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There’s a Reason Gay Marriage Is Winning, While Abortion Rights Are Losing April 28, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Human Rights, LGBT, Women.
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Roger’s note: god forbid anyone should promote a rivalry between different groups of the oppressed; that is tantamount to divide and conquer, the oldest political trick in the books, one that predated Machiavelli by centuries.  Nevertheless, as this article points out, there is a complexity about the different dimensions of struggles for justice.  Homophobia, racism and sexism are pernicious; and, as the saying goes, no one is free until we are all free.  Nevertheless, homophobia, racism and sexism seem to have taken root to different degrees in North American society.  An example that has interested me relates to Vietnam War opposition; that is, the difference in attitude towards celebrity opponents Jane Fonda and Muhammad Ali.  The latter has risen to iconic hero status, whereas Hanoi Jane remains a pariah to many.  Does this mean that misogyny is deeper than racism in our society?  I don’t think that is exactly true, although to some extent it seems that the liberation of fifty percent of the population   poses more of a threat than any particular race.  This is a raw observation on my part, not to be taken too seriously I hope; and this article goes into a more rigorous analysis in the treatment of gay and women’s rights.

Published on

Are these two “culture wars” issues really that similar?


The media present marriage equality and reproductive rights as ‘culture war’ issues, as if they somehow went together,” writes Pollitt. “But perhaps they’re not as similar as we think.” (Image credit: Getty)

Why are reproductive rights losing while gay rights are winning? Indiana’s attempt to enshrine opposition to gay marriage under the guise of religious freedom provoked an immediate nationwide backlash. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has allowed religious employers to refuse insurance coverage for birth control—not abortion, birth control—to female employees; new laws are forcing abortion clinics to close; and absurd, even medically dangerous restrictions are heaping up in state after state. Except when the media highlight a particularly crazy claim by a Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock, where’s the national outrage? Most Americans are pro-choice, more or less; only a small minority want to see abortion banned. When you consider, moreover, that one in three women will have had at least one abortion by the time she reaches menopause, and most of those women had parents, partners, friends—someone—who helped them obtain it, the sluggish response to the onslaught of restrictive laws must include many people who have themselves benefited from safe and legal abortion.

The media present marriage equality and reproductive rights as “culture war” issues, as if they somehow went together. But perhaps they’re not as similar as we think. Some distinctions:

§ Marriage equality is about love, romance, commitment, settling down, starting a family. People love love! But marriage equality is also about tying love to family values, expanding a conservative institution that has already lost most of its coercive social power and become optional for millions. (Marriage equality thus follows Pollitt’s law: Outsiders get access when something becomes less valued, which is why women can be art historians and African-Americans win poetry prizes.) Far from posing a threat to marriage, as religious opponents claim, permitting gays to marry gives the institution a much-needed update, even as it presents LGBT people as no threat to the status quo: Instead of promiscuous child molesters and lonely gym teachers, gays and lesbians are your neighbors who buy Pottery Barn furniture and like to barbecue.

Reproductive rights, by contrast, is about sex—sexual freedom, the opposite of marriage—in all its messy, feckless glory. It replaces the image of women as chaste, self-sacrificing mothers dependent on men with that of women as independent, sexual, and maybe not so self-sacrificing. It doesn’t matter that contraception is indispensable to modern life, that abortion antedates the sexual revolution by thousands of years, that plenty of women who have abortions are married, or that most (60 percent) who have abortions are already mothers. Birth control and abortion allow women—and, to a lesser extent, men—to have sex without punishment, a.k.a. responsibility. And our puritanical culture replies: You should pay for that pleasure, you slut.

§ Same-sex marriage is something men want. Lesbian couples account for the majority of same-sex marriages, but even the vernacular “gay marriage” types it as a male concern. That makes it of interest to everyone, because everything male is of general interest. Though many of the groundbreaking activists and lawyers who have fought for same-sex marriage are lesbians, gay men have a great deal of social and economic power, and they have used it, brilliantly, to mainstream the cause.

