The city of The Liberty Bell, The Continental Congress, and Benjamin Franklin last week sent three gay activists, among others, to the first-ever gay pride reception at the White House. Invited by President Barack Obama, along with many service members, for crab cakes and music supplied by the Marine Corps Band, the reception at the White House’s photo opportunities turned into Fraternity House behavior rather than White House decorum.
What the Philadelphia Activists Did Next
Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal, who was told by his staff beforehand to “behave,” was a cad, but not rude, when he gave a sarcastic thumbs up to ex-President’s George W. Bush’s portrait. Quipped Segal, “when I heard The Marine Corps Band playing Barbara Streisand’s famous tune “The Way We Were,” I thought, are they going to play nothing but Barbara, Bette, and Lady Gaga? I was waiting for “Over the Rainbow.”
The other two Philadelphia invitees were more brazen: Matthew Hart, National Director for Public Engagement at Solutions for Progress, a public policy and technology company, posted his Facebook photo flipping the bird to Reagan’s portrait with the caption “Fuck Reagan.” One week after the reception, Hart had no remorse:
“Yeah, fuck Reagan. Ronald Reagan had blood on his hands. The man was in the White House as AIDS exploded, and he was happy to see plenty of gay men and queer people die. He was a murderous fool, and I have no problem saying so.” Don’t invite me back (to the White House). I don’t care.”
The photographer Zoe Strauss, who kissed her partner under the picture of Reagan, regarded as “the great communicator who broke the back of Communism” did two bird flips. Her gestures and Hart’s antics were first recorded in http://www.Philadelphia Magazine, 6/22/12. Although Strauss’s Facebook photo had no comments (“a picture is worth a thousand words,”) Strauss posted a litany of things that happened when Reagan was President: including the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of Georgia’s anti-sodomy law and Reagan’s statement when he was running in 1980: “My criticism is that the gay movement isn’t just asking for civil rights; it’s asking for recognition and acceptance of an alternative lifestyle which I don’t believe society can condone, nor can I.”
Strauss’s opinions are typical of other activist’s views such as Larry Kramer, who started the organization “Act Up” in the 1980’s during the AIDS Plague, and wrote the drama “The Normal Heart,” resurrected on Broadway last year (see my post: “The Normal Heart had MY Heart Thumping, “ 7/10/11).
The Republicans Counter
However, there are others who defend Reagan’s record. Douglas W. Kmiec, the former president’s constitutional legal adviser, for Regan and George W. Bush, said that when an initial legal inquiry suggested that those with AIDS might not be eligible for civil-rights protection because employers and others could assert a legitimate “fear of contagion, ” Reagan appointed a commission on AIDS that re-examined that legal thinking.
After obtaining the best available medical information, the president concurred with Kmiec, now Caruso Chair and professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, who saw as a matter of law, that individuals with AIDS were entitled to existing civil-rights protections and could be excluded from those protections only where they could be shown, on an individual basis, to pose a threat to the health or safety of others or to be unable to perform their required jobs.”
Reactions to the bird flipping have been mostly condemning, especially among Republicans. The Executive Director of the gay organization Log Cabin Republicans, Christian A. Berle, stated that “these photographs have hurt our community and make advocating for inclusion and equality more difficult. The participants should be ashamed.”
What the White House Has To Say
The White House, through spokesperson Shin Inouye, affirms that Strauss and Hart will not be invited back. She told Fox News “behavior like this doesn’t belong anywhere, least of all in the White House.”
How Do You Feel?
What do you think? Is the gesturing in the “people’s house” Freedom of Speech or rude behavior?
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When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.