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Why The Daily Beast Thought Its Article Endangering Gay Olympians Was Perfectly Acceptable

Michelangelo Signorile   |   August 12, 2016    1:54 PM ET

After an avalanche of outrage, The Daily Beast last night removed a wretched article from its website which it had published on Wednesday and which had luridly exposed the sex lives of gay Olympians who were easily identifiable in the article and who were meeting on dating apps in Rio.

At first, however, the editors had tweaked the article yesterday, hours after a full day of harsh condemnation, removing the identifying information, and adding an editor's note which explained their intent was to publish a trend piece about sex at the Rio Olympics and not to harm anyone gay. That only further raised a question many of us were asking the moment the article went up: What the hell are they thinking, and how could this article even be assigned and written?

I put some of the blame on victory blindness. We live in a time when LGBT equality is more accepted than ever before and in which talking about LGBT people and writing about them is quite common, which could lull many into the idea that full acceptance has arrived. But, as I've written over and over again, the fight for full equality in every sphere of American life is far from over. And that surely includes how LGBT people are treated in the media.

There' still a "both sides" mentality in much of the media, for example, in which anti-LGBT bigots are brought onto talk shows as if their hatred needs to offset the call for equality for the sake of "balance." (And too many of us, caught up in victory blindness, just accept this rather than demand an end to it.) And, there's still an appalling amount of ignorance about LGBT life in much of the media, and about the discrimination, violence and brutality many people face. It's as if marriage equality has, in many reporters' and editors' minds, ended the battle, and that the fact that people every day are thrown out of their apartments, fired from the jobs, and turned away from businesses because they are queer -- all legal in most U.S. states -- is some minor detail. And when we look at the world, beyond the U.S., the reality is even more stark and much more grim: In many countries, including many from which these LGBT Olympic athletes come, homosexuality itself is still "illegal" and sometimes even punishable by imprisonment or death.

Writer Nico Hines of The Daily Beast thought he was doing a fun trend piece when he decided to go on Grindr and see how the gay Olympians were meeting and having sex, posing as someone seeking to hook up, even though he is a straight married man. And in writing his piece he might even have believed that being gay is so accepted today that it's not a big deal to allow people to figure out who the individuals in his story were via the details he gave -- and anyway, all of these people are on public apps, looking for sex, so they're exposing themselves, right? It's an argument that, in fact, is similar to that which people like myself have made when talking about individuals such as the gay billionaire and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, and why discussing the fact that he is gay, as a Gawker site did a few years ago (which led him to eventually back a lawsuit against Gawker), wasn't an "outing," since he was a public figure who was very out in Silicon Valley, known to be gay to a wide circle.

But note that I used the word "similar" because these situations are not in the slightest equivalent. Thiel, for example, is a public figure in the broadest sense -- not an athlete who may for the first time be competing in the Olympics. He's a person who has been actively, vocally involved in politics as a prominent businessman, supporting anti-gay politicians such as Ted Cruz. Public figures, particularly those trying to influence public policy, have forfeited their privacy, and when it is relevant - the very key term -- sexual orientation should be reported. Moreover, Thiel was public far beyond any dating apps: He was out socially and known to be gay among Silicon Valley's movers and shakers, including to those in the media who cover Silicon Valley, and did not try to hide it. There was no ferreting out, or tricking him into identifying himself that needed to be done.

Hines, on the other hand, had to actually go undercover to lure people on a dating and hook-up app -- people who were for the most part not showing their faces until they trusted this deceptive individual -- to tell him about their sexual desires, activities, preferences and tastes at a given moment (one man, for example, wanted to engage in specific sexual activity by 5:30), which is something far more personal and invasive than simply identifying sexual orientation.

This is where the appalling ignorance comes in. A hook-up app is a 2016 version of a gay bar, a gay bath or even a 1950s' public restroom (the only place some gay men could meet for sex in many places in this country during that era), depending on how and why individuals are using the particular app. What Hines did is equivalent to going undercover into a public restroom or a gay bar or sex club and luring people into revealing information about their sexual lives -- people who may be deeply closeted because they could be fired, ostracized or arrested -- basically entrapping them, and then making the details public.