Reproductive rights are inescapably about women. Pervasive misogyny means not only that those rights are stigmatized—along with the women who exercise them—but that men don’t see them as all that important, while women have limited social power to promote them. And that power is easily endangered by too close an identification with all but the most anodyne version of feminism. There are no female CEOs pouring millions into reproductive rights or threatening to relocate their businesses when a state guts access to abortion. And with few exceptions, A-list celebs steer clear.

§ Marriage equality has cross-class appeal: Anyone can have an LGBT child, and parents across the political spectrum naturally want their kids to have the same opportunities other children have. Any woman might find herself needing an abortion, too, but she may not realize that. Improvements in birth control mean that prosperous, educated women with private doctors can control their fertility pretty well—certainly better than women who rely on public clinics—and if they need an abortion, they can get one. It’s low-income women who suffer the most from abortion restrictions—and since when have their issues been at the top of the middle and upper classes’ to-do list?

§ Marriage equality costs society nothing and takes no power away from anyone. No one has been able to argue persuasively that your gay marriage hurts my straight marriage. But reproductive rights come with a price tag: Government funding is inevitably involved. (“If you want to have a party, have a party, but don’t ask me to pay for it,” said one New Hampshire lawmaker as he tried to cut funding for contraception.) Also, contraception and abortion give power to women and take it from others: parents, employers, clergy, and men.

§In marriage equality, there is no loser. But many, including some who call themselves pro-choice, feel that abortion creates a loser: the embryo or fetus. You have to value women a lot to side with the pregnant woman, with all her inevitable complexities and flaws, over the pure potentiality of the future baby.

§ Marriage equality is a wonderful thing, an important civil right that brings dignity to a previously excluded group. Over time, it may subtly affect the gender conventions of straight marriage, but it won’t fundamentally alter our social and economic arrangements. Reproductive rights, though, are inescapably connected to the larger project of feminism, which has already destabilized every area of life, from the bedroom to the boardroom. What might women demand, what might they accomplish, how might they choose to live, if every woman had children only when and if she wanted them? “Culture war” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Fried Chicken with a Side of Homophobia June 8, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Right Wing, Uncategorized.
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Would you like your fried chicken with a side of homophobia? That’s what’s on offer at the Calgary International Airport, where notoriously anti-gay restaurant Chick-fil-A has just opened its first Canadian branch.

The fervently Christian American company donated nearly $2 million to anti-gay organizations in 2010, with a particular focus on lobbying against equal marriage. In 2012 its CEO Dan T. Cathy owned up to being ‘guilty as charged’. He openly condemned those who “have the audacity to define what marriage is about,” saying they were “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.”

Chick-fil-A has been beset with boycotts and protests ever since, but this hasn’t stopped it planning to expand into 108 new locations this year – including Canada.

Tell Chick-fil-A: we don’t want your bigoted views here. Please stay out of Canada.  http://action.sumofus.org/a/canada-chick-fil-a/?akid=5589.1024433.toTN4K&rd=1&sub=fwd&t=2

The fast-food giant is one of the largest privately-held restaurant chains in the US, but its public image took a nose-dive in 2012 with revelations about its anti-gay stance. Since then, some new US branches have been prevented from opening, and one was removed from the University of Atlanta campus after opposition from students.

We can do the same in Canada. The Calgary branch opened quietly with almost no publicity. Reporters who did cover the launch were told not to ask customers about the restaurant’s anti-gay reputation. Chick-fil-A is clearly worried about a backlash. So let’s give it one!

Sign the petition to show Chick-fil-A that homophobia is not welcome in Canada.

Thank you for standing up for equal rights for everyone,

Angus, Hanna, Jon, and the rest of the team at SumOfUs


SumOfUs is a worldwide movement of people like you, working together to hold corporations accountable for their actions and forge a new, sustainable path for our global economy.

More information:




THE POPE IS A BIGOT December 16, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Religion.
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Roger’s note: First of all, he is wrong.  Same sex relationships are found extensively throughout nature.  It is not, as the bigoted Pope says, “unnatural.”  Of course, that is beside the point, which is that genuine  loving human relationships, regardless of gender, are inherently moral by any standards.  But what would a former Nazi Youth Cardinal Ratzinger whose dogmatic, tyrannical, authoritarian, and quasi-fascist character is well documented, know about morality???  The Pope’s statement is of the same base and ridiculous nature of that of Republican Governor of Bigotry, Mike Huckabee, who blames the absence of God in the classroom for the slaughter of children in Newton, Connecticut.  And what does is say for the Catholic Church  that its supreme leader, supposedly God’s representative on earth, is an out and out bigot? 

