.”

Bell claims his bill is not about “ideology," though he does refer to Texas voters' "Christian" values being upheld by “sovereignty." But when asked about the issue of divorce -- including about his own little-known divorce -- which represents a literal disintegration of marriage, and if divorce should be banned if the people decided so, Bell demurred.

Though it's not mentioned in any of his official biographical information, Bell's wife Jo Ann, described as his "high school sweetheart," is, according to public records, his second wife. Records show he divorced his first wife (to whom he was married in 1981) a little over a month before he married his second wife in October of 1991, who gave birth to their son, Cecil III, five and half months after they married.

“Well, I think that would be an interesting conversation, but no one’s brought up that legislation,” he said about the issue of banning divorce, before quickly excusing himself to get back on the floor to vote.

Meanwhile, the Pastor Protection Act, an odious bill that activists believe could allow county clerks and justices of the peace who also happen to be ordained ministers to turn away gay couples seeking to marry, passed the Senate and may be voted on in the House today, where it's expected to easily pass. The governor has said he would sign the bill, which could allow public servants to discriminate.

Listen to clips from the interview:

Why Tim Cook Should Threaten to Shut Down Apple Campus Amid Texas Anti-Gay Crusade

Michelangelo Signorile   |   May 13, 2015    9:19 AM ET

There's a full-blown emergency playing out in Texas. It's a gay civil rights emergency, and, if left unchecked, a disaster will occur that could affect the future of gay and transgender people there for some time to come. And yet, there's largely been dead silence from business leaders, public figures, much of the national media and pro-gay politicians. It's time now for those who wield great influence in the state -- like Apple's Tim Cook -- and for governors of states that support equality, public figures and celebrities to speak out loudly in the media before it's too late.

Gay activists in Texas are fighting against an unprecedented number of anti-gay bills being pushed by opponents of rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people as the Texas legislative session comes to a close at the end of this month. Any of the more than 20 anti-LGBT bills that get out of committee in either legislative chamber -- and a few have -- will easily pass in the Republican-dominated conservative legislature and be signed into law by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott. Though bills originating in the House must be voted on by midnight Thursday, any of the anti-gay bills could be tacked on as amendments to other bills right up until the last day of the session at the end of the month.

It's all part of a Republican-led plan to stop or slow rights for gay and transgender people, anticipating a possible Supreme Court victory on marriage equality nationwide come June.

Already, the "Pastor Protection Act" passed the Senate. After a group of pastors came before legislators last week and unleashed defamatory rhetoric -- one feared being forced to officiate over the weddings of pedophiles while another ranted that he was afraid he'd have to marry people "to animals" -- GOP Sen. Craig Estes, chief sponsor of the bill, dropped compromise language to which the American Civil Liberties Union and others had agreed. Activists now fear the bill, if it becomes law, will allow an ordained clergy member who happens to also be employed in a civil job as a county clerk or justice of the peace to refuse to perform a marriage that "violates a sincerely held religious belief," even in his or her role as a public servant.

Among the bills that could get a vote in the House today or tomorrow is one that would bar state or local funds from being used to grant marriage licenses to gay or lesbian couples and, as its chief sponsor described it, would "protect state sovereignty," deeming Texas free from recognizing same-sex marriages from out of state, no matter what the Supreme Court rules.

Yet another bill in committee may be attached as an amendment to a bill today and would allow adoption agencies that receive state funding the right to discriminate against gay couples based on the agency's "sincerely held religious beliefs," and, activists fear, could allow for child welfare agencies to put kids in dangerous "ex-gay" programs.

Another bill that could be added as an amendment would subject transgender individuals to criminal charges if they don't use the "right" public restroom. Still another bill targeting transgender students would essentially put a bounty on their heads while forcing school districts to monitor bathrooms: As the bill is currently written, if a student can show that he or she experienced "mental anguish" upon seeing a transgender student in the bathroom, the school district must pay the student $2,000 in damages. Then there are two "religious liberty" constitutional amendments, and five differently-worded bills that would prevent enacting and enforcing local ordinances throughout the state banning discrimination against LGBT people.

