Sunday, June 27, 2010

41 Years Ago Today, the Queers Fought Back

Forty-one years ago today, gay men and lesbians in New York City announced that they had had enough of police brutality, exploitation by the mob, and enforced invisibility by fighting back for the first time in what became known as the Stonewall Riots. That incident in Greenwich Village on the night of June 27-28, 1969, and subsequent nights marks a demarcation in the struggle for gay equality and is widely seen as the beginning of the modern gay rights movement.

In truth, men and women had been engaged in the struggle for decades previous to 1969, but Stonewall was of a piece with its era, as the 1960s saw race riots across the country, violent demonstrations against the Vietnam War, and marches for women’s rights and what were then termed “Negro” rights. As a result, Stonewall caught the attention of the media and opinion elites as a symbol – at that time, an unwanted symbol – of gay exuberance. Journalist Lucian Truscott IV said it “was the Rosa Parks moment” for gay Americans.

In a new documentary from PBS’s American Experience and Boston’s WGBH-TV, journalist Howard Smith, who witnessed the first night of the Stonewall riots as a reporter for The Village Voice, says, “It really should have been called ‘Stonewall Uprising.’ They really were objecting to how they were being treated. That’s more an uprising than a riot.”

Indeed, the documentary film, appropriately called Stonewall Uprising, uses its first 45 minutes or so explaining what life was like for gay people in the 1960s.

Attorney William Eskridge says in the film that “the 1960s were dark ages for gay men and lesbians,” and excerpts from contemporaneous movies and TV reports bear out his judgment.

Mike Wallace, for instance, hosted a 1967 documentary from CBS Reports called “The Homosexuals,” which featured a talk by Dr. Charles Socarides – who, it goes unmentioned in the film, was the father of a gay son who served as a White House liaison to the gay and lesbian community during the Clinton administration – in which he says “homosexuality is, in fact, a mental illness that has reached epidemiological proportions,” as though it is somehow contagious.

At the time, the film reports, gay men and lesbians were subjected to excruciating “treatments” under the hands of doctors, including aversion therapy, electroshock therapy, and gruesome pre-frontal lobotomies. A mental health facility in Atascadero, California, was known as “Dachau for queers” because of its dangerous and unethical experimental treatments.

A 1966 report by WTVJ in Miami called “The Homosexual” featured a lecture by Detective John Sorenson in front of an assembly of several hundred schoolchildren that seems shocking by today’s standards. (The children, for their part, seem shocked by what they hear.) He tells them, in what sounds like a warning about illicit drug use, that “you will be caught” if they engage in homosexual conduct, “your parents will find out,” and “you better stop quick.”

This atmosphere naturally made life uncomfortable for gay Americans. Mike Wallace said on CBS that public opinion surveys at the time showed that “two out of three Americans look upon homosexuals with disgust, discomfort or fear.” As a consequence, he said, “the homosexual, bitterly aware of his rejection, reacts by going underground.”

Historian Eric Marcus notes that “before Stonewall, there was no such thing as ‘coming out’ or ‘being out’ … There was no ‘out.’ There was just ‘in’” the closet.

Gay men and women from small towns migrated to the cities and especially to New York, where they hoped that the anonymity of urban life could protect them. Stonewall riot participant Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt relates that “priests rant[ed] in church about certain places not to go, so you kind of knew where you could go by what you were told not to do.”

Even the big cities were not complete refuges. New York laws were used to oppress homosexuals on sometimes the flimsiest basis. Eskridge points to “a whole basket of crimes people could be charged with,” including an “1845 statute that made it a crime to ‘masquerade’” and which was used to justify arresting drag queens and other men who dressed in women’s clothing.

The police routinely used entrapment techniques to arrest gay men (and sometimes women). Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who during the 1960s was a leader of both the Democratic party and of the campaign against “vice,” admits in the film that “entrapment did exist, particularly in the subway system.”

Eskridge provides the hard numbers. “At the peak” of the crackdown against gay citizens, he says, “as many as 500 people per year were arrested for the ‘crime against nature’ and between 3,000 and 5,000 people per year were arrested for solicitation or loitering crimes. This is every year in New York City.”