It serves no purpose journalistically, however interesting it might be to some people, as there's no reason we need to know the information -- surely not if it means someone's life might be terribly affected. That's far different from a politician or another public figure with enormous power who is closeted and is doing something harmful to queer people. And it's different from the public figure who may not be doing anything harmful but is actually out and open to a wide circle and not necessarily hiding his or her sexuality -- even if it's not been announced -- and yet whose personal details are reported on every day because of the choice that person made to go into public life.

And again, it's going far beyond revealing someone's sexual orientation, as is often alluded to with celebrities and others in much reporting, and instead is revealing lurid details about someone's sexual activity. All of these distinctions are ones that many in the media obviously still don't get. They're still ignorant about the fight for LGBT equality, perhaps believing that the greater acceptance in society allows them to both continue to give a platform to those who are anti-gay, while also having carte blanche to report on our lives with little awareness or sensitivity to the dangers still faced by so many.

Michelangelo Signorile   |   August 2, 2016   11:17 PM ET

“Look no further than the folks he wants to put on the Supreme Court,” Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney warned about Donald Trump and LGBT rights in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress at the Democratic National Convention last week in Philadelphia. “He’s told us who he’s going to appoint, and they will eviscerate all of the rights we’ve won at the Supreme Court.”

Maloney, an openly gay Democratic member of Congress from upstate New York, has been battling with GOP House members in recent months over attempts to repeal President Obama’s executive order banning workplace discrimination against LGBT people among federal contractors.

“[Trump] will repeal the president’s executive orders,” he said, noting that a new president can do so without Congress passing any legislation. “Those federal contractors employ 28 million Americans. So this is significant workplace protection for a large part of the American workforce – those are gone [under Trump]. All of the other things the president has done over the last 8 years, not just on our rights but really everything else, from health care to the climate change action, to the immigration issue we all care about as well – all of that stuff is out the window.”

Maloney sounded the alarm for LGBT people who might not see the stark contrast between Trump, who has portrayed himself as a friend to LGBT people though his positions are anti-LGBT,  and Hillary Clinton.

“We are talking about a very dramatic fork in the road here,” he said. “And for those of us who have maybe gotten a little complacent with all the progress we’ve made: Look, we don’t have any workplace protections in 29 American states. You could be fired for being LGBT any day of the week. There is no legal recourse. So it is very important that we get legislation on the federal level. But here’s the good news: There is a majority even in the Republican-controlled House for LGBT equality. What they’re doing now is they’re rigging the process so we can’t get votes.”

“If you have Hillary Clinton in the White House,” Maloney continued, “and you get more Democrats in the House and we take the Senate, they’re not going to be able to rig that process. We actually have the votes and what we showed is that you can’t bring this anti-gay stuff on the floor anymore and get away with it. And so, they’ve had to retreat into this rigging the process, where they won’t let us have amendments. They won’t let us have votes because they know we’re going to win on them. With a fair vote we can pass the Equality Act. We can protect people in their workplaces. We can make sure you don’t get discriminated against in housing, accommodations and restaurants and the rest. Just as we’ve had in the civil rights context.”

None of that, however, will happen, Maloney underscored, if Donald Trump gets into the White House.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S. 

How Queer Equality Became Wrapped In Faith And Patriotism At The Democratic National Convention

Michelangelo Signorile   |   August 2, 2016   10:47 AM ET

There's been much said about the sea of American flags, the chants of "USA!" and the overt references to God and family values at the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Spending four days inside the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia I agree with those who viewed the inspiration for all of this as far different from the nationalist, jingoistic, religiously bigoted fervor that has inspired the typical Republican National Convention (RNC) of the past, much of which was often pandering and staged -- even as Republicans were apparently jealous while watching the DNC this year.

For all the production that goes into conventions, the patriotism at the DNC was real and it was inspired by mortal fear. It was truly about love of country -- the country we've transformed in the past eight years in powerful ways -- and the trepidation at the possibility a madman who'd already taken control of the Republican Party could snatch it away from us.

A major part of that transformation over the past eight years has been the rise of LGBT rights, a struggle that now occupies a place within the mainstream of American life, brought to that place during the Obama years.

It was hard to fathom, listening to the speakers on the stage this year standing up for LGBT equality, and walking the floor of the convention and seeing so many out and proud delegates -- a record 600 delegates of the 4765 at convention were LGBT, with 28 transgender delegates alone -- that only eight years ago, the presidential candidate at the DNC, like that at the RNC, was opposed to marriage equality.

