In Politics, The Advocate presents the latest news about the political world. From Supreme Court rulings to state and federal laws, we report on how politics shapes the day-to-day realities faced by members of the gay community. Read about LGBT leaders like Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin, and their work to advance the LGBT rights movement in the United States and around the world. Learn about legislation related to same-sex marriage, adoption, and other issues in gay politics that will impact the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

COMMENTARY: I rarely watch television. Time is precious, and I don’t want to waste it. But I have tuned in several times to watch Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the man who denies, among many other things, the existence of gay people in his country.

These have been depressing experiences. I can’t help but ask myself, What happened to American journalism? What happened to the art of the interview?

Maybe Larry King, Katie Couric, and Christiane Amanpour should have read Oriana Fallaci’s book Interview With History. Oriana Fallaci perfected the art of the interview. The book is a collection of her conversations with some of the most famous politicians in recent history, from towering figures like Golda Meir and Henry Kissinger to bloody murderers like Yasser Arafat and the shah of Iran. Fallaci’s interviews were always direct and uncompromising. She would never let her target escape. She would bombard her interviewees with questions without ever allowing them to change the topic. When an interviewee would try to become evasive and talk around a question, the conversation would turn almost into an interrogation — until the interviewee would surrender and answer the question. Sometimes repeating the same question more than 10 times, Fallaci would immediately confront any lie or half-truth.

In order to interview the shah, Fallaci went to Iran. She was not intimidated, not afraid (or maybe she was, but it never showed it in her questioning). Fallaci was fearless. She didn’t ask questions a la Barbara Walters: “If you were a tree, what kind would you be?” Christopher Hitchens once said that her interviews with heads of state “make today’s big-name interviewers look like powder puffs.” Henry Kissinger said that his interview with Fallaci was the most disastrous conversation he ever had — she exposed him as a self-righteous, pompous egomaniac.

But Ahmadinejad’s conversations with Larry King and Katie Couric were definitely not a disaster for him.

September 23 2010 4:10 PM

It's a big moment for the Log Cabin Republicans — the group is strategizing for the November election, battling with state GOP parties to stop antigay language from being added to their various platforms, and its lawsuit against "don't ask, don't tell," launched by Log Cabin years ago, heads to a California court July 13. Amid all this, R. Clarke Cooper took the reins as Log Cabin's executive director less than a month ago. An Army Reserve captain and former staffer for George W. Bush, Cooper most recently served as chief of staff at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Now, ensconced in his new position, Cooper discussed the future of Log Cabin and how he's working to end DADT and change the Republican Party from within.

The Advocate: There's been a wave of virulent antigay and antitransgender GOP platforms being released from Texas to Montana to Idaho. What's LCR's take on that?

R. Clarke Cooper: In many cases, these platforms are draft documents. I know that’s not the direction the national party is going in. Looking to 2010, the GOP is looking for a more inclusive party focused on core conservative issues that are not social issues: individual liberties, individual responsibility, strong defense.

That’s not the direction Log Cabin wants the party, and I can’t imagine big R, wants the party going. The platforms didn’t even follow the normal protocol of being confirmed by the state party. That came out from a small group of folks who did not consult with the larger group. Externally, it caused a firestorm. Internally, it caused a lot of issue. You’d be hard-pressed to find any elected official who would put their arm around [the Texas] platform.


What made you want to take the job at LCR?
I didn't choose to be gay, I chose to be a Republican. I am a Republican. I am also a gay man. There's obviously a lot of work to do in education and communication on both sides. Republicans are voters, donors, elected leaders; you don't have to be mutually exclusive, just like one does not have to be mutually exclusive as being a person of faith and being gay or lesbian, and the same can be applied with politics as well. Part of that is that there's this attitude my late father always had about any organization, it doesn't matter if it's a scout troop or the PTA, if you want it to effect any kind of reform, the best way to do that is to be inside. Because if you're not inside there's not very much you can do except make observations. But if you're there, you actually have a greater role and a greater responsibility to engage and bring about whatever kind of change you want to see happen.