Despite this widespread abuse of police power, Eskridge notes, “gay people were not powerful enough politically to prevent the clampdown.”

An ironic note, uncommented upon in the film, comes in the form of an interview with Richard Inman, then the president of the Mattachine Society of Florida, with WTVJ in Miami in 1966. Asked what homosexuals want in terms of changes in the laws, he replies:

“Let me say, first of all, what types of laws we are not after, because there has been much to-do that the Society was in favor of the legalization of marriage between homosexuals and the adoption of children and such as that.

“That is not at all factual,” he said. “Homosexuals do not want that [although] you might find some fringe character somewhere who says that’s what he wants.”

The fact is, at that time, gay men and women felt virtually powerless to change even the most oppressive laws that were being used against them, much less to aim for full equality with straight Americans. “Who was going to complain about a campaign against gay people?” asks Stonewall veteran Jerry Hoose. “Nobody – not even us.”

After laying out the conditions for gay people in the 1960s, most of the rest of the film is a nearly minute-by-minute recreation of the initial riot, which took place on June 27 in reaction to a police raid on the seedy Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street. According to Seymour Pine, who was then a deputy inspector for the NYPD’s morals division, he led a team of only six officers to conduct the surprise raid. (Even the Mafia, which ran the bar, was not informed.)

Pine was as shocked as anyone that the normally meek patrons reacted violently. One participant, interviewed decades later, said:

“Cops got hurt. It must have been terrifying for them. I hope it was. It gives back a little of the terror they gave in my life.”

Another participant reports: “My father said, ‘About time you fags rioted.’”

Keep in mind that, in 1969, most of the participants in the Stonewall riots were teenagers or in their early 20s. Contrary to the press reports at the time, they were not just drag queens, but a cross-section of what might be considered the “gay community” of the time. Patrons of the Stonewall Inn included street kids, hustlers, college boys, and locals from the neighborhood. The larger crowd that gathered and eventually took part in the riot even included heterosexuals like members of the Black Panthers.

The tension that eventually led to the uprising can be explained in a haiku-like graffito that was featured in a photograph in the Village Voice (spelling as in original):

Gay Prohibition
Corupt$ Cop$
Feed$ Mafia

The rebellion on those nights in June 1969 sparked a revolution in gay thought and political activism. Only a year later, the first gay pride march was held in New York City. Organizers had no idea how many people would show up (it turned out to be thousands) and whether it would be peaceful (they received bomb threats and feared sniper attacks).  Fears were unfounded and a tradition was born.

Playwright Doric Wilson, who was also at Stonewall, remembers that “America thought we were these homosexual monsters, but we were so innocent and, oddly enough, we were so American.”

Lesbian activist Virginia Apuzzo echoes Wilson when she notes that “it’s very American to say, ‘This is not right.’ It’s very American to say, ‘You promised equality. You promised freedom.’ And in a sense, the Stonewall riots said, ‘Get off our backs. Deliver on the promise.”

Over a montage of gay-rights parades from around the world, Apuzzo continues, “In every gay pride parade, every year, Stonewall lives.”

Stonewall Uprising is a strikingly dramatic source of information about the history of the Stonewall riots, what came before, and, in a coda, what came after. Because there are few photographs and no motion picture film of the actual events, the producers rely, in part, on dramatizations of some scenes, but do not make clear what is a historical document and what is a recreation.

The excerpts from films of the time – CBS Reports, WTVJ-Miami, and an amusing public service announcement from 1961 called “Boys Beware” – are stunning in what we might now call their “political incorrectness.” They are funny and curious today but they portray what must have been a terrifying time for gay men and lesbians of the 1960s.

Stonewall Uprising could have taken better advantage of things like animation and CGI. A fascinating animated streetview of the riot could have been better utilized and should have remained on screen for a longer period so the information it conveyed could be better absorbed.