Barack Obama, like most Democrats -- and just about every prominent Republican -- had defined marriage as between a man and woman in 2008. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender soldiers could not serve openly in the military then, booted out unless they lived closeted and in terror. Gay and transgender people were often dismissed and disregarded in politics and popular culture.

The LGBT civil rights movement was, to Democrats at that time, a pain in the ass -- another constituency that made noise but which had to be paid attention to because it energized voters and contributed money. That was certainly how LGBT people were treated at past Democratic conventions, as one or two gay people would be given a speaking slot in the afternoon, and maybe there was a visit by a minor political figure to the LGBT (Gay and Lesbian) Caucus. In 2012, the year President Obama backed marriage equality -- after the enormous achievement of getting "don't ask, don't tell" repealed and becoming a leader on LGBT rights like no other president -- we saw the beginning of a true embrace, but it was still a cautious one, with speakers on the stage talking about the right to "to love" who one wants, keepings things a bit in code.

Not in 2016. Queerness was flaunted, and very in-your-face, omnipresent at a convention that had the most pro-LGBT platform in history (contrasting with the RNC's most anti-LGBT platform in history, which includes promotion of so-called transgender "bathroom bills" and "ex-gay" therapy.) LGBT rights, like women's rights, racial justice, immigration reform and a slew of other issues, were integrated smoothly into the program rather than seeming forced and stilted, as it was at RNC, where billionaire Peter Thiel popped up on stage as the only openly gay speaker (and only the second one in RNC history), aware that it was jarring in the room to just state that he was "proudly gay," and asking "Who cares?" with regard to bathroom bills rather than simply saying the GOP platform was vile and repulsive. He received a rather silent response from the audience to that question -- and an "I do!" from the first delegate I asked on the floor, Judy Nichols of Nederland, Texas.

At the DNC this year, prominent governors, attorneys general, members of Congress and Democratic officials visited the LGBT Caucus, and the first transgender speaker ever to speak on the stage at a DNC, Sarah McBride, was broadly welcomed by the delegates. The same was true of speaker after speaker, many but not all of them gay, lesbian or bisexual -- or, in the case of Christine Leinonen, a mother of one of the Pulse nightclub victims in Orlando, the families of LGBT people -- who touted LGBT equality as an American value, a family value and an issue of faith.

When Rev. William Barber of North Carolina delivered his powerful sermon of a speech on the final night of the convention, he spoke out for "LGBTQ" rights, having himself been a force against North Carolina's anti-LGBT HB2, organizing sit-ins to protest the heinous law. And he lambasted those clearly aligned with the GOP who use religion to condemn people: "I am worried by the way that faith is cynically used by some to serve hate, fear, racism and greed."

The faith on display at the DNC, as Jamelle Bouie noted at Slate, reflecting the social justice movement of the black church, was indeed that of inclusion, unity and equality, and one reason why it didn't creep many of us out the way bromides to God and faith do at GOP conventions. The same was true of the shows of patriotism, as Khazr Kahn displayed in his now legendary speech about his son, a fallen soldier, that has sent Donald Trump into a tailspin. Lifting up his copy of the Constitution -- something, again, we'd expect to see at a GOP convention -- he stole the issue of religious liberty from the GOP as well, defining it as issue that respects full equality and inclusion.

At the DNC this year LGBT people were an integral part of the new American majority on display -- a majority that includes many minorities banding together to fight off an angry, often bigoted minority in the GOP who'd found a messiah in Donald Trump. He's promised to take them back to a time when diversity wasn't revered, when African-Americans were second class citizens, when immigration wasn't the threat they now perceive it to be (because most of the immigrants now are brown) and when women, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people weren't afforded the place in society they now have -- a time before "political correctness," as Trump often says derogatorily.

Though LGBT rights and the march toward full equality helped form this majority, we're right to be fearful that the angry, aggrieved minority that Trump encourages can bring along other Republicans who know better but who are loyal to the party and will vote for Trump. We also must be aware that Trump's message plays to those who are rightly aggrieved -- some of them Democrats -- because they've been left behind in the slow economic recovery, something Bernie Sanders tapped into and which Hillary Clinton must speak to, as the American Prospect's Robert Kuttner strongly urges, rather than run away from.

We also know that with third party candidates in the mix anything can happen, and the equality majority isn't guaranteed a win by any means. The Democrats got that this year, and realized that showcasing diversity, including folding in queer equality, was smarter than keeping it segmented or hidden. Again, fear is a great motivator. Let's hope it motivates us to a win in November.