What kind of goals have you set for yourself and for Log Cabin?
I walked into this fallow field that needed to be tilled, and so from an internal aspect, there's a lot that needs to be done for our current membership. You've got like 30,000 to 40,000 gay and lesbian Republicans who make up the Log Cabin Republican body at large and our chapters across the country. Those people need to be tended to. On the external side, there's a lot of reconciliation that needs to be done with the Republican national committee — having the party getting back to core, conservative principles of individual liberty, individual responsibility, free-market economy, strong national defense, foreign policy, advancing U.S. interests, tax reform. But getting us back to those principles versus looking at or worrying about identity politics, social issues, or issues that would be divisive to conservatives is important. There's the internal aspect of rallying the troops, taking care of what I call the party faithful — gay and lesbians who feel like they've not had an active role in the organization. Getting them reenergized. Getting them back into the larger body and partnership with the Republican National Committee. But also holding the party accountable so we can't be taken advantage of.

The first week on the job, I was called to the RNC and participated in an event called Remembering Reagan at the invitation of chairman Michael Steele. It probably has helped LCR that I'm a Bush-Cheney alumnus, so I have the bona fides, or party credentials. I served in the Bush administration as on openly gay appointee, by the way, served Jeb Bush, started out my political career serving Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida.

I've not even been on the job a full month, but my goal as far as making us more relevant is two-pronged — reenergizing our current membership base and getting the number of disaffected gay and lesbian voters who have been registered Republicans but either, for very good reasons, walked away from the party or felt like the party walked away from them, and building that bridge again. I hope to reestablish activity between Log Cabin Republicans and the RNC. In my short time on the job, I'm proud to say we've disbursed political action committee funding to a number of Republican candidates, but of course we're doing it in a fashion that is, "Are they Republicans who are good on touchstone issues for LCR voters: repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' positive stance on marriage equality, a positive stance on domestic-partnership benefits?" These members include, again, my old boss, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Charles Djou, the newest member to the House, not only the newest Republican, but the newest member at all from Hawaii. Joseph Cao, we just gave him a check this week. He represents a district down in Louisiana, actually includes a big chunk of New Orleans. I'm going to be giving another PAC check to Judy Biggert from Illinois. That's another way of communicating and messaging to the party that we're serious and can provide additional boots on the ground. For that to work, we're going to reward the members that are working with us.

Editor's Note: Initially, the article asserted that Cooper said he did not choose to be Republican. He actually stated that he did choose.

June 30 2010 4:20 PM

At just 24 years old and with a meager $150 in campaign finances, earlier this week, Matthew Vanderpool pulled off the unthinkable, beating an Air Force veteran and a lawyer to win the Democratic primary for the 45th district of Kentucky's house of
representatives. Now, as the openly gay candidate gears up to face one of the state's most notoriously antigay politicians, Vanderpool talks to The Advocate about what made him run, what he expects from campaign season, and why he's sick of hearing politicians talk.  

The Advocate: Why did you decide to run against incumbent Rep. Stan Lee?
Matthew Vanderpool: I got into it originally because I just couldn't stand Stan Lee. But that eventually went away, and I started thinking about how tired I was of hearing politicians talk. We need people in there that are actually going to do stuff, and work with the people. I've said throughout the entire campaign thus far — Stan's been in office since 2001, and I've always believed that if you stay in office that long, you start to lose focus on why you got in there, and it just becomes a job. You lose that passion, and that drive that got you in there in the first place. They start to think, Oh, I'll just keep running, but you can't do that to people. So I believe that even though I am as young as I am, my knowledge and enthusiasm can get the things done that need to be done. I don't like the term "politician." I don't consider myself one. I keep saying "public servant."

Have you always been interested in politics?
Honestly, I know this sounds corny, but I remember telling my mom, as far back as I can remember, "Mom, I want to go into politics. I want to help people." I think that's why I ran at 24. I guess I just waited until I was legally old enough to run, to achieve this dream of mine.

Despite facing an Air Force veteran and an attorney, you won this
primary with minimal advertising. How were you able to win over your
opponents with such a strategy?

