Hypocrisy On Trial

5.3.2009

By Mike Berlin

These politicians may have power, but at what cost? If they have so much to hide, then why do they choose to go into such public careers?
Well, that's the tragedy of it. I feel a great deal of empathy for these politicians -- certainly less so when they're so extremely hypocritical and voting anti-gay. But I mean, they're victims of homophobia as well. And this is not something that they would choose. I would think nearly everybody would choose to live an out lifestyle. But the problem, the real profound problem, is that they've made the choice to stay in the closet. And one of the ways they protect their closet is by sometimes going overboard and voting even more anti-gay than they have, so that nobody suspects, nobody asks the question.

It's no secret that coming out can be a complex process. Do you think the conservative media is going to have bad reaction to this film? Do you think they'll characterize this as mean-spirited or callous outing?
Oh, I don't know... I'm sort of open to see what will happen. It's very possible they'll not want to report on it at all. What happens is, by reporting on it, they do what I want the film to achieve, which is that this issue gets discussed. And so, I actually welcome any kind of response. This is an issue that should be debated in the mainstream media, and people can have different opinions on it.

Charlie Crist, the Governor of Florida, gets it pretty bad in the film, and he's an up-and-coming Republican politician. What's at stake for him?
Well, I think this is one of the prices you pay for dishonesty with the public -- that eventually something like this will come out. Charlie Crist is a very interesting case. He's very moderate, from all accounts he's a very nice person -- you can even see that in the way he interacts with people and speaks -- and he certainly is not anti-gay, personally. I mean, I don't know that for a fact, but all indications are. But he has made a very calculated choice. He wants to be president -- he was already governor, a very popular governor. He didn't have to support amendment two -- that would not have affected his reelection significantly. But he chose to do that, and you know, it passed by 62 to 38 percent, and what's his legacy now? What's the legacy of his choosing to protect the closet? It's that we have an amendment in place that will take 60% to overturn and that outlaws not only gay marriage, but also civil unions. His legacy of the closet here may be 20 years of damage to hundreds of thousands of Floridians.

What is your take on Proposition 8?
And I think that it's a lesson. I think that the opposition to Proposition 8, the campaign in California -- I mean, everyone agrees -- was not particularly handled well. And the ads in favor of Proposition 8 were quite good. But I think this is a lesson to all of us that this is not a battle that's over by any means. Yes, it's slowly moving in the right direction. But one terrorist attack could change the whole political climate in this country. And a reactionary candidate could come out of nowhere, and certainly there's a good chance that they would use this as one of their ways of galvanizing support. I believe that the gay rights struggle is the most important human rights issue in this country at this time.

Yes, and if it hadn't been for the collapse of the economy, gay marriage still would've been in the cross hairs of the Republican party this past election. That's, in part, why I think the Republican Party wasn't as effective this time around.
In that small way, we were fortunate [laughs]. Well, it's funny that it happened before the election. It was inevitable consequence, I believe, of the George W. Bush years. We are fortunate that it didn't happen three months later.

Is it possible for any Republican politicians to be openly gay and successful without being in the closet first?
It's a challenge and I think it's sort of district-by-district. People were asking the same question about Obama -- can an African American win the presidency? I'm hopeful that very soon there will be a gay Republican in a national office. I think that will really start to change at least this whole attitude within the Republican caucus. It's a lot easier to demonize gays and lesbians when you don't believe there are any gays or lesbians in the caucus. Now of course they know -- they know there are a number of them, even some that aren't in my film. That's really not that much of a secret. But if somebody's out and willing to say, 'Look, this personally offends me. You're my colleague and you're asking the party to support a position that takes a human right away from me,' it's going to make it much harder.

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