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 31, 2016    8:23 AM ET

At the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the first and only openly gay or lesbian person elected to the U.S. Senate, explained in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress how Hillary Clinton, as first lady, helped her make queer history as a House candidate back in 1998.

It was a time when it was exceedingly difficult to run as an openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender candidate for national political office. While Democratic House members like Barney Frank and the late Gerry Studds, both of Massachusetts, had come out while in office and had even been re-elected, no candidate who’d already been out, like Baldwin, had ever been elected to national office as a challenger.

“Shortly after I won my primary, [Hillary Clinton] came out to Madison, Wisconsin, and actually stumped for me in what was a very competitive House race,” Baldwin recalled, noting that their relationship went back to that very day. “And I believe my narrow victory is at least, maybe in large part, due to her research and her faith in a candidate who was going to make history and, I hope she believed, also make a difference.”

Bill Clinton’s record on LGBT rights at the time had been complicated — and controversial. He advanced LGBT rights like no president before, speaking out on equality, signing the first ever White House Gay and Lesbian Pride Proclamation, appointing the first openly gay ambassador, accelerating AIDS drug approval and signing an executive order banning discrimination in federal jobs. But Clinton also had created roadblocks by negotiating the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law in 1993 and signing the terrible Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, angering many activists. It was within that context that Hillary Clinton decided to campaign on behalf of Baldwin’s historic candidacy in 1998.

 “She took a risk on me,” Baldwin said. “We had at that point in our nation’s history some folks who had come out while serving in office, but we’d never elected somebody who was already out. And the belief was, the common wisdom was, that the voters weren’t ready, that the time hadn’t come yet. And in fact, I had some discouragement from even seeking the Democratic nomination in the primary contest. But something that’s never been done has only never been done until you do it. It meant something to me that she took that risk and helped make that happen.”

It’s no surprise, then, that Baldwin, who made history again when she was elected to the Senate in 2012, was one of the first women in the Senate to endorse Hillary Clinton for president after she announced her candidacy last year.

“I’ve had a chance to work with her in the years since [winning that first House seat],” Baldwin recalled. “I’m such an admirer.”

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 27, 2016   11:56 AM ET

At the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress, gay former congressman Barney Frank lashed at out Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his repeated claims that he is a better candidate for queer people than Hillary Clinton. Trump said just last week in his Republican National Convention acceptance speech that he would “protect LGBTQ” people from a “foreign ideology,” referring to the threat of attacks by Islamic extremists in the United States.

“Very interesting ― he’s going to protect us, LGBT people, from foreign oppression,” Frank said, mocking Trump. “No, it’s not foreigners firing people. No, it’s not foreigners refusing to serve LGBT people.”

He continued, “[Trump’s comments were] very carefully worded. And it was a terrible thing that happened in Orlando. But the great majority of problems LGBT people have faced ― violence against transgender people, discrimination ― come from good, old home-grown Americans. So this fraudulent promise that he’s going to protect us from foreigners, who have not on the whole been a threat, I hope people see through it.”

Frank went on to discuss Hillary Clinton’s record on equality for LGBT people as secretary of state, noting that she was a “leader” in moving the state department to protect LGBT people overseas.

“My husband Jim and I were in Thailand and we met with the officials of the American state department, who were working under Hillary Clinton’s initiated policy in protecting lesbian and gay and bisexual and transgender people throughout Southeast Asia,” Frank said, giving an example of how Clinton’s directives have affected people internationally.

In reality, Trump wouldn’t protect LGBT Americans, and, as Frank pointed out, Clinton has already moved to protect queer people around the world from bigotry.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S.

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 22, 2016   12:50 PM ET

“For one thing, just look at his VP running mate,” Ben Carson told me with a smile this week at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland.

He was responding to my query regarding how Donald Trump has reassured social conservatives. Carson, now a prominent player in Trump’s campaign, was absolutely right: Indiana governor Mike Pence is of course among the most extreme governors in the country on abortion and LGBT rights. And we’ve seen reports that in fact Donald Trump, if elected, will hand the actual running of the country to his vice president, making him the most powerful vice president in history.

But Trump can count on much of the media falling for stock phrases, engaging in superficial coverage and often running with a false narrative that the Trump campaign hands to journalists on Trump and LGBT issues rather than doing the most basic reporting and presenting an accurate story. Throughout the campaign, Trump has often been treated to a different standard than other political candidates, and that’s been true on some issues more than others as the media prioritize what to focus on.