I believed that you have to speak to everybody. I didn't even care if I
was talking to someone who didn't live in my district. I spoke to
everybody. Even the homeless down in Lexington. I guess that's how my
name got out there. I was shocked. I was sitting down there at City
Hall, because I wanted to be hands-on in my first campaign. I was
obviously really excited, and I was sitting there thinking, "There's no
way I'm going to win this. I've only raised $150, and my opponents have
raised $6000, and now that I look back, it's really just speaking to the
people. I never turned down an event I was invited to, I felt honored
to be invited to those events. I figured if someone wants to hear me
speak, I couldn't turn it down. I think it was just staying true to
myself, and speaking to everybody across the country. I wanted to hear
people's stories, and what was bothering them. I think they got kinda
shocked when they would ask me, "What are you going to do for me?"
because I would reply to them with, "Well, what do you want me to do?"

May 19 2010 7:45 PM

Rarely have I been more journalistically frustrated by a story than that of Elena Kagan’s sexuality this week. And rarely have I felt more grateful to another journalist, Politico’s Ben Smith, for finding a credible source to settle the question and put me out of my misery.

First off, as a reporter, I like nothing less than engaging in wild speculation, especially in my writing, about things for which I have no evidence.

Heading into this week, based on informal conversations I’d had about Kagan and background interviews with the White House, I had no reason to believe Kagan is a lesbian. So on Monday we at The Advocate focused our reporting on the substantive matter of whether her potential recusals from critical LGBT cases could adversely affect the outcomes of those lawsuits were she to be confirmed.

Yet people wanted answers. Advocate.com readers were as anxious as anyone for confirmation or denial of the rumors about Kagan. One reader on our website actually scolded, “Hey, Advocate, is it too much to ask that your reporters actually compose an article informing the GLBT community on something important like this?”

Plenty of mainstream reporters chatted me up about Kagan — some wondering what I actually knew about her sexuality, even if they felt sheepish for asking, and others looking for advice on how to cover the issue.

This is not the first time. In last year’s lead-up to President Obama’s first Supreme Court nomination, one mainstream reporter who was wrestling with how to approach the sexuality of nominees who had not yet been identified as openly gay, sent me an e-mail wondering, “How are you dealing with the fact that a bunch of the front-runners for SCOTUS are gay, but not exactly out?”

I sympathize with my mainstream brethren here in Washington. Outing people or trying to determine their sexuality has never been something that drives me as a reporter. It can also take an extraordinary amount of time unless someone just stumbles into coverage like Family Research Council cofounder George Alan Rekers did last week.

May 12 2010 6:35 PM

Brittany Novotny sent a letter to Oklahoma state representative Sally Kern this week — she of the quotable statements "Gays are a bigger threat to the nation than terrorism or even Islam" and "We're trying to teach 2-year-olds that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle."

The letter was Novotny's way of introducing herself, letting Kern know she plans to run against her in the upcoming election after several of Kern's constituents encouraged Novotny to take on the challenge.

"In your nearly six years in the legislature, statements you’ve made and positions you’ve taken on issues have encouraged division instead of unity and pushed new business away from Oklahoma," she wrote. "People are ready for a change."

But Novotny is not just another outraged citizen. The 30-year-old practicing attorney is an alumna of the University of California Hastings College of the Law, a member of the national Democratic Party, and the first transgender person to chair the Young Democrats' LGBT Caucus. After running her own law practice for four years, Novotny took a position with the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 916, where she handles cases for union members.

And she even handles her own Twitter account.

The Advocate: Did you anticipate that you would be running for office when you were younger?
Brittany Novotny: It was certainly something on my horizon — something that hoped I could do. I was involved with student government in college, and I decided it was a career that I at least hoped I could obtain.

Months before Kern was reelected in 2008 was the event that made her famous to a lot of people, when a video in which she called gays, among other things, more dangerous than terrorists was posted on the Internet. Why do you think she was reelected?
There's a lot of factors as to why she won reelection in 2008. Most Oklahomans are good people, and they really didn't agree with a lot of her comments. They may not be pro-gay rights, but they're certainly not antigay homophobes by any sense of the imagination. But that being said, it requires a lot of time, effort, and money to run a campaign, and we haven't had anyone with that kind of time or the kind of money that was needed to do the job here in house district 84. I don't think people with vote against somebody just because of something they said. They need somebody that they will vote for.