Some of these bills, if they became law, would be unlikely to withstand court scrutiny, especially if the Supreme Court rules for marriage equality in June. But that's not the point. As Texas conservatives often have done with the passage of harsh anti-abortion laws, the effort is all about slowing progress by tying up the issue in the courts. It's similar to the tactic many Southern states employed during the segregation era as well. This is especially true of the bill that bans funds for marriage licenses. While the state's constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman would be overturned, the law banning funding for licenses would likely have to be taken back up through state and federal courts to overturn.

"Legislators are trying to enact laws that subvert the courts and lock in discrimination for as long as possible," Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network told me. "If they have their way, it might take months and even years to sort out. And if more litigation is necessary, it would impose real harm -- financial and otherwise -- on gay and lesbian families simply trying to exercise their constitutionally protected rights."

Weeks ago, business leaders and others waited until a "religious liberty" bill that passed in Indiana was signed by Governor Mike Pence before speaking out and successfully sending him (and governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, who signed a similar bill) into retreat. But in Texas, with its much more powerful conservative base, an all-out war against bigotry needs to begin right away.

Politicians like Gov. Cuomo of New York and Gov. Inslee of Washington, who banned travel to Indiana, should threaten such action against Texas now. Rock bands that dropped their tours to Indiana, and celebrities like Rihanna who blasted the state, need to do the same now with regard to Texas. Apple has a major center of operations in Austin, and has been expanding, just finishing construction of a $300 million campus that is hiring thousands more Texans in coming months and years. The company's openly gay CEO, Tim Cook, who's been outspoken on gay rights, should threaten to pull out of the state if any of these bills moves further and certainly if the governor signs them.

Other progressive, gay-supportive high-tech companies with a major presence in the state include Dell, IBM, and Advanced Micro Devices. All of them must put their money where their mouths are: either Texas legislators drop these bills now or they jeopardize further business and expansion in the state.

These bills must not be allowed to become law. What we have in Texas is a five-alarm fire ready to engulf its LGBT citizens and threaten their rights for years to come. There's no time to wait.

Michelangelo Signorile's new book, It's Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Why the Boycott Against Ted Cruz's Gay Hosts Is a Watershed Moment

Michelangelo Signorile   |   May 4, 2015   12:49 PM ET

For almost two weeks a boycott has been in full force against two gay hoteliers, Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass, who hosted anti-gay U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), now running for the 2016 GOP nomination for the presidency, at their Central Park South apartment. One of them boasted about it on Facebook a couple of days later, seemingly oblivious to the backlash he'd face. In a matter of days, Cruz, one of the most vocally anti-gay members of the U.S. Senate, introduced two bills aimed at blunting same-sex marriage, including a constitutional amendment. Organizations such as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the New York City Gay Men's Chorus have canceled fundraisers at the men's hotel, Out NYC, and the Fire Island Property Owners Association is under pressure to take a stand against the men, who own businesses in the Fire Island Pines, including a nightclub, bars and a hotel.

The most telling thing that Reisner said at the outset, quoted by The New York Times in response to the backlash, perhaps hoping the entire affair would blow over, was that marriage equality is "done -- it's just going to happen," as if it doesn't matter anymore and the men could pursue support of Cruz on other issues upon which they agree, such as his right-wing policies toward Israel. As the uproar grew, the men released a statement, changing course, saying that the evening provided "the opportunity to have a candid conversation with Senator Ted Cruz on why he should rethink his view on gay marriage," as if this was all about reaching out to the other side. When that didn't quell the outrage, and with a protest by LGBT activists soon to happen in front of their hotel on 42nd Street last week, the men offered a full-blown but insincere apology that was all about trying to save their businesses, with Reisner declaring he was "shaken to the bone." Indeed.