So, from the stage last night in Cleveland, Donald Trump said, “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology, believe me,” in the context of his fear-mongering about foreign terrorism and how the country is supposedly in chaos and government is supposedly inadequately responding to the threat. And ABC News, in coverage similar to other news organizations, focused on the “historic” use of the term “LGBTQ” by a GOP presidential candidate without including the context of the “historic,” extreme anti-LGBT GOP platform, and Trump’s own extreme positions, including promising religious conservatives – on the Christian Broadcasting Network, on Fox News, in a town hall with Pat Robertson ― that he would overturn the historic Obergefell ruling, which he’d called “shocking.”

CNN this morning characterized the comments in the speech as an example of Trump “embracing” the LGBT community. The report did acknowledge the anti-LGBT platform, but only to note that it is – supposedly – in sharp “contrast” to Trump’s own positions on LGBT rights. But it is not: The platform and Trump both are opposed to marriage equality and both promote the autonomy of states to pass heinous laws regulating what restrooms transgender people use. This same platform includes Trump’s trade policies and his plan to build a wall on the border, so his campaign did have an active involvement in crafting -– and certainly allowing social conservatives to craft ― the most anti-LGBT platform in history.

On the floor of the convention last night, I asked Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council about both Trump’s positions on LGBT rights and the platform, which he is very actively involved in hammering out every four years. Perkins was among hundreds of anti-LGBT activists who met with Trump in May. And last night, from the stage, Perkins finally endorsed Trump and told Christian conservatives to vote for him.

“He has said that these issues should be dealt with at the state level and he has not been for the government forcing it on people,” Perkins told me of LGBT rights. “And thats kind of the way things work out: we allow the people to work through these issues.”

We’re in a different time, when LGBT rights have become more accepted by more Americans after enormous progress. So people like Perkins understand that they have to make some accommodations in how they speak about the issues, a relatively minor concession. In return for his endorsement, surely Perkins was assured certain things would and wouldn’t be done, and that perhaps new language and tone might have to be incorporated even if it doesn’t amount to anything. In fact, when Trump said in June that he was the best candidate for “LGBT” people after the attack on the queer nightclub Pulse in Orlando, which killed 49 people, most of the them queer people or color, Perkins publicly agreed with Trump, using the term “LGBT” himself:

“What he is saying is no American, regardless of political ideology or your life choices, should be living under threat of terrorist attack in the streets of the United States of America. So yes, LGBT, Catholic, Protestant, I don’t care, atheist ― as one who wore the uniform of a United States Marine and as a police officer, no American, no American should live in fear and that’s exactly what Donald Trump is saying.”

It’s one thing of course to pledge to protect LGBT people from terrorist violence perceived to be from ISIS, which threatens all Americans. But it’s quite another thing to protect our rights from being thwarted by Christian conservatives like Perkins and the Family Research Council, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and whose rhetoric has certainly been used by those who have perpetrated violence against LGBT people in the name of extremist Christian ideology.

“We dealt with it in the platform ― overwhelmingly the party stated where it stands on that issue,” Perkins told me in our discussion on the floor of the convention about the issue of gay marriage, which was condemned in the platform, as it has been for roughly two decades. “I’m comfortable with where the party is. There was a study done a couple of years ago on the party platform, looking at 30 years of the party platform, and Congress voted 89 percent of the time with the party platform when it came to policy issues. So the platform is an important document that lays out the principles, priorities of the party. “ 

Perkins added that he is “very happy” with the platform ― and he’s clearly happy with, and reassured by, Donald Trump on LGBT issues.

Yet, in much of the media coverage, none of this is part of the reporting on, and part of the context of,  Donald Trump’s vacuous, meaningless – and ultimately dangerous ― use of the term “LGBTQ” at the convention last night. The narrative handed to the media by the Trump campaign for months has been completely bought by many journalists.

Back in May, I wrote about the bizarre portrayal of Trump by The New York Times –- political reporter Maggie Haberman, in particular ― as “More Accepting on Gay Issues” as the headline noted, something that, “Sets Him Apart” from other Republicans. This was based on superficial things like Trump having congratulated Elton John on his civil union in 2005, while the issue of marriage equality –- the major LGBT rights issue of our time – and Trump’s opposition to it, was downplayed, portrayed as a kind of side issue. (His support of the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow for discrimination against LGBT poeple and is being debated in Congress right now, wasn’t even raised at all.) It’s a narrative the Trump campaign, with the help of the desperate Log Cabin Republicans, had been feeding journalists, trying to play both sides.