March 26 2010 12:20 PM

The morning after their stunning January 19 loss in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race, jilted Democrats felt the pull of two distinct forces as they scrambled to determine their next move. One impulse urged the party toward the center, while the other tugged it to the left. Whichever direction prevails, the road ahead for equality appears bumpy but not impossible to navigate—if the party in power can somehow articulate a clear path.

February 08 2010 9:00 AM

The White House press secretary had confirmed “don’t ask, don’t tell” was likely to be included.

January 27 2010 6:35 PM

In 2004, Andy Szekeres, then a 21-year-old budding Democratic strategist with several political campaigns already under his belt, was working as the Wisconsin LGBT field coordinator for John Kerry’s presidential campaign. Szekeres estimates that he and his team registered 26,000 new gay voters across the crucial swing state that year, and on Election Night, Kerry won the state by about 11,000 votes—less than 0.5% of the overall vote. Though the win can be attributed to the support of various constituencies, there’s no question that Wisconsin would have wound up red—not blue—if it hadn’t been for gay voters’ strong backing of the Democratic ticket.

Fast-forward five years to Maine, where social conservatives proposed and funded Question 1, a November ballot initiative that, like Proposition 8 in California, successfully repealed marriage equality in the state. Szekeres worked as finance director for No on 1/Protect Maine Equality, which opposed the initiative. But he says his experience with the Democratic Party was significantly different this time. While the national party had been more than happy to enlist the support of gay donors and campaign workers in its effort to get Kerry elected in 2004, it couldn’t be bothered to involve itself in the fight to maintain those voters’ and workers’ right to marry.

In a November e-mail to Politico’s Ben Smith, a Democratic National Committee official seemed to indicate that the party’s inaction on Question 1 stemmed from its desire not to be seen as prioritizing one cause over another. “In Maine there were over a half dozen ballot initiatives and referendums, and local municipal elections at stake, and OFA [Organizing for America, the Obama presidential campaign operation’s successor, which works within the DNC] sent an e-mail to thousands of activists encouraging them to vote in support of progressive causes and candidates,” the official wrote. In fact, it was only after prompted by The Advocate’s Washington correspondent, Kerry Eleveld, that the White House issued an oblique statement about Question 1—a reiteration of the president’s general opposition to measures aimed at rescinding marriage rights. Maine wasn’t explicitly addressed.

“I don’t think Maine was a sexy enough state for [the DNC] to invest in,” Szekeres says today, suggesting that had the battle taken place in a bigger state, the party might have taken a more active role. In 2008 the DNC wrote a $25,000 check to fight Prop. 8 (a pittance in an $83 million campaign). That involvement left many to wonder why the party didn’t do the same in Maine, where $25,000 could have paid for two days of TV ads or two weeks’ pay for 10 field organizers. The DNC did send an e-mail blast to its members in Maine reminding them to vote, but there was no mention of Question 1. That oversight was compounded when John Aravosis of AmericaBlog revealed that the party sent out a second e-mail, asking its members in Maine to make phone calls in support of the embattled Democratic governor—in New Jersey.

Szekeres’s experience is illustrative of the problem that many gay people, one of the most loyal Democratic constituencies alongside African-Americans and Jews, have vis-à-vis their relationship with the Democratic Party. “We give money to get something,” he says. “We don’t give money to get warm fuzzies. If I wanted that, I’d give money to the cat shelter.”

In the wake of the Maine defeat, a coterie of liberal bloggers and activists called for a temporary moratorium on DNC donations. The fledgling movement, which has adopted the motto “Don’t Ask, Don’t Give” and has attracted the likes of legendary gay rights activist David Mixner, hopes to discourage donations to the party until the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the repeal of both “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act. In so doing, these activists are hoping to reshape—if not completely upset—the relationship between gays and the Democratic Party. 

