One of my all-time favorite Onion headlines was “Gay Rights Parade Sets Back Gay Rights.” Most Americans simply don’t care whether Bob finds Joe attractive or Julia wants to date Cindy. Whether its genetic or a choice is of almost no interest to me. I worry more about whether or not Pluto is a planet than whatever adults do in their bedroom. But, your lifestyle, straight or gay, is no excuse to be rude.
The internet is abuzz today about a recent trip of gay rights activists to the White House. A few activists took photos of themselves “flipping the bird” to a portrait of Ronald Reagan. One of them even wrote “f&%k Reagan” on his Facebook page. Apparently they don’t realize that Reagan did more for gay rights than any other President. Moreover, Reagan campaigned on behalf of gay rights before he was President at great personal risk to his future political career.
Presumably, the trip was to meet with the Administration about Obama’s bold endorsement of the status quo on gay marriage. Obama made headlines by saying that, while he personally supports gay marriage, he thinks some states should have the right to ban it. Gay activists, of course, are leftists first, so they have applauded this having-it-both-ways stance. These activists would do well to read up on some history and see what real leadership looks like.
In 1978, conservative California state Senator John Briggs pushed an initiative onto the state ballot to prohibit the hiring of homosexuals as teachers. Keep in mind, this was the height of Anita Bryant’s crusade against homosexuals and much of the conservative grass-roots were decidedly opposed to the concept of “gay rights.” Reagan had been out of the governor’s office for several years and was preparing to run again for President. Support for the initiative was very strong initially, and every political calculus would have argued that Reagan stay out of the fight. But, Reagan wasn’t a normal politician.
Out of personal conviction that individuals should only be judged on their merits, Reagan campaigned against the initiative. He even went to so far as to pen on op-ed against it in the closing days of the campaign. The initiative was soundly defeated.
David Mixner, a leading gay rights advocate who organized opposition to the initiative was unequivocal in his credit to Reagan on the victory:
There is no doubt in my mind that the man who put us over the top was California Governor Ronald Reagan. His opposition to Proposition 6 killed it for sure.
A leader takes action even at the risk of near-term political loss. Reagan’s silence on the initiative would have been understandable as a political calculation. He was very soon going to need the support of conservatives to win the GOP nomination. But, Reagan was driven by something far higher than politics. A belief in liberty and individual freedom animated everything he did.
Reagan didn’t need the false displays of courage that Obama traffics in. He also wouldn’t feel the need to “flip the bird” to his opponents. He would just smile and do what’s right.