Last week, shortly after the pick of Mike Pence leaked, and after many gay pundits rightly wrote about Pence’s record to remind everyone of his extremism, I had a Twitter exchange with New York Times political reporter Alexander Burns. It was fascinating and telling. Burns viewed the choice of Pence as something that would now possibly trigger media discussion of LGBT issues in the campaign. And he seemed to defend the lack of focus on Trump’s anti-LGBT promises and statements previously because Trump has not made these anti-gay pledges loudly – particularly in speeches – and thus they had not become a “flash point.” Here’s one of his tweets:

I was baffled because I thought one of the jobs of journalists is to tell us what the candidate is promising to constituencies under the radar or in private meetings. Certainly the Times does this with regard to Trump on other issues. But LGBT issues don’t seem worthy of this deeper reporting and analysis.

Similarly, last night CNN was reporting, just before the convention speech of conservative gay billionaire and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, that Thiel was going to state he is “proudly gay” and “admonish the GOP on LGBT rights.” This sounded pretty strong, and again was a narrative fed to CNN by the Trump campaign. When I spoke to Tony Perkins on the floor, Thiel had not yet come out to speak and I asked about CNN’s claim that Thiel would “admonish” the GOP.

Perkins smiled and said he’d wait and see what Thiel said, and that he expected it would stay “respectful” and wouldn’t “attack core issues and values.” And in the end, Thiel hardly “admonished,” let alone tepidly criticized, the GOP, stating that he didn’t “pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform,” and then, instead of asserting how wrong-headed and discriminatory the language in the platform is, he meekly asked, regarding “who gets to use” which bathroom, “Who cares?” (To which the first delegate I asked, Judy Nichols from Nederland, Texas, who probably represented most of the delegates, answered, “I do!”)

And yet, the Trump campaign had used CNN to claim that Thiel would somehow heavily criticize the GOP on LGBT issues, making it appear as if his choice by the Trump campaign represented Trump ― who publicly agreed with conservatives that North Carolina should be able to regulate transgender people and rest rooms ― bucking GOP orthodoxy on LGBT rights. As we now move into the general election, the media must be challenged on this shallow, irresponsible reporting on Trump and LGBT rights. It allows Trump to write his own narrative instead of being exposed as a dangerous fraud who is making promises to the LGBT community’s staunchest enemies.

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 21, 2016   10:21 AM ET

Delegates at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio, have crafted the most anti-LGBT platform in history ― a platform the Log Cabin Republicans, the most well-known gay GOP group, even condemned in an ad. And Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has chosen anti-LGBT Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana as his running mate, a man who signed an extreme, discriminatory Religious Freedom Restoration Act last year.

Nonetheless, Log Cabin Republican president Gregory T. Angelo, in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress at the RNC this week, still characterized Trump as a “leader” on LGBT rights.

“As far as LGBT issues go, he has actually been a leader on LGBT rights,” Angelo told me, even though Trump is opposed to marriage equality and supports the First Amendment Defense Act

“He said he would be our friend as president,” Angelo said in Trump’s defense, referring specifically to Trump’s speech after the Orlando mass shooting at the queer Pulse nightclub where 49 people, mostly queer people of color, were murdered. “And he said we live in a remarkable society where people ‘love who they love and express themselves as they are.’”

When pressed on Trump’s opposition to the fundamental issue of marriage equality, Angelo said, “I don’t lose any sleep thinking for a minute that marriage equality in the country will be overturned.”

Angelo also excused Trump for choosing Mike Pence as a running mate and for the GOP’s extremist anti-LGBT platform. Speaking about the platform specifically, Angelo actually characterized Trump’s refusal to step in and prevent anti-LGBT language ― language which includes opposition to marriage equality, the promotion of transgender “bathroom bills” and support of so-called “ex-gay” therapy programs ― as a result of Trump being supportive of LGBT people. 

