by Colin Sweeney
The Human Rights Campaign stands as the the most well-connected and “influential” gay lobbying group in the United States. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is tops among their legislative goal this year. But winter is melting to spring and there is nothing to show other than Congressman Barney Frank’s rumblings that repeal may not happen until 2011-when the 2012 elections, in which Democrats have 23 Senate seats up for reelection, are well gearing up. So HRC was forced to break out the big guns down in D.C. Who else to force the arc of history other than a reality show star?
To be fair, this rally they held yesterday-across the street from a theater showcasing Harvey Fierstein in Fiddler on the Roof-was to be a Very Serious Episode of Kathy Griffin’s “My Life on the D-List.” The singular break with tradition, where Kathy Griffin shows that she cares more than just about Kathy Griffin. That’s hard to do on your own reality show! Yet she does! She tells us she supports the troops at USO shows! She read aloud the emails and letters she receives from gay service members and their would-be spouses detailing the destructive secrecy that defines their everyday lives.
For HRC, and for the Bravo network as well, it was already pretty much a slam dunk. HRC, including honcho Joe Solmonese, were all in matching “Repeal DADT” shirts, so they showed up well. (They made up about a tenth of the crowd.) They got local ABC 7 and FOX 5 to report on Griffin’s smackdown of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Crazytown)-Griffin called the nutbag a “nutbag.” The synergy therefore spread beyond the 300-odd activists (and, obviously, HRC staffers) corralled in a rally in D.C.; amplified by the evening news, much-later to be amplified on Kathy Griffin’s show.
This triple win then, through no doing of HRC’s, became a quadruple win.
Lieutenant Dan Choi, the West Point graduate and combat veteran who outed himself on The Rachel Maddow Show last year, invited himself to speak at this “rally.” (Choi was initially discharged from the Army after his self-outing and has since been reinstated as an enlisted officer.) At the end, he asked everyone to march, not down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol and Barney and Bachmann, but up Pennsylvania toward the White House. His remarks were met with cheers (though not from HRC, who hadn’t invited Choi and didn’t answer his requests to speak (though Griffin did).
Lieutenant Choi then left the stage to begin his march. He looked really intense. Most of the media stayed with Griffin, though-who, her job done, did not follow along. A block up, the few hundred at the rally were struggling to keep up with a soldier on a mission. By the time Choi reached the White House gates, mostly just a few dozen tourists were present to witness a uniformed officer in the U.S. Army handcuff himself to the White House gate. He was, yes, soon arrested, as were two others. Given such unbecoming behavior from an officer, he will likely be discharged once again. And so progresses the cause of equality for gay Americans and D-list celebrities and their respective television networks and lobbying institutions.
Video by Liz Glover. Colin Sweeney is a writer in Washington, D.C.