April 10, 2013 | by Kevin Naff
GLAAD honoring all the wrong people

Are the good people at GLAAD suffering from amnesia?

First, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation honored lifelong closet case Anderson Cooper with its Vito Russo Award last month. Then came word that former President Bill Clinton will be honored with the Advocate for Change Award.

Russo was a pioneering LGBT activist and author who wrote “The Celluloid Closet.” Cooper became infamous in the gay community after Out magazine published a 2008 cover story featuring his image along with Jodie Foster’s above the headline “The Glass Closet, Why the Stars Won’t Come Out and Play.”

Cooper finally came out publicly last year in a blog post and is immediately honored by GLAAD for doing what exactly? Is GLAAD so desperate to sell tickets to its awards shows that it must genuflect at the feet of anyone with a modicum of fame? This star-fuckery does a disservice to the movement and overlooks the hard work and visibility of more deserving honorees.

As transparent as the Cooper award was for its pandering, the Clinton award is even more disappointing. Clinton gave us “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He signed the Defense of Marriage Act and later bragged about it in 1996 campaign ads. Former HRC President Elizabeth Birch recently revealed that during that time, Clinton White House officials threatened to re-air the offensive ads if she took credit for their being yanked amid a firestorm of protest. More recently, Clinton reportedly advised John Kerry to support state constitutional amendments barring marriage equality during the 2004 presidential campaign. He only recently changed his position; his wife only endorsed marriage last month.

With such a stellar record of support, it’s time for a GLAAD award! I’m sure the wealthy Los Angeles gays will shell out plenty of cash for tickets to the award show later this month. (Individual tickets start at $500; a platinum table will set you back $25,000.) For some inexplicable reason, the gays are drawn to the Clintons like moths to the flame.

While GLAAD is busy dispensing awards to the unworthy, others who are actually making a difference go unrecognized.

Take Ken Mehlman, for example, who ran the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign and cynically unleashed a barrage of state constitutional amendments attacking our relationships. He has since repudiated his dirty deeds and worked behind the scenes to do his penance. He has raised money for the New York and Maryland marriage efforts, among other contributions. Where is the award for Mehlman? He has certainly done more to advance gay rights than Cooper.

And what about Sen. Rob Portman, who bravely endorsed marriage equality last month, becoming the first Republican senator to do so? He was pilloried by progressive bloggers because he attributed his evolution on the issue to having a gay son. The Wonkette blog went so far as to suggest we buy him a cake to celebrate with “Fuck that guy” written in icing.

But just days later when Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, announced her newfound marriage support and attributed it in part to having gay staff and friends, the progressive bloggers erupted in predictable praise.

This misguided strategy of turning LGBT rights into a partisan issue and the LGBT movement into a wing of the Democratic Party is as much a mistake today as it was 20 years ago.

Of course, we should welcome converts like Cooper and Clinton to the cause, but we mustn’t rewrite history in the process. And if our national advocacy groups are going to honor public figures like Cooper and Clinton who have such complicated records on LGBT issues, then shouldn’t they reach across the aisle and honor some Republicans, too?

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at knaff@washblade.com.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

11 Comments
  • Cooper had been out since highschool and he got the award for dozens of reports on gay rights issues he produced for AC360 on CNN. Abysmal “article”.

    • complete bull crap, cooper was in the closet for his career, only after he was rich enough did this sorry excuss for a gay man did he come out, then again i believe he was on the verge of being outed.

  • Thank you for writing about what everyone in the community, surely, must have been thinking. Puzzling indeed.

  • Peter Trevino, NYC

    Kevin, you are full of SHIT!

    • why because he told the true about a Gayinc Org, with Glaad at the helm freedom of speech will be gone very soon.. long live GayINC…

  • Brendan Maupin Wynn

    I think that what these choices could mean to say though is that if you weren't out, you can be. Whether it's Cooper making his orientation official, or Clinton coming out in support of marriage equality. I think commending these shifts is important, and I think that shaming Anderson Cooper for struggling with being public–just like all of us have–is unsightly, at best.

  • I DO agree with this line:

    “This misguided strategy of turning LGBT rights into a partisan issue and the LGBT movement into a wing of the Democratic Party is as much a mistake today as it was 20 years ago.”

  • I don’t really have a problem with Cooper getting an award. At least while “not out” he did no harm to the LGBT community, unlike Mehlman, who I am not sure can do enough good to atone for the part he played in relegating millions of gay Americans to second class status in 31 states. The only people who are going to bestow an award on Ken is LCR and we know how hapless that organization is.

    GLAAD’s recognition of Clinton is the one that perplexes. Not because they are and always have been “celebre-ho’s” but because they aren’t even discerning about it any more. I mean at least make Clinton walk the talk for a year or two to be sure he doesn’t backtrack. I get why Neff suggests if Clinton why not Mehlman? I mean, when you parse through it all, Mehlman simply tore a page from the Bill Clinton political playbook and executed it even better.

  • 1) Why would any ordinary LGBT person care about the elite mega LGBT groups that perpetuate classism divide? It's amazing how there's so much profit in the so-called nonprofit world while LGBT people in poverty and LGBTs in small town, rural, suburb areas are largely ignored by Gay Inc. While a lot of lip-service is paid to caring about the LGBT "community," support for LGBT individuals is virtually nonexistent unless you're part of the small groups evoking sympathy for dollars (like bullied youth).

    2) The LGBT mega groups and media is mostly lockstep with the Democrats despite how much they've become like the Republicans and despite how much they play with the lives of LGBT people (ENDA, immigration reform without bi-national couples' protections). Alternative parties are hindered by not taking corporate donations, media bias/media blackout, unfair election laws, and an uninformed public. Voting for the 2-party system of lie-based wars, poverty, pollution, and erosion of civil liberties is an abuser/victim cycle sadder than what's going on with Rhianna and Chris Brown.

  • Are you kidding me? Ken Mehlman?

    He has a couple of lifetimes to make up for the damage he created to the LGBT community and this country. Bush won one of the most contentious elections in our history by throwing our community under the bus; propelling this country into one of the worst periods in our history – Ken Mehlman was part of that machine – and wholeheartedly supported it.

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