Melissa Etheridge told the Washington Blade during an interview on Dec. 13 that she would travel to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in spite of the country’s ongoing LGBT rights crackdown.
“I would be there with bells on,” she said. “I would love to go offer support, offer visibility, stand there just as a known gay person.”
Etheridge, a two-time Grammy winning singer and songwriter, spoke with the Blade four days after she joined “Milk” producer Bruce Cohen and Anastasia Smirnova of the Russian LGBT Network at the formal launch of the “Uprising of Love” campaign during a Russia Freedom Fund fundraiser in New York. Dustin Lance Black — the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Milk” and “8” — co-founded this effort with Etheridge and her partner, Linda Wallem, and entertainment executive Greg Propper as a way to further support Russian LGBT rights advocates.
Etheridge, who debuted her song “Uprising of Love” during the New York fundraiser, noted to the Blade the American LGBT rights movement in 2013 reached what she described as a “tipping point” on marriage rights for same-sex couples and other issues. She also attended a United Nations panel on homophobia and transphobia in sports on Dec. 10 that featured retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova, former Washington Wizards center Jason Collins, South African activist Thandeka “Tumi” Mkhuma, intersex advocate Huda Viloria, U.S. Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic and Smirnova and gay MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts who moderated it.
“You kind of look abroad afterwards and I did,” said Etheridge, referencing civil rights activists who began to campaign against Apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s.
Etheridge spoke to the Blade hours after retired Olympic diver Greg Louganis said during a separate interview with the Blade after he took part in a Capitol Hill briefing organized by Human Rights First that Roberts shouldn’t have hosted last month’s Miss Universe 2013 pageant in Moscow. Louganis, who opposes a boycott of the Sochi games over Russia’s LGBT rights record, also questioned gay singer Elton John’s decision to perform in the Russian capital.
“Of course this touches Greg deeply,” said Etheridge, once again noting she would travel to Sochi if she were invited to take part in the games. “He was an Olympic athlete and it’s completely understandable where he’s coming from and each of us have different paths and there is no one right way to do this. If each of us acts and behaves with our conscience we can move this forward.”
Mizeur’s chances of becoming next Md. guv ‘very great’
Etheridge remains friends with Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) whom she met during the 2008 presidential campaign when she was courting Democratic superdelegates for then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
She declined to tell the Blade how much money she has raised for Mizeur’s gubernatorial campaign, but stressed she has “donated time.”
“Her chances of becoming the next governor of Maryland are very great,” said Etheridge. “Her whole life has been about public service and being who she is. She’s one of the smartest people; most motivated, forward people. I love everything she’s doing there.”
Etheridge told the Blade she would support former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if she were to run for president in 2016, in part, because she has “come a long way” on LGBT-specific issues since she ran against Obama in 2008.
“The way the Clinton administration did us in the 90s was very painful,” said Etheridge, referring to then-President Clinton signing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act into law in 1993 and 1996 respectively. “I think now with her experience that she has and everything I would absolutely support her.”
Etheridge also said she is not surprised her comment during a separate Blade interview in June that actress Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo a double mastectomy after discovering she carries a genetic mutation that increases her chances of developing breast cancer was not “the brave choice” sparked controversy.
“There was an untended meanness that might have come,” said Etheridge. “People might have thought I was being very cruel in what I was saying. Some of it was lost in where I was trying to come from.”