Grouped with older documentaries like Before Stonewall (and its sequel, After Stonewall) and dramatic films of the time like The Boys in the Band, Stonewall Uprising offers a useful look at a history that should not be forgotten but that is gladly in the past.

Stonewall Uprising is being screened at cinemas around the country this summer. It is currently (through July 1) in Atlanta at the Landmark Midtown Art, and from July 9 to 15 it is playing in Palm Springs, San Francisco, Berkeley, Minneapolis, Tulsa, and Montpelier, Vermont. It comes to the Landmark E Street Cinema in Washington, D.C., on July 16 through July 22. Many other cities and cinemas are listed on the First Run Features web site.

Stonewall Uprising: Written by David Heilbroner. Based on Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution, by David Carter. Directed and produced by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner. A Q-Ball Productions film for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE.


All photographs provided courtesy of First Run Features; click on photos to embiggen and see captions and full photo credits.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

21 Irresistible Reasons to Visit Examiner.com

Back in April, I posted a note about how I had been writing short articles about politics and policy issues for Examiner.com.

At the time, I had only been "on the job" (so to speak) for about ten days and had published just 17 articles.  That number is now up to 47, including several interviews with congressional candidates.

In fact, the vast majority of articles I have written for Examiner.com have been based on interviews I have conducted with politicians, policy experts, and political activists.  I have taken to carrying an audio recorder with me wherever I go, on the off-chance that I might be able to capture some pithy and informative comments about issues and events.

My four most recent articles are these interviews (in reverse order):
Virginia political activist John Marsden discusses disparate elements within the GOP
Fluvanna County Supervisor Shaun Kenney reflects on the budget process
Delegate Rob Bell discusses prospects for school choice in Virginia
Three Virginia legislators agree -- state budget has cut the size and scope of government
And those are just the articles I have written this week.

The titles of the articles tend to be self-explanatory. The list that follows are all of the articles published since April 21 (again, in reverse order) except for the interviews with congressional candidates that I previously blogged about.
Veteran political tactician Tucker Watkins explains Robert Hurt's GOP primary victory
GOP congressional nominee Robert Hurt discusses constitutional principle
Virginia Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson discusses education reform agenda
GayPatriot blogger visits Charlottesville noting the ‘homosexual infiltration of Tea Parties’

World War II veteran Franklin Kameny remembers his experience with ‘don’t ask, don't tell'
Examiner.com exclusive: GOP activist Mark Kelly begins his campaign for Arlington County Board
British political scientist Nigel Ashford assesses GOP congressional debate
Virginia Eighth District GOP congressional candidate Patrick Murray is ‘an American first’
Hampden-Sydney College Republicans muse about politics and the economy

Examiner.com exclusive: Gary Johnson reflects on his first visit to Jefferson’s Monticello
A look back at efforts to put the brakes on government growth since 1980
In Virginia’s 5th congressional district, Schoenewald and Stanley seek GOP chairmanship
Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson to speak in Charlottesville on May 3
Radio talker Joe Thomas assesses Virginia’s 5th District congressional race

UVA professor reacts to critics of ‘Why are liberals so condescending?’
Two views on breaking the free-trade policy logjam
Talk-show host Rob Schilling assesses the 2010 election campaign
Watch the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner for updates. I aim for at least five articles per week, but sometimes I fall short of that and sometimes I exceed that.
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5 Years After Kelo

Today marks the fifth anniversary of one of the worst decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court, a decision in the same league as Plessy v. Ferguson, Dred Scott, Wickard v. Filburn, and the Slaughterhouse Cases.

On June 23, 2005, the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. New London that it is permissible for the government to use eminent domain to seize one person's property and give it to another.  The recipient is almost invariably wealthier and better connected politically than the victim of the seizure.

In this video (below) from the Institute for Justice, which litigated the case all the way to the Supreme Court, we find out what has happened since Kelo.

The good news is that the American people demanded that laws be made to reject the Kelo decision.  Across the country, state legislatures have passed statutes or even constitutional amendments to protect people against eminent domain abuse.  (In Virginia, the law is somewhat better than it was but still weaker than it should be.)

