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The actor and the
judge

The actor and the
judge

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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.

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