Pope Says Gay Marriage Poses A Threat To ‘Justice And Peace’ In World Day Of Peace 2013 Address

Posted: 12/14/2012 5:18 pm EST | Updated: 12/14/2012 8:08 pm EST

Pope Benedict XVI said this week that gay marriage poses a threat to “justice and peace.” The 85-year-old religious leader went on to suggest that same-sex marriage is “unnatural.”

According to the Associated Press, the head of the Roman Catholic Church kicked off the Christmas season on Friday with the traditional lighting of the tree in Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square. On the same day, the Holy See released the Pope’s message for World Day of Peace 2013.

As Gay Star News reports, the Pope, in his annual address, said that same-sex marriage is “unnatural” and “against human nature.”

“There is…a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union,” the Pope said, according to ANSA.

“Such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society. These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity,” he continued.

The Pope went on to suggest that support of gay marriage “constitutes an offense against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.”

According to AP, the Pope said abortion is also a threat to peace.

This is not the first time that Pope Benedict has vocally opposed same-sex marriage.

Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that the religious leader had denounced gay marriage as being “insidious and dangerous.” Previously, he had called same-sex unions “a threat to humanity.”

Catholic Church Revives Abandoned Centuries-Old Tradition To Bash Gays August 7, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Religion.
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by David Badash on August 6, 2012

in International,Marriage,News,Politics,Religion

Post image for Catholic Church Revives Abandoned Centuries-Old Tradition To Bash Gays

The Catholic Church has revived a tradition originally begun in the 17th century and abandoned almost 100 years ago, to bash gay people. Following the Vatican’s’s edict to begin a gay marriage holy war, Pope Benedict XVI‘s followers have looked high and low for every opportunity to attack gay people and same-sex marriage. In France, the Catholic Church has actually issued a prayer to be used on August 15, the Prayer for the Assumption, which was begun by King Louis XIII (image, right,) under Cardinal Richelieu in 1638.

The special Prayer (Google translation) directs the faithful to pray for “those who were recently elected to legislate and govern.” France’s new President, Francois Hollande, has promised gay marriage will be the law of the land next year. The Catholic Church also is telling its believers to ask Jesus Christ to “grant us the courage to make hard choices and a better quality of life for all and vitality of our youth through strong families and loyal,” and specifically to ask Christ to ensure children “cease to be objects of desires and conflicts of adults to fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother,” a direct attack on same-sex couples adopting or raising children.

For children and young people that we help all people to discover their own path to progress towards happiness, they cease to be objects of desires and conflicts of adults to fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother.

The Advocate notes:

French bishops typically avoid entering political debates, but Reuters reports that spokesman Monsignor Bernard Podvin said the [Catholic] Church wanted to “raise the consciousness of public opinion about grave social choices.”

The prayer effort follows the Catholic Church’s outspokenness against recent plans to legalize same-sex marriage in England and Scotland. Pope Benedict XVI denounced the momentum for marriage equality in the United States during a visit of American bishops to the Vatican in March.

A Reuters report confirms the purpose of the Prayer.

In May, the Pope told Catholics they should become more political and ignore what the Bible teaches about politics. Speaking in Tuscany, the Pope urged the melding of Church and State, and told listeners to be “the engine of society in promoting peace through justice.”

The Catholic Church in France did not explain why only heterosexual couples should be allowed to raise children, nor does the Prayer direct the faithful to pray for the victims of pedophile priests.


Catholic Church Castrated Homosexual Boys And Those Who Accused Priests Of Abuse

Vatican Declares Gay Marriage Holy War, Forms Worldwide Religions Coalition

Pope Proclaims Reasons For Pedophile Priests Still A ‘Mystery’


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In Riverdale, A Happy Long Life Free of Prejudice March 1, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, LGBT, Right Wing.
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www.commondreams.org, Feb. 29, 2012

by Abby Zimet

The right-wing American Family Association’s One Million Moms is freaking out because Archie comics now has not just an openly gay character, but that character getting married to his partner. Who’s black, for Jiminy Cricket’s sake. So they want Toys ‘R Us to get rid of those nasty comics right now. But Archie Comics’ CEO says he wishes Kevin Keller and his new husband all the best, thanks.

