The actor and the judge

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com August 14 2005 11:00 PM ET

Chad Allen has
amazing energy. In both senses: He’s got the stamina
and enthusiasm to multitask as an actor, producer, and
activist, and he carries with him an intoxicatingly
positive aura. If you happen to run into him at a
fund-raiser for some worthy queer cause, you’re
quickly enveloped in the upbeat atmosphere that
surrounds him. Just chatting with him makes you feel
like anything good is also possible.

Not all gay
actors have that kind of vibe. One closeted Hollywood
A-lister in particular comes to mind. I’ve never met
him in person—he’s too busy lying about
his private life to dare to attend gay rights
benefits. (He probably doesn’t much care about that
stuff anyway.) But we’ve all seen him on
television or at awards shows. He always comes across
as immensely pleased with himself, as if he’s the
only one who really appreciates the joke of his thinly
veiled double life. His smug smile just makes you want
to slap him.

He does not emit
good energy.

I’m sure
he tells himself that being closeted is just good business.
We moviegoers have to be able to imagine him as
someone else, so the less we know, the more we can
project onto him whatever qualities will make us like
him best.

This is the same
strategic, somewhat twisted thinking that has brought us
Judge John G. Roberts Jr., George W. Bush’s first
pick to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Roberts has a
role to play too: the accomplished gentleman, the
reasonable conservative. A judge for just two years,
he’s left no clue how he’ll rule on many
hot-button issues, including whether the
Constitution’s equal protection clause applies to gay
and lesbian Americans.

As I write this,
advocates for equality are feverishly probing
Roberts’s past in search of any glint of the
bigotry and contrariness that shine off justices
Scalia and Thomas. (The Advocate will have two
stories on Roberts in our next issue, closer to the opening
of his Senate confirmation hearings.) The New
Yorker
has already predicted he’ll vote
against gay rights advocates in FAIR v. Rumsfeld, a
case in which law schools are arguing that their First
Amendment rights are violated by a law that strips
federal funding from schools that don’t allow
military recruiters on campus. But that’s guesswork.
Bush selected Roberts specifically because he believed
the man was a tabula rasa, a stealth candidate.

With his judicial
orientation largely closeted, Americans are supposed to
project onto Roberts whatever qualities they’d most
like to see in a Supreme Court justice. Conservatives
hope he’ll get an easy confirmation, then cast
himself in a new role: the latest archconservative activist
judge to join the nation’s highest court.

My own impression
of Roberts was sealed the moment I saw him striding
alongside Bush down a White House hallway on their way to
announce his nomination. He could barely contain his
glee and seemed about to break into a jig at any
moment. (His 4-year-old son went ahead and danced
throughout the photo op.) Roberts looked like the spoiled
little boy who gets even more than his life of
privilege has led him to expect. His smug smile
reminded me of a certain closeted actor.

He radiated
energy, all right, but it was not, in that brief appearance,
good energy. What’s in Roberts’s closet?
Let’s hope we find out before it’s too
late.