January 11 2010 10:00 AM


The question, printed in all-caps hysteria for a November antigay political mailer, accompanied a photograph of Houston city controller Annise Parker taking the oath of office with her partner, Kathy Hubbard, at her side. It was a last-ditch attempt by opponents to deflate Parker’s historic mayoral candidacy in the nation’s fourth-largest city — one that has opposed past gay rights ordinances.

But for Houstonians who elected Parker over the weekend, the answer is, “You’re damn right it is.”

“Tonight the voters of Houston have opened the door to history,” Parker said in a Saturday night speech after defeating former Houston city attorney Gene Locke (her partner was again by her side, as were the couple’s two children). “I acknowledge that. I embrace that. I know what this win means to many of us who never thought we could achieve high office.”

In a post-election interview with Advocate.com, Mayor-elect Parker discusses gay activism, dirty campaign tricks, and her responsibility to the LGBT community — both in Houston and on the national stage.

Advocate.com: Congratulations on your hard-won victory.
Annise Parker: Thank you very much. I certainly haven’t had a lot of sleep.

You’ve asserted that while you are now seen as a national LGBT role model, you’ve also been a local gay rights role model for 30 years.
Yes, I was a founding member of [an LGBT] student support group in 1979 at Rice University. I’ve been a state cochair of the LGBT Democrats, and I’ve worked with the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. In the 80s I was arguably one of the most visible gay activists in Houston.

December 14 2009 5:55 PM

The Velvet Mafia has yet to break the pink ceiling within the Senate or inside governors' mansions, but gays and lesbians have successfully invaded the power circles of America's biggest cities. Sam Adams runs Portland, Ore., Christine Quinn is the speaker of the New York city council, and in December, Annise Parker has a good shot at becoming Houston's first lesbian mayor. In Los Angeles, Matt Szabo took over one of the top spots in city government when he was announced as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's deputy chief of staff in September. The 33-year-old Southern California native talks to Advocate.com about his new job at City Hall, Proposition 8, and balancing (or not balancing) career and love.

Advocate.com: What exactly does your job entail?
Matt Szabo: Everything. I report to the chief of staff and the mayor on all of the issues under their purview, which include the budget, labor relations, public safety, gang reduction, intergovernmental affairs, etc. But my specific charge in the administration is to be the administration’s problem solver. And in my prior role in the press office I’m used to immediate responses and crisis management, and that’s essential to my role within this administration.

How did you start in politics?
I was a graduate student at the University of Southern California and was fortunate enough to get an internship in the office of former mayor Richard Riordan. I was working for a deputy mayor who liked my work, and he hired me after a couple of months. Then I held a couple of positions in Mayor Riordan’s office, dealing with state politics and serving as a liaison to the city council and continued on with Mayor Riordan on his [unsuccessful] campaign for [California] governor. I then worked after that campaign for state councilwoman, now controller Wendy Gruel, city attorney Rocky Delgadillo, and then ran the communications for one of the Mayor Villaraigosa’s opponents in the 2005 election. After which he hired me to work in his press office.

Mayor Villaraigosa is a staunch supporter of gay rights, including same-sex marriage. Would you be able to work for a mayor who was less of a gay advocate?
I don’t think so. I think that for me it is a threshold issue. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work for a number of elected officials who all supported gay rights and ultimately same-sex marriage. That’s particularly what I admired initially about Mayor Riordan who was a Republican, but who held firm in his support for gay rights, even to his political detriment. I don’t think there is a stronger advocate of gay rights or same-sex marriage than Mayor Villaraigosa, particularly among straight elected officials. He has been a supporter of gay rights since well before he was an elected official, for decades before it was the “in thing” among Democrats.

Has being gay made any impact, positive or negative, on your career?
I’ve had the opportunity to represent the concerns and interests of the community in this office and the offices I served previously. But I also think that working in Los Angeles, we are fortunate here, and I’m [in this job] because of my qualifications, not because I checked a box. But I also know that L.A., San Francisco, and New York are still the outliers. And the mayor understands when he is fighting for rights for gays and lesbians, it isn’t just for people living in Los Angeles. It’s important that we continue to support gay rights for those who are not fortunate enough to live in cities as open as Los Angeles. 

November 19 2009 5:30 PM