“We stand by Life with Archie #16. As I’ve said before, Riverdale is a safe, welcoming place that does not judge anyone. It’s an idealized version of America that will hopefully become reality someday.”

Gay Marriage: The 21 Century’s Most Successful Pro-Family Policy January 7, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Human Rights, LGBT.
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 Roger’s note: I tend to avoid commenting on the Alice in Wonderland world of the Republican nomination race; my mind simply refuses to go down the hole.  I am posting this article not because of its discussion of the candidate Santorum (who happens to be a sad example of a human being by any standard), but becuase of its reminding us that, beyond the civil rights issues for same sex couples, the phenomenon of gay and lesbian marriage has a very positive and humanistic impact on the notion of family and its broader importance within society.

By Conor Friedersdorf

Jan 5 2012, 4:14 PM ET 147

Rick Santorum would forbid it and nullify existing unions. So how can he claim to be the most pro-family candidate?
There are an estimated 131,729 same-sex married couples in the United States, a Census Bureau figure that would be significantly higher if not for the fact that the vast majority of jurisdictions still prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying. Still, more than a quarter of a million gay people are married to one another. And it’s worth explicitly pondering what that means.
For wedded gays and lesbians, it means more financial stability, more emotional stability, better access to health care, hospital visitation rights, and fewer legal burdens in the event of their partner’s death. It means a more formal investment in their relationship, and in many cases, vows uttered before family and friends to strengthen their union. It means emotional fulfillment, and the end of the feeling of being discriminated against by one’s own government, a valuable thing in itself.
And for the one-third of lesbians and one-fifth of gay men who are parents? For them, It means more stability for their children, plus an opportunity for their socialization into what a loving marriage looks like. For society as a whole, it means gay people share in the same method of family formation as their parents, their straight colleagues, and their heterosexual friends. It means that gay culture is more invested than it would otherwise be in the success of marriage as an institution and in the norm of long-term coupling.
Compared to the old status quo, wherein gay couples were everywhere prohibited from marrying, and often made less financially secure, healthy, and happy as a result — wherein the children of gays and lesbians enjoyed less stability — the advance of gay marriage has been the most important and successful pro-family reform of the 21st century, and it’s only going to expand as more jurisdictions permit same-sex unions as younger people vote their conscience.
There are, of course, Americans who are opposed to gay marriage. Barack Obama, for example, turned against equal rights for gays so that he could advance politically. But Obama’s shameful political calculation isn’t going to do anything to prevent states from making gay marriage legal, nor does he threaten the unions that have already been entered into.
Rick Santorum does. The socially conservative presidential candidate, who came in a close second in the Iowa caucuses, sells himself as a family-friendly pol. There is some truth to that. As Ross Douthat put it, he has:

distinguished himself by talking about issues that most Republicans don’t want to touch — the problem of middle-class wage stagnation and the declining social mobility of the poor. Santorum has also framed these issues, correctly, in the context of the crisis in family life that social conservatives have been worrying about for years, making the essential point that absent fathers and broken homes play a greater role in middle America’s struggles than the supposed perfidies of the richest 1 percent. Somewhat disappointingly, Santorum’s specific proposals have focused on reviving manufacturing (and with it, in theory, the solid blue-collar paycheck) rather than targeting family policy directly. But one can doubt his cure and still appreciate his diagnosis.