The bad news -- sadly ironic news -- is that the situation that started it all, Pfizer's demand that the city of New London, Connecticut, destroy a working-class neighborhood to create housing for its high-paid executives, turned out to be moot.  Pfizer pulled out of the project, which was never built, and Suzette Kelo's former neighborhood is a desert, populated only -- as the video narrator notes -- by "feral cats."  New London took a vibrant cityscape and turned it into blight.

You can see my initial, shocked reaction to Kelo here, where I quote dissents from Justice Sandra Day O'Connorand Justice Clarence Thomas, and also quote IJ attorneys Scott Bullock and Dana Berliner, who are featured in the video you just watched. (You did watch it, didn't you?)

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Anniversaries to Savor

Although liberty-lovers may focus on dates like July 4th (Independence Day) or April 13th (Thomas Jefferson's birthday) as notable enough to celebrate each year, today -- June 12 -- turns out to be the anniversary of several events worth commemorating.

For example, it was on June 12, 1776, that Virginia adopted its Declaration of Rights, a precursor to the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution.

Although nowadays the two largest national political parties hold their nominating conventions close to Labor Day, it wasn't always so.  According to the AP, on this day in 1920, the Republican party,

meeting in Chicago, nominated Warren G. Harding for president on the tenth ballot. Calvin Coolidge was nominated for vice president.
Both Harding and Coolidge are underrated but they deserve some applause for reversing some of the big-government trends begun under Theodore Roosevelt and accelerated under Woodrow Wilson.

It was also on this day, June 12, 1967, that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Virginia's law prohibiting interracial marriage, in the serendipitously-named case of Loving v. Virginia.  In his opinion for the majority, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote:
Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942). See also Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888). To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.
Twenty years later, President Ronald Reagan -- again on June 12 -- issued a challenge in Berlin to Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!" (It only took two years for the people of Germany to do just that.)

Having more than one thing to note and remember on any single day is worth celebrating.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Birthday Money Bomb for Robert Hurt

In this past Tuesday's Republican primary in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District, state Senator Robert Hurt became the GOP's nominee by winning more than 48 percent of the vote against a field of six rivals.

This means that Hurt goes on to face incumbent Representative Tom Perriello (D-Ivy) in the November general election.  Perriello, who was elected in 2008 by a margin of only 727 votes, has already raised at least $2 million to use in his campaign.  Both national parties have targeted the Fifth District as a "must win," so we can expect several million dollars will be poured into the race from both sides.

As it happens, state Senator Hurt will be celebrating his 41st birthday on Wednesday, June 16, just a few days from now.

Several Virginia bloggers are joining together to sponsor a "money bomb" for congressional candidate Robert Hurt during the 24 hours between 12:01 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. on June 16.  We are encouraging our readers to make a special birthday contribution to state Senator Hurt's campaign that day in whatever amounts they can.  (I like to make my initial contribution to any campaign in the amount of "$17.76," just a bit of symbolism that I hope the candidate takes to heart.)  Perhaps contributors can be creative with amounts of $41 (the candidate's new age) or $616 (the date:  6/16) or even $2010.

Here is the link to Robert Hurt's contributions page:  Donate to Robert Hurt.

For more information about the campaign, visit http://www.roberthurtforcongress.com/.  You can also read my Examiner.com interview with Senator Hurt here.  For those in the Charlottesville area, there will be a GOP Unity Rally with Hurt and the other primary candidates on Saturday, June 12, beginning at 9:00 a.m.

Remember, the Robert Hurt for Congress Money Bomb will take place during the 24 hours of Wednesday, June 16, 2010.  Be sure to wish the candidate a happy birthday that day.

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Review of 'Sycamore Trees' at Arlington's Signature Theatre

Here is my review of Sycamore Trees, now having its world premiere at Signature Theatre in Arlington.

Unhappy Families Are All Alike:
Signature Theatre’s 'Sycamore Trees' Needs Trimming
Rick Sincere
Metro Herald Entertainment Editor

Sycamore Trees comes within a hair’s breadth of upending Leo Tolstoy’s dictum that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Not quite, but nearly so.