“On some issues... the platform is exemplary of our candidate, Donald Trump ― on policies like illegal immigration, on trade,” he explained. “But in an odd way, because Donald Trump was not campaigning as a social issue warrior, there was a vacuum there. And the fact that there was a lack of campaigning from Donald Trump on social issues and a lack of assertion on these issues, that vacuum was filled by [Family Research Council’s] Tony Perkins and hard-line conservatives who saw an opportunity to double down on those issues in the platform.”

When challenged on the claim that Trump has not been campaigning by courting social conservatives on anti-LGBT issues ― the Republican presidential nominee promised on both Fox News and the Christian Broadcasting Network to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the historic Obergefell ruling and he has met with and made promises to anti-LGBT conservatives several times ― Angelo said he was confident that he still supported LGBT rights.

“Very little of [that] has me raising me an eyebrow,” he said, dismissing such campaigning and pointing to the fact that Trump “went to a same-sex wedding” and uses the term “LGBT,” which he called “historic” for a Republican presidential candidate.

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

Michelangelo Signorile   |   July 20, 2016    7:48 AM ET

Senator Orrin Hatch at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, strongly disagreed with controversial remarks made by Ben Carson in which the former presidential candidate appeared to deny that transgender people exist.

Carson, who’s become a major surrogate for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and delivered a speech at the RNC on Tuesday night in which he loosely tied Hillary Clinton to “Lucifer,” told Florida delegates at a breakfast on Monday that transgender identity “doesn’t make any sense” and is “the height of absurdity.” He also stated that “for thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is.”

Carson expanded on his thoughts in an interview with The Hill newspaper, equating transgender identity to changing one’s ethnicity:

“For someone to wake up and think that they belong to a different sex because they feel different that day is the same as if you woke up and said, ‘I’m Afghani today because I saw a movie about that last night, and even though my genetics might not indicate that, that’s the way I feel, and if you say that I’m not, then you’re a racist.’”

When I asked GOP Senator Hatch, a conservative Mormon from Utah, to respond to Carson’s claims in an interview on SiriusXM Progress, he dismissed them outright. 

 “Of course there are people who are transgender,” he said. “I don’t think they choose to be that way. So, they’re human beings who deserve the best we can give them.” 

Hatch then referred to his state’s LGBT anti-discrimination law, passed in 2015, which was criticized by LGBT activists for allowing religious exemptions though it does provide more protections for LGBT people than have ever existed in the deeply red state.

 “They’re very difficult issues... very difficult issues to resolve,” Hatch said. “Utah’s done a pretty good job of that and I think our state has set a pretty good example of how you do it. [The passage of the new law] irritated people on both sides, but it was a pretty good compromise. I don’t believe we should discriminate against anyone.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Complete Moral Bankruptcy Of 'LGBT For Trump'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michelangelo Signorile   |   June 27, 2016    9:42 AM ET

Orlando’s openly lesbian city commissioner, Patty Sheehan, a formidable long-time activist for LGBT equality, has been in the national spotlight for the past two weeks fighting to make sure the media didn’t take the focus off of the victims of the mass-shooting at the Pulse nightclub in her city: largely LGBT Latinx in a popular queer nightspot.

In an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress, she said she’s angry that many GOP politicians wouldn’t even say the words “LGBT” or “gay,” and were thereby attempting to straightwash the targets of the attack. She also has a message for those GOP politicians who both have voted against LGBT rights and voted against gun safety measures, yet expressed sympathy for the victims.

“Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida, walked on our blood-stained streets with people from the Hispanic community,” Sheehan observed of Rubio, who has been a vocal opponent of LGBT rights and even promised if elected president to try to overturn the Supreme Court's historic marriage equality ruling. “And he went right back to Washington – one of the few times he actually showed up for work – and voted against sensible gun legislation.”

‘If this doesn’t change your heart?” she continued, not needing to finish the rhetorical question. “There were people from [Rubio's] office – it was [a staffer's] hair stylist who got shot and killed. This was a personal connection people from his office had with these young people. And he still couldn’t find it in his heart to do the right thing.”

Florida's GOP governor, Rick Scott, like Rubio, has also opposed LGBT rights and even as recently as earlier this year signed anti-LGBT legislation.

“My governor couldn’t say the word 'gay' -- until he was called out on it,” Sheehan commented, then broadened her critique to other Republicans. "And I’ve called a lot of them out on it. I said, ‘How dare you come here to my city – our city – and stand in front of the microphone and take up space….You loaded those bullets with hatred, as far as I’m concerned.’”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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