Douthat later added that “thanks to Rich Lowry’s column on Santorum today, I’m reminded that the former senator has called for tripling the deduction for each dependent child. This falls short of my family-friendly tax policy ideal, but (as Lowry writes) it makes Santorum’s agenda ‘the most pro-family of any on offer from the GOP candidates,’ and my praise should have been more unqualified.”
In fact, the qualification should’ve been different.
Santorum isn’t “pro-family” so much as he is “pro-family for people whose family doesn’t include anyone gay.” He regards marriage as a force for good in the lives of couples who enter into it and their children. He is willing to deny those benefits to gay families, because he believes — without any evidence — that keeping gay marriage illegal will benefit straight unions.
What would he do about the quarter of a million people who’ve already established stable families by entering into same sex marriages? He would destabilize the family lives of those people. He explained that in a recent interview with Chuck Todd, where he touted his preference for a constitutional amendment codifying marriage at the federal level as a relationship between a man and a woman:

SANTORUM: I think marriage has to be one thing for everybody. We can’t have 50 different marriage laws in this country, you have to have one marriage law…
TODD: What would you do with same-sex couples who got married? Would you make them get divorced?
SANTORUM: Well, their marriage would be invalid. I think if the Constitution says “marriage is this,” then people whose marriage is not consistent with the Constitution… I’d love to think there’s another way of doing it.

I presume everyone reading this post is either married or is close to someone who is married, whether it’s parents or close friends or a boss or teacher or colleague. Think of that married couple. That family. Imagine if they got a letter in the mail informing them that by order of the federal government, their marriage is no longer valid. I submit that a man who would send out letters like that to gay and lesbian married couples does not deserve to be labeled as the candidate with the most pro-family agenda. His desire to invalidate the unions of people who are already married, some of whom have kids — to invalidate existing families by federal mandate — makes him arguably the least pro-family candidate, despite his other pro-family positions.
The more than a quarter of a million families with a gay married couple at their core are not disconnected from American society. They have extended families: brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, friends who come over every Thanksgiving — and for all these extended families, for everyone who has a gay person in their extended family, Rick Santorum isn’t a pro-family candidate, because he is hostile to their family as it actually exists, and would invalidate it by decree if he could. Are we to regard targeted tax cuts as the more important stance?
Image credit: Reuters

Freedom Tea Party Style August 16, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties.
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What else do these freedom lovers want the government to prohibit?

Thereuptic abortion


Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and other authors



Feel free to add to the list.


Whose Fault Is It? June 25, 2011

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Latin America Progresses Forward- A Victory for Gay Rights May 26, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Human Rights, Latin America, LGBT.
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by COHA Research Associate Katie Soltis

The Brazilian Supreme Court’s recognition of same-sex unions in early May marks the latest victory for gay rights in Latin America. The Court’s ruling grants equal legal rights to same-sex civil unions as those enjoyed by married heterosexuals, including retirement benefits, joint tax declarations, inheritance rights, and child adoption.While the Supreme Court did not go so far as to legalize gay marriage, gay rights groups such as Rio de Janeiro’s Rainbow Group have nevertheless praised the decision as an “historic achievement.”1  The decision passed 10-0 with one abstention, but the justice who abstained had previously spoken in favor of same-sex unions.

An Unlikely Victory

As the world’s largest Roman Catholic country, Brazil was an unlikely venue for such a promising gay rights victory. The Roman Catholic Church has actively fought proposals for same-sex unions in Brazil, arguing that the Brazilian Constitution defines a “family entity” as “a stable union between a man and a woman.”2  The Catholic Church responded to the recent ruling with outrage. As Archbishop Anuar Battisti put it, the Supreme Court’s decision marked a “frontal assault” on the sanctity of the family.3

The Catholic Church is losing its power in Brazil, which helped pave the way for the Supreme Court’s recent decision in favor of homosexuals. Nevertheless, homophobia retains a tenacious grip on Brazilian society. Despite the fact that the nation boasts the world’s largest gay pride parade, the LGBT movement has been unable to achieve fundamental progress and quell discrimination at a societal level. For instance, Marcelo Cerqueira, the head of the Gay Group of Bahia, claims the country is “number one when it comes to assassination, discrimination and violence against homosexuals.”4  Additionally, in a disconcerting report, the Gay Group of Bahia found that 260 Brazilian gay people were murdered in 2010, exemplifying the level of hostility towards homosexuals.5  Because of this discriminating environment, gay rights activists traditionally have had little success in Brazil. Most notably, Congress disregarded proposals for gay rights legislation for nearly ten years.