Reisner's first words revealed his true belief, and they've been echoed by some gay activists and some gay pundits in the media in recent days. Jamie Kirchick of The Daily Beast called those who support the boycott "illiberal" for enforcing "groupthink" and criticized Reisner and Weiderpass for apologizing. And he used Reisner's same initial logic as the excuse for hosting Cruz: "Gays have won the cultural argument and are likely about to win the legal argument definitively this summer, when the Supreme Court is expected to find in favor of a national right to same-sex marriage."

This is what I call, in the first chapter of my new book, "victory blindness," and many LGBT people, including even many activists, often succumb to it in this heady time of big wins. In fact, every one of us can and does succumb at various moments, wanting to only see the victories and not face the deeply embedded homophobia and transphobia still pervading our culture, and slough off the decades-old political movement still organizing against us and still quite determined. After all these years of callous indifference and outright hatred, it's easy to become spellbound by the wins, telling ourselves a bedtime story about how we've reached the promised land.

But Ted Cruz and other anti-gay conservatives are fighting us at every turn to keep us from getting full civil rights, and every other announced or would-be GOP presidential contender publicly supports the effort. There are no federal protections for LGBT people, as we see stories every day of people thrown out of restaurants, shops, and taxis, or fired from their jobs, simply for being gay or transgender. And our enemies are now on a "religious freedom" crusade, casting themselves as victims, intent on pushing bills to create exemptions to any laws that do ban discrimination. Just looking at Texas, Cruz's home state, there are more than 20 anti-gay bills that conservatives are intent on getting out of committees in the legislature in the next three weeks. The goal is to try out many differently worded bills, hoping some will stick and get support from the larger public.

The most pernicious thing about victory blindness is that it inspires a change in tactic. We hear calls that we should be "magnanimous" in our wins, and that full equality is "inevitable." We're told to change our "tone" and be gracious. New York Times columnist David Brooks scolded us to do just that back during the Indiana debacle a few weeks ago. And gay writer Andrew Sullivan and even some progressive gay activists did the same last year when anti-gay Brendan Eich resigned from Mozilla, developer of the Firefox Web browser, under pressure because he refused to disavow his donations to the Prop 8 campaign and even to virulently anti-gay Pat Buchanan. That criticism was launched against LGBT activists even though not one LGBT group or prominent individual had actually called for Eich to resign; the pressure came mostly from other, gay-friendly companies with which Mozilla does business, and from developers who work with the company. Nonetheless, Sullivan helped the right wing whip up a campaign against what Newt Gingrich called "the new fascism."

And now still others succumbing to victory blindness are doing the same thing again. In the Washington Blade Mark Lee chastised activists for "attempting to outlaw political opinion," with the headline of his opinion piece charging that many of us are really "not ready to win," because we should be embracing those who would reach out and work with Ted Cruz and should be fostering "an appropriate sense of communal celebration and circumspect congeniality."

But that is the fallacy that victory blindness promotes. It makes people believe the best strategy moving forward is to be nice and respectful -- just when we actually need to be as confrontational as ever. And that allows the backlash to organize, giving it a space to grow, allowing our enemies to use some of us as cover. This has happened to other movements, and it will happen to us if we allow it to happen. A week before the Ted Cruz event, Weiderpass organized a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), another vocal anti-gay Republican. As long as people like Johnson and Cruz are working against LGBT equality, none of us should be giving them any cover, let alone raising money for them. We surely don't have the luxury to join them on other issues with which some of us may agree, not when they're trying to make us second-class citizens.

And that's why the boycott against the hoteliers is so important and really is a watershed moment. We've got to make it clear to the enemies of equality that we are a force with increasing public support, moving full speed ahead and accepting nothing less than equality. We've demanded and received support from major corporations, who've put pressure on politicians to refrain from an anti-gay agenda. There thus can be no double standards. Now we must send a message to those among our own -- particularly those of enormous privilege -- who've succumbed to victory blindness and let them know that they too cannot support our enemies. No abject apology can undo the message that Reisner and Weiderpass have telegraphed to anti-LGBT forces in the GOP. And we have to make sure no one does it again. This is not the time for any of us to pull back.

Michelangelo Signorile's new book, It's Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.