Sycamore Trees is a musical play having its world premiere at Signature Theatre in Arlington, part of that troupe’s American Musical Voices Project, which has commissioned four new musicals (including last season’s adaptation of Edna Ferber’s Giant by Michael John LaChiusa). The songs are by composer-lyricist Ricky Ian Gordon, who co-wrote the book with Nina Mankin. The production is directed by Tina Landau.

How does Sycamore Trees turn Tolstoy’s observation on its head? By treading on such well-trod territory, as it examines the dysfunction in a post-war, Jewish, American, suburban, neurotic, angst-ridden, middle-class family from the 1940s through the 1990s, the play simply repeats so much of what we have heard before, whether in Alan King’s standup comedy of the 1950s, Portnoy’s Complaint in the 1960s, the films of Woody Allen, or Sarah Silverman’s mishegoss today.

We’ve seen this all on confessional television like Maury Povich and Jerry Springer. It’s just not new.

Sycamore Trees focuses on the family of Sydney and Edie Sylvan, who meet and fall in love at Grossinger’s (are we stepping near stereotypes here?), where Edie is a Borscht Belt songstress, just before Sydney goes off to fight World War II in Europe. The first of their three daughters, Myrna, is born in his absence. After he returns, Myrna is joined in rather quick succession by Theresa, Ginnie (Virginia), and Andrew.

The children are named for the actors from their parents’ favorite movie, The Best Years of Our Lives: Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, and Dana Andrews. (“Why didn’t you name me Dana?” Andrew asks. “Because Dana is a girl’s name,” answers Sidney. The exchange sets the tone for the father-son relationship.)

Sydney is shaken but not stirred by his wartime experience. He returns as a stolid man who will not talk about what he did or saw, and coldly (at least, that’s what the playwrights want us to believe) focuses on nothing more than earning a living and raising his family as another duty. Edie (Diane Sutherland) indulges him and sheds her own personality to live in his shadow.

Naturally, the three sisters and their gay brother each grow up to rebel against this repressively bourgeois existence in their own ways: alcohol, drugs, teen pregnancy, dating “bad boys,” becoming poets, musicians, and artists.

To reveal how these rebellions turn out would be to reveal too much for those who go to see this play with fresh eyes.

I will, however, throw the spotlight on one terrific line. After Theresa (Judy Kuhn) delivers a breathless anti-Reagan rant (during the 1980s segment), Ginnie (Farah Alvin) stops her in her tracks by saying, “Who is going to care about you when all you do is get on everybody’s nerves?” The line is not only unexpected, given the trajectory of the scene, it sets up an epiphany for Ginnie as she suddenly finds a new grounding in her life.

Ricky Ian Gordon’s score is the best part of Sycamore Trees. It is rich, tuneful, and drives the action forward.

Each song reflects the time of its setting – for example, “Ours,” a lighthearted love duet for Edie and Sydney, could have been lifted wholly from a 1940s Broadway musical revue – or, even better, reflects the inner thoughts of the characters.

The most fully realized of these may be Sydney’s interior monologues, “Pigeons” (in which he expresses his bittersweet thoughts about leaving densely-populated New York for a new life in the Long Island suburbs) and “Father’s Song” (in which he laments, “I never meant to be an ogre,” saying credibly that he is not a rotten father no matter what his neurotic kids may believe).

The success of these numbers is due in no small part to Marc Kudisch, whose Sydney is the rock on which Sycamore Trees is anchored. He plays Sydney as an organic, three-dimensional character in a show that is overtly theatrical, with the artifice made so bare that when the actors take the stage, one’s first thought is that this looks like “Seven Characters in Search of an Author.”

Another perfectly placed number is “Self Help,” a patter song in which the characters complain about their addictions. It provides much needed comic relief in a second act that otherwise tumbles toward a glum conclusion. That Theresa leads the song and eggs on the audience with a microphone in her hand (much like the aforementioned Povich and Springer) demonstrates that the director is not perturbed by irony, even if it is fleetingly utilized.