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling was therefore a major turning point after a history of protracted, unsuccessful struggles. The judicial decision was made in response to two lawsuits, one of which was filed by Rio de Janeiro Governor Sérgio Cabral and the other by the Office of the Attorney General. While Congress repeatedly ignored requests for equal rights for gay Brazilian citizens, the Supreme Court argued that “Those who opt for a homosexual union cannot be treated less than equally as citizens.”6  In this way, by appealing to the judicial system, the LGBT movement was able to achieve success despite deep-seated hostility throughout Brazilian society and in other branches of the government.

Latin America’s Gay Rights Revolution

Professor Omar Encarnación of Bard College calls the recent string of gay rights legislation in Latin America a “gay rights revolution.”7  Brazil’s ruling came on the heels of several other noteworthy gay rights victories in Latin America, such as Uruguay’s legalization of same-sex civil unions in 2007. Shortly thereafter, in 2010, Argentina became the first Latin American nation and eighth nation worldwide to legalize gay marriage. Other landmark decisions in the past few years include Uruguay’s decision to allow all men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, to serve in the military and Mexico City’s legalization of same-sex civil unions.

The recent surge in gay rights victories throughout Latin America is altogether stunning, considering the region has generally been regarded as very homophobic. The Catholic Church has traditionally been a formidable enemy to gay rights movements in the region, but the secularization of much of Latin America has led to the impressive expansion of opportunities for gay rights movements.
Yet this success of gay rights movements throughout Latin America cannot be attributed solely to the declining importance of religion in the region. It is equally important, if not more so, to recognize the vital roles played by gay activist groups and the dynamic strategies these groups employ. For instance, gay rights groups in Brazil were able to reverse legislation banning gays from the workplace by forming partnerships with progressive businesses. In recent years, the use of social media has provided much of the gay movement’s momentum by enhancing activist groups’ ability to communicate and spread information. For instance, as Javier Corrales notes, by simply posting a video of a hate crime in San Juan or of a gay wedding in Argentina on YouTube, gay rights groups have been able to reach thousands of people and garner support.8  These innovative strategies have brought success despite a notably hostile environment towards homosexuals.


Through a comparison with the United States, we can see how remarkable the success of gay rights in Latin America has been. Latin America is marked by a much more homophobic environment than the U.S., according to a survey conducted by Mitchell Seligson and Daniel Moreno Morales.9  However, although the U.S. has lower levels of societal discrimination towards gays, it is hard to imagine that the United States would completely legalize same-sex civil unions or gay marriage on a national scale. The fact that this legalization occurred in several Latin American nations, despite the formidable opposition there, makes these recent rulings even more significant.

Furthermore, the recent victories for gay rights exemplify the considerable progress toward the region’s consolidation of democracy. The three Latin American countries that have now legalized same-sex unions—Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay—were each ruled by repressive military regimes just over two decades ago. Even Colombia, which is one of the region’s worst human rights violators, granted same-sex unions equal rights regarding social security benefits and inheritance rights in 2007. The fact that gay liberation movements have been successful in these unlikely places is a testament to how far these countries have progressed in recent years.

References for this article can be found here

The problem with gay men today April 23, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT.
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Saturday, Apr 23, 2011 18:01 ET

Outspoken activist Larry Kramer wants to know why this generation is so apathetic while he’s still so angry

By Thomas Rogers

The problem with gay men today

Wikipedia/David Shankbone
Larry Kramer

To say Larry Kramer is polarizing is like saying Rush Limbaugh is a little bit conservative. The Pulitzer-nominated playwright, screenwriter, author and activist has been one of the most controversial figures in American gay life over the past 30 years. He first incensed gay men in 1978 with “Faggots,” his eerily prescient novel that critiqued the gay community’s culture of promiscuity. And as a co-founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis and the founder of ACT UP, the influential AIDS activist group, he became one of the most strident and passionate voices in the early years of the AIDS crisis. While making countless enemies, most notably New York Mayor Ed Koch, he was one of the people most responsible for drawing attention to the disease.

