Monday, October 12, 2009

Rainbow High

It's been a week sprinkled with fairy dust here in DC. Saturday night's swanky fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign made a bit of history with its keynote speaker, Barack Obama. He is the first sitting president to attend such a function, and gave what some claim was a speech full of the same pro gay-rights rhetoric which helped his election. He continues to promise to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, and to work to revoke the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which cowardly Bill Clinton signed into law (Clinton claims to regret that decision, an easy remark to make, now that he will never be running for office again). Anyhoo, the current president is receiving mixed marks about everything from everybody of late (except the Nobel committee), and has made nary a move to fulfill the promises he made to the gay community during his campaign. Many 'mos are tired of waiting.

That was apparent at the Equality March on Sunday. Tens of thousands of gays and straights marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, passing in front of the White House on their way to the Capitol, where they gathered to rally for Equality Across America. They had a lovely day for it, beginning with, appropriately enough, wisps of a rainbow:

Folks came from around the country to attend, including a nice contingent from Broadway (a place rife with homosexuality, from what I hear). Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon, who has been a lesbian for several years now, spoke, and musical theatre cutie Gavin Creel brought his tribe from the current revival of Hair. (In fact, the producers shuttered the show for the day, to enable the entire cast and crew to attend the rally. Let the Sunshine In!)

Attendance at the rally exceeded expectations, but who knows how much good it may do. Some think such rallies are meaningless, including the highest-ranking gay elected official in the United States, Barney Frank. Earlier this week, he called the planned rally "useless." Thanks, Barney.

Someone who never thinks such gatherings are useless, who has become a recurring presence at gay rallies for the past decade, is Judy Shepard. She was thrust into the role of activist when her son Matthew was pistol whipped by a couple of homo-hating thugs and strapped to a fence to die. Today marks the eleventh anniversary of that horrendous hate crime (I wrote a bit about it last year), and to mark the occasion, a world-wide theatrical event is happening, as I write these words. The folks behind The Laramie Project, which documented the reactions of the locals to the Matthew Shepard murder, returned to that infamous Wyoming town to see if attitudes had changed in the past decade. The Laramie Project, Ten Years Later, An Epilogue is being presented in staged readings across the country tonight. Glenn Close is leading a starry cast at Lincoln Center, while Richard Dreyfus is participating in California. Here in DC, Arena Stage is producing the local event.

I heard a report on the new play on NPR, and am frustrated by the level of denial the residents of Laramie, WY continue to have. It seems easier for some folks there to remember the murder as a drug deal or robbery "gone bad." The victim was beaten senseless, stripped to his underwear, then lashed to a fence and left to die; exactly how is that a robbery gone bad?

As much as I believe in the power of live theatre, this new piece will not have the same force as the legislation which just passed the House of Representatives on Thursday. "Hate Crimes" will now include gay, lesbian, and transgender people; once the measure is approved by the Senate, it will give federal authorities the ability to prosecute hate crime offenders when local authorities fail to do so. The bill carries Matthew Shepard's name.

There are a couple of other pieces of gay legislation on the horizon (I'm not sure what "gay legislation" actually encompasses. I guess it means any gay law which sleeps with another gay law). Voters in Maine will head to the polls in November to ratify, or reject, their own legislature's recent law allowing same-sex marriage. In much the same way that California's Prop 8 referendum reversed existing law, those lobster-catchers up north are poised to do the same.

Closer to home, the DC City Council will soon be voting on a measure to legalize same-sex marriage here. The nation's capital already recognizes such unions from other jurisdictions, and is now poised to allow the ceremonies to take place here. The measure has received the vehement objections of council member, former mayor, and convicted felon Marion Barry (I am continuously confused by the widespread resistance to this issue by blacks, who ought to know a thing or two about having civil rights withheld). Despite Barry's objections, the bill is likely to be passed; it will then be sent to the United States Congress for ratification.

For those of you in ignorance, all DC city ordinances, taxes, proclamations, and EVERYTHING must be approved by the federal government. (This while DC residents do not have a voting member of either House of Congress...don't get me started on this again.) Word has it that the usual right-wing subjects will mouth off about the bill for a while, but their objections will not prevent the bill from becoming law. The Republicans have their hands full preventing health care to all Americans, and will apparently not have the political capital to fight this particular fight.

It seems likely, then, that the District of Columbia will become one of the very few places in the nation to allow same-sex marriages to be performed, as well as sanctioned.

And speaking of same-sex marriages, this week of rainbow news is being crowned by George Takei, of all people. Star Trek's Sulu and his husband (they were legally wed in California and, so far, that marriage remains legal) have become the first same-sex couple to appear on The Newlywed Game, which I did not even know was back in production. Apparently, that risque old chestnut has been revived by the Game Show Network, and its second season premiere episode, airing tonight, features Takei and spouse, going where No Man Has Gone Before. Kirk would be so proud.