By Jon Barrett
Originally published on Advocate.com July 15 2010 4:40 PM ET
We all, whether we’re gay or straight, get hunches about our coworkers. And after working as an editor at Oprah Winfrey’s O at Home magazine for a couple years, I had a certain feeling about editor-at-large Gayle King: that she was an incredibly open-minded and openhearted woman. Although many of the short conversations she and I shared before or after editorial meetings revolved around politics (Gayle sometimes e-mailed me YouTube clips of Barack Obama speeches to convey why she was such an ardent supporter of the then–presidential candidate), we never talked about gay issues. Still, I wasn’t surprised to hear her come out in favor of marriage equality last week on her eponymous Sirius/XM radio show. I did, however, want to hear more about her support. And I thought talking to her about it might — if I had the nerve — give me a chance to ask her about those pesky rumors about her relationship with Oprah. So I gave her a call and, what do you know? She called back.
Gayle, it was great to hear you speak out so forcefully in support of gay marriage last week. It wasn’t a surprise, though, of course.
Was it a surprise to anyone, really? I just find that it’s hard to be tolerant of people who don’t, in my opinion, get it. You know? It’s just, to me, so wrong that this is even still an issue in 2010.
Did anybody disagree with what you said on the show?
Not to my face.
So nobody called to complain?
Oh, no, no, no! Because I make my opinions very clear on this issue. I’ve told the story many times about my daughter, Kirby, when she was in elementary school and Oprah had done the Ellen show [in 1997], where she played the therapist and got terrible, terrible mail about it. Like, How could you? And, The Bible says… So I was explaining to Kirby for the first time that some people think [being gay] is wrong but there really is nothing wrong with it. I was explaining boys and boys and girls and girls and it’s all OK. And then she went to a friend’s house, and the friend’s mother was talking about Ellen and saying, “Oh, I just think it’s disgusting!” And Kirby, who was in sixth grade, said, “I don’t understand, because my mom says there’s nothing wrong with it.” This woman was mortified, wondering, What are you teaching your children? And I, on the other hand, was equally mortified and wondering, What are you teaching your children?
When Kirby came back and told me what had happened, I immediately said, “Kirby, she is wrong. Just think about it. Does it make any sense to you?” And Kirby said no, that it didn’t make sense. But that woman was very angry.
You know, Jon, it’s heartbreaking to me that someone would try to dictate who you can love and how you can love. It doesn’t make any sense. You hear about all of these horrible stories about people who are in relationships and then, when the time comes and they lose their loved one, they have no rights. Or they have no rights when they’re applying for a job or applying for health insurance — when they’ve been in longstanding partnerships. I don’t know. I don’t have the tolerance for intolerance. Not on that issue, I don’t.You talked on the show about being a little nervous about attending your first gay wedding [the September 2008 wedding between producer Scott Sanders and author Brad Lamm]. What about it made you nervous?
What’s interesting is that when Scott asked me to do a reading at his wedding, I was like, Oh my God! My first gay wedding. What should I do? What should I wear? And you know what I found out, Jon? It’s like any other wedding of people in love. You know? It’s not any different. Nothing different happens. It’s a celebration of two people in love.
And that wedding was in California?
Yeah, it was in Los Angeles at the Hotel Bel-Air. I was so excited.
But that was before Proposition 8.
Oh, yeah. It was before Prop. 8. It was when marriage was legal in California for a hot second.
What was your response to Prop. 8’s passage?
Well, I was very surprised that it happened in California. You know, because I’m thinking that California’s certainly more progressive than a lot of states. Then when Iowa [passed marriage equality], I thought, Come on, guys. If they can do it in Iowa… It was sort of one of those times where you go, What’s wrong with the picture? So I think, let Iowa lead the way, as they did with the presidential election.
Prop. 8 is especially troubling when I think of how prominent the gay community is in California — the openly gay community. They’re really individuals who make you say, “I want to be like them.” I was really, really surprised and very disappointed. That threw me — the vote and that people were so vitriolic about it.
Have you been to any other same-sex weddings?
No, no one has invited me!
Two friends of mine — Mitchell Gold and Timothy Scofield — just got married in Iowa.
You know, I just read about their wedding inThe New York Times.Yeah, so they went to Iowa. I thought their story was very nice about how [Tim] had admired [Mitchell] for all those years, and then they got to meet each other. I thought it was a very nice story.
Speaking of great stories, I loved the interview you and Oprah gave in O, The Oprah Magazine in 2006, when you talked about rumors that the two of you were a gay couple. [In the interview Oprah said, “I understand why people think we’re gay. There isn’t a definition in our culture for this kind of bond between women. So I get why people have to label it — how can you be this close without being sexual? How else can you explain a level of intimacy where someone always loves you, always respects you, admires you?” Gayle said, “The truth is, if we were gay, we would so tell you.”] Do people still ask you if you’re gay?
They ask me if you are too.
Really? Like I said before, I would so tell people if I was gay. I used to think that we needed to do something to respond to that rumor — because it’s hard enough to get a date on a Saturday night. Now, I’m kind of insulted by it.… Not by the question but that people would think that I would deny it, because that implies there’s something wrong with being gay. And I have never felt that for me or anybody else. I look forward to the day when people don’t feel the necessity to hide who they are — or have the fear that people will not be accepting of who they are. It’s 2010, and I personally can’t wait until this is no longer an issue for anybody — gay or straight.