Over the last decade and a half, as AIDS has transitioned from a death sentence to largely treatable and gay culture has transitioned from the margins to somewhere closer to the mainstream, Kramer has remained (almost) as angry as ever. In 2005, he published “The Tragedy of Today’s Gays,” a transcript of a speech in which he attacked the younger generation of gay men for their apathy over gay causes and accused them of condemning their “predecessors to nonexistence.”

Next week, Kramer’s politics will get another turn in the spotlight when his 1985 play, “The Normal Heart,” opens on Broadway for the very first time. The largely autobiographical story centers on a group of gay men in the early days of the AIDS epidemic and stars Joe Mantello as Ned Weeks, a Kramer-esque activist desperately trying to draw attention to the plague, alongside a cast that includes Ellen Barkin, Lee Pace and “The Big Bang Theory’s” Jim Parsons. The play remains a highly effective, moving work that brutally conveys the desperation and terror that accompanied the emergence of AIDS. But nowadays, it also doubles as a history lesson for people who grew up long after the first wave — a role that Kramer sees as vital.

Salon spoke to Larry Kramer in his New York apartment about the importance of “The Normal Heart,” iPhone’s Grindr app and the problem with young gay men.

I saw a preview of the play last night with a friend. I think many of the ideas in the play will seem exotic and a little dated to a lot of young gay men. 

Like what?

Like the idea of promiscuity as a political statement and that it would be treasonous or controversial for gay men to tell other gay men not to have sex, or to have sex with a condom. What do you think young people should take away from the play?

It’s our history. We’re gay. This was part of our history. This was the most horrible thing the gay population ever lived through. And yet it also represented — later on, with ACT UP, and the getting of AIDS drugs — the most spectacular achievement the gay population ever had. We gays did that.

I don’t know why so many gay men don’t want to know their history. I don’t know why they turned their back on the older generation as if they don’t want to have anything to do with them. I would like us to get beyond that.

But do you really think that lack of interest in history is particular to this generation?

You tell me.

Well, I’m 27, and I know that my formative images of gay life had nothing to do with AIDS. Ellen came out of the closet when I was in junior high and “Will & Grace” made gayness seem like a consumer identity more than anything else. Gayness wasn’t really linked with sickness is my mind, and so those early AIDS battles, I think, seem very alien to a lot of young people’s experiences.

I don’t know. I could understand what you’re saying. Sometimes when I go to schools, kids say that they’re taught to be non-confrontational or non-participatory now, almost like it’s not cool to have opinions and express them, which is sad. I hope we’re coming out of all that.

You seem to have some anger at the young gay population.

No more than the old gay population. I’m an across-the-board person. We have responsibilities toward each other, as family, as brothers and sisters. We’re all in this together. ACT UP was the most moving experience I ever had in my life. We were sick and dying and that gave everything a special glow of importance, but it showed us what we were capable of if we did do it.

You’ve had a famously acrimonious relationship with former New York Mayor Ed Koch, whose inaction about AIDS you blame for the death of many of its victims. Does he still live in this building?

Fortunately, in the other elevator bank so we don’t have to see each other. We pass occasionally, both of us making a big point of ignoring one another. As you may know, I once ran into him where we get our mail. He bent to pet my dog and I yanked her away and said something like: “No, Molly, that’s the man who murdered all of Daddy’s friends.” When I first saw him in the lobby, I screamed at him: “We don’t want you here!” as loud as I could across the length of the lobby and I was told by my landlord that we would be evicted if I did it again. So I didn’t. I like my apartment too much.

Coming out of the play last night, my friend and I both felt a perverse nostalgia for those early AIDS years we never lived through. They were obviously utterly terrifying and filled with sadness, but there’s also something appealing about having this galvanizing issue to unite gay men. We don’t have that as much now.

There are these issues now. It’s just that you don’t think of them as galvanizing, mainly because they’re not so life and death. I cite marriage, although I’m sort of fed up with how long it’s taken and I think we’ve gone about it the wrong way. I’m 76, and my partner is 64. I’ll obviously die before he does, and the way the laws are written it’s very hard to leave him anything of substance compared to what I have to leave. It all goes to taxes because we’re not legally federally married and that’s not fair, that’s just not fair. You don’t care about it at your age, but I care about it at mine, and there are a lot of older gays who should care about it as well. That should be a galvanizing issue. Anything that keeps us from being unequal should be galvanizing. I want what they have. I do. And everybody should. But again, people don’t think that way.