One of the major problems with Sycamore Trees is the tendency of the creators to ladle on too many effects to achieve a single emotion or idea.

For instance, we know within the first 30 seconds of the show that Andrew is gay, signaled with a subtle gesture. Do we really need to hear the story about the elementary school seducer who ruined his reputation at an early age?

Not to pick on Andrew (Tony Yazbeck), but his second-act monologue about the death of his partner, David (Matthew Risch), is nearly interminable. It could be cut by a third or more without losing its emotional impact.

Director Landau also inserts characters into scenes where they do not belong, such as when Myrna (Jessica Molaskey) hovers around Sydney during his “Father’s Song” soliloquy at the foot of the stage.

It seems that Landau never fails to use two gestures or images or expressions when one will do the job.

The source of these annoyances may be that co-writer Nina Mankin also served as the production’s dramaturg.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a dramaturg is a person whose job it is to advise the director (and sometimes the playwright) about, for instance, questions of authenticity in a period piece (regarding costumes or language). The dramaturg should also be free to critique the play’s text and direction and thus should be detached from the initial product or project.

A co-bookwriter simply cannot have the kind of detachment that a dramaturg – and a playwright and director – deserve. She (or he) lacks the capacity to step to the side and look at the production autonomously.

It’s as though a novelist acted as his own editor.

With some trimming – mostly of the book, not of the score – Sycamore Trees could emerge as a major new work of musical theatre.

Sycamore Trees runs through June 13 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Avenue in Arlington, Virginia. Show times are Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tickets for Sycamore Trees range from $52 to $76 and are available by calling Ticketmaster at 703-573-7328 or visiting www.signature-theatre.org. Group discounts are available for parties of ten or more by contacting Jackie Carl at carlj@signature-theatre.org.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

An Interview with GayPatriot Blogger B. Daniel Blatt

University of Virginia law school alumnus B. Daniel Blatt blogs at the prominent and widely-read political web site, GayPatriot, which has had more than 3.6 million visitors since September 4, 2004.

Based in Los Angeles, Blatt is known as “GayPatriotWest” to distinguish him from East Coast co-blogger Bruce Carroll (“GayPatriot”).

GayPatriot
has tried to be the focal point of conservative views from a gay perspective (and has largely succeeded in that task). As Blatt put it, the blog has proved to have “a potential to explain the gay experience to conservatives, and conservative ideas to gay people.”

I have known Dan Blatt for about two decades, dating at least to the time he worked for one of my opponents in my first race for the Virginia House of Delegates. (Needless to say, there are no hard feelings remaining from that 1991 special election.) He was one of the founders of the Log Cabin Republican Club of Northern Virginia, and I succeeded him as a member of the Arlington County Arts Commission when he moved to California in 1999. I only held that position for a few months before pulling up stakes myself and moving to Charlottesville later that year.

Now in the middle of a multi-city, cross-country trip, Blatt stopped in Charlottesville during Memorial Day weekend and I interviewed him over eggs and toast at the popular brunch spot, The Tavern (“where students, tourists, and townspeople meet”).

When he began blogging in October 2004 – just two months before I started this blog -- Blatt’s expectations and goals were inchoate. Referencing Tolkien’s remark about The Lord of the Rings, “the tale grew in the telling,” Blatt says about his blogging that “the expectations and goals grew in the blogging.”

Much of the satisfaction of blogging at GayPatriot comes from the reactions of readers, and emails Blatt receives from them. He identifies three types of “heartening” emails.

“The first,” he says, “are from gay conservatives that say, ‘Wow, this is what I’ve always thought and I’ve never found a voice in the gay community because it’s kind of an enforced police system -- Orwellian, almost.’

“The second type of emails,” he continues, come “from gay liberals who say, ‘Hey, look, you’re not going to convince me to be a conservative but I do see that you’re not self-hating. I no longer see gay conservatism as an oxymoron. I get where you’re coming from.’”

The third set of emails has been more sporadic, but Blatt occasionally gets them from social conservatives who say that GayPatriot helps them “see that not all gays are radical, looney-tune leftists who want to increase the power of the state and take away our freedoms as individuals.”