What has frustrated you about the move toward gay marriage in the country?

Just that it’s taken forever. I don’t think we should have taken the state by state approach because it just makes it go on, and then you have to re-sue and defend. Things need to go to the Supreme Court as fast as possible. There were ways it could have gone to the Supreme Court a lot earlier. If we lose at the Supreme Court, which everyone was afraid of, you just come back again. These [state] marriage we have don’t amount to anything. They’re feel-good marriages. They make relationships stronger and all that, but they don’t amount to a hill of beans in terms of anything legal or financial. You still need to pay federal taxes and you don’t get any of these benefits the government pays you if you’re heterosexually married.

The play suggests that one of the reasons there was so much meaningless sex in the gay community in the 1980s was because there was no gay marriage. Now that state marriages exist, do you think there’s been a cultural shift away from that meaningless sexual culture?

I think there’s still an awful lot of meaningless sex going on and the infection figures are still much too high and going up, so obviously there’s still too much careless sex going on. I don’t want to come out of this sounding like this prude. I never said don’t have sex, but what’s so hard about using rubbers? It doesn’t seem to require much intelligence to figure that one out. I don’t have much sympathy for people who seroconvert now, who know about AIDS. I don’t care if you were on drugs or whether you were out of it in the heat of passion or whatever. Your cock is a lethal instrument. It can murder people.

Are you familiar with Grindr, the iPhone gay sex app?


It’s an iPhone application that shows you how far away other gay men are, so you can have sex with them.

No. I’d be happy to use it now if I thought it would do anything. I get horny just like anybody else, and David [Webster, Kramer’s partner] and I have been together a long time, so our relationship is now something else. I joined Daddyhunt or Manhunt and all those things, and posted my pictures, and filled out my questionnaire. And I got absolutely no response from anyone and it led me to wonder: What do older men do? It’s very sad that suddenly there’s no way to partake in all of this.

The interesting thing about Grindr is that it creates this map of your surroundings that’s really catered to gay men. You can log into it in your apartment and suddenly there are 100 people around you looking to hook up.

It sounds wonderful. I’m not against sex, I’m against being irresponsible. We have bodies and we should enjoy them, but we shouldn’t treat each other as things. That’s what it came to be in the [1970s] height of Fire Island [the gay party mecca], and I guess you could say the same about this Grindr thing.

It seems like the intense over-the-top party culture that Fire Island embodies — the kitschy nightclubs and circuit parties — are in the process of disappearing. I honestly don’t think they appeal to young gay people in the way they used to.

They were very drug-induced escapes. You really had to power your body for an enormous number of hours with an enormous amount of help. Someone said something interesting recently to me about why people did so many drugs in the 1970s: “It’s because it made it less painful, less difficult, less arduous, the life we led outside of the gay world.” Fire Island itself was and still is enormously competitive. You’re bartering with your body. Maybe people are more content with the sex online. I don’t know. I don’t see the gay world anymore. I don’t see it visually on the streets like we used to see it. I don’t know where it is. Do you?

Well, I think it’s less visible, and a lot of that has to do with the Internet. Gay ghettos are emptying out. There are fewer gay bars than there were before. And I think young gay people are more comfortable inhabiting the straight world and straight environments. I also think people have more straight friends.

Well, I’m glad I’m not your age anymore. Being gay was so much fun. And there were so many of us to have fun with — just being part of a very, very visible world where you saw people all the time and you socialized. I don’t see it now. I know they’re here. I know they’re in this building, but I don’t even know them as gay, even though I know they’re gay.

I am a gay person before I’m anything else. I’m a gay person before I’m a white person, before I’m a Jew, before I’m a writer, before I’m American, anything. That is my most identifying characteristic and I don’t find many people who would say that. The polls say the same thing: People do not identify themselves as gay. And that’s too bad. In fact, it’s tragic. It will prevent us from ever having what we deserve, I believe.

  • Thomas Rogers is Salon’s Deputy Arts Editor.

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