Blatt says that he hopes his blog will “promote a greater understanding and to show that the gay movement is not monolithic and that gay people are not monolithic and to show that … liberty is good for gay people,” just as “it’s good for conservatives.”

The blogger adds: “I prefer freedom to equality” and that he tries “to challenge the equality orthodoxy of the gay movement.”

I asked Blatt what he found satisfying about his blogging experience that he did not expect.

He paused to think about this before he answered, “The number of friendships that I would forge -- and I also did not expect that our blog would bring two readers together as a happy couple.”

He explained how this latter accomplishment came about:

“I have two friends whom I met in Los Angeles, [although] they weren’t friends before the blog,” that is, they became friends through the GayPatriot blog.

“These two men,” he continued, “met at an event sponsored by a reader of our blog for [other] blog readers. I had met each of them before and I wanted them to meet each other and now they’re boyfriend and boyfriend.”

Blatt beams when he relates this story. “It makes me feel really great that, while I may not have been a sort of yenta there, I certainly helped facilitate a romance. That’s the most unexpected pleasure” that blogging has brought his way.

I asked, only half-facetiously, if Match.com is an advertiser on GayPatriot. Blatt laughed and said, “You know, we should look into that.”

My next two questions were about the politicians whom Dan Blatt admires. One of those questions were a sort of curveball, but I anticipate using it in future interviews like this one.

When given the choice of naming any politician, living or dead, Blatt does not equivocate when he answers, slowly and deliberately, “Ronald Wilson Reagan.”

Among living politicians, he cites Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn.

“Right now, I have a great deal of respect for Tom Coburn,” he says. “I don’t always agree with Coburn. He said some funny things about lesbians in bathrooms during the 2004 campaign. Yet he’s been very, very, very good in trying to gum up the works of Obamacare,” and in “trying to remind Obama that he ran on a net spending cut,” noting also that Coburn “was a good friend of Obama in the Senate.”

Coburn, he says, “has stood firm on principle and he’s fought big government. Now, he’s not perfect. But he has been steadfast in standing up to big government.”

Among those politicians with whom he disagrees on the issues but nonetheless admires, Blatt mentions his home state senator, Dianne Feinstein.

“She always seems to express her disagreement in civil terms and shows respect for conservatives,” he explains. “I think she’s really a decent human being. She’s liberal, but she doesn’t treat conservatives with disdain.”

In recent weeks, Blatt has found himself blogging a lot about two topics. The first is the military gay ban, known more generally as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," or DADT.

“It’s the most important issue on the gay agenda right now,” Blatt says. He sees “an emerging consensus for repeal” and cites a Gallup poll from September 2009 “that showed that 57 percent of conservatives favor repeal.”

The other issue he has focused on is what he calls “the homosexual infiltration of the Tea Parties,” in contrast to the conventional media narrative that the Tea Party movement is rife with racists.

Blatt challenges that conventional narrative.

He argues that “any political movement -- any protest movement -- is going to attract some knuckleheads and cuckooheads. Certainly there are some cuckooheads attracted to the Tea Party just as they were attracted to anti-Bush rallies.”

He adds, emphatically but almost sotto voce, “There was a greater concentration of them in the anti-Bush rallies.”

Blatt asks, “If you’re going to do a media narrative about racism in the Tea Parties, shouldn’t you also talk about homosexual infiltration of the Tea Parties? Because by my estimate, there have been more gay people at Tea Parties than there have been racists.” He ticks off a list of gay people he knows in Washington, Chicago, Charlottesville, and other places who are participants in the Tea Party movement.

The media, he says, are missing this narrative “about gay people participating in Tea Parties.”

From Charlottesville, Blatt headed on to Raleigh, Charlotte, and Atlanta, where he will host a dinner for his blog readers, and eventually to Brattleboro, Vermont, where one of his readers is also hosting a dinner, before returning to California.

NOTE: A slightly different version of this interview was published on May 31 on Examiner.com.

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