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Kirby Dick: In The Political Closet, Dark Shadows
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. Iâm Terry Gross.
Senator LARRY CRAIG: (Republican, Idaho) Let me be clear. I am not gay.
I never have been gay.
GROSS: Thatâs Larry Craig, speaking at a news conference on August 28th,
2007, denying police accusations that he had made sexual advances toward
an undercover officer in an airport menâs room. Days later, amidst
increasing GOP criticism, the Republican senator from Idaho announced
The new documentary âOutrageâ begins with the case against Craig. The
movie is about the outing of allegedly gay politicians who have opposed
gay rights. The interviewees included out, outed politicians and people
who have outed them, like blogger Mike Rogers.
My guest is the director, Kirby Dick. He also directed the documentary
âThis Film Is Not Yet Rated,â an investigation into how the Motion
Picture Association of America decides on movie ratings. He says that
the real subject of his new documentary, âOutrage,â is hypocrisy.
In terms of trying to out closeted politicians, what were your standards
of who was worthy, so to speak, of being dragged out of the closet? Like
if the basis of the film is hypocrisy, like what raises to the level of
hypocrisy that itâs worth altering, perhaps ruining, somebodyâs life and
Mr.Â KIRBY DICK (Director, âOutrageâ): Well, I donât view my film as
outing closeted politicians. I really view it, the central the thesis of
it is reporting on hypocrisy. And so what would make a politician who is
closeted also be a hypocrite that would be worthy of me reporting on? I
looked at their voting records.
We actually â and if their voting records were substantially anti-gay, I
think in the case of all the politicians I had focused on, they were
anywhere between zero and 25 percent pro-gay, the rest was anti-gay. And
that to me, over oftentimes a two-decade career, was certainly an
indication that this was an example of hypocrisy.
I mean, millions of Americans, millions of gays and lesbians, are
harmed. Their rights to marry have been taken away, their rights to
health care, their rights to adopt, their right to serve in the
I mean, thereâs very serious consequences, and I think the consequences
of this kind of hypocrisy and dishonesty affects the American political
system as a whole. It contorts it. When you have powerful politicians
who are living dishonestly like this, decade after decade, this is
something that I think, and practicing this hypocrisy, this is something
that needs to be reported on.
GROSS: So how much original reporting did you do on trying to figure out
whether allegations and rumors were true or not? You worked closely with
Mike Rogers on this, and heâs kind of famous for outing or trying to out
politicians who he feels have been hypocritical. How much original
reporting did you feel like you needed to do to fact-check his
Mr.Â DICK: Well, we did a fair amount of original reporting. The gay
press has been reporting on this for 20 years, and a lot of this was
built on their shoulders. In fact, it is the gay press who has been
wanting this information out there because they see the costs of the
cause, both politically and personally.
Itâs the mainstream press that I find thatâs been very reluctant to
report on this. So what I did is I followed what Mike Rogers did, and I
should say that Mike Rogers is someone who actually has been very
careful on his reporting. He reported the outing of Larry Craig. He
outed Larry Craig nine months before the news of his arrest in the
Minneapolis bathroom was made public. And at the time that he outed
Larry Craig, a lot of people were very reluctant to believe him, and it
turned out he was true. But Mike Rogers has been very careful in his
And we had very high standards. I mean, we would, we would â over the
course of two, three years that we made this film, we had a team of
researchers and we made sure that all our sourcing was very, very
GROSS: I have a confession to make. I mean, I find it really awkward to
talk about this, and I feel like thereâs an elephant in the room. Letâs
just put it on the table and talk about it.
I think, you know, that what youâre trying to do is really interesting,
is take politicians who you think have been really hypocritical and very
harmful to gay people by voting against big â you know, gay marriage,
gay adoption, earlier on not having sufficiently, you know, adequately
funded the AIDS crisis, you know, to find medications, possibly vaccines
and so on.
And so your goal is to out gay people who are voting against the
interests of gays because theyâre in the closet and theyâre afraid to
come out, so - and I think what youâre saying is because theyâre in the
closet, they cover up in a way by voting against gay people?
Mr.Â DICK: Thatâs exactly true. I mean, in many cases I believe these
politicians would, if they were out, would vote pro-gay. So this is what
the closet is doing. It is causing them to vote against their belief and
also against gays and lesbians.
GROSS: Good, so thatâs not the elephant. Letâs get the elephant on the
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr.Â DICK: Okay, fair enough. I was waiting for the elephant.
GROSS: Here comes the elephant. Okay, so the elephant is â like I
understand what youâre doing, and I understand why youâre doing it. The
film is very interesting, and at the same time, Iâm really reluctant to
name the names that you name because, you know, as a journalist and as
the host and co-executive producer of the show, I feel uncomfortable
taking responsibility for putting these names on the table because I
feel like I canât fact-check the work that youâve done.
Iâm not ready to out these people, and I canât be sure that everything
that you have â Iâm not accusing you of bad journalism.
Mr.Â DICK: No, I understand what youâre saying.
GROSS: But thereâs a level of responsibility I feel like Iâd be taking
when I name the names that youâve named.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr.Â DICK: I understand. I understand.
GROSS: So it just makes it really awkward to talk about the movie.
Mr.Â DICK: Well, again, I think the reason for that, I mean the reason
that youâre concerned, is that the mainstream media itself, as a whole,
has not covered this issue. In fact, one of the things that I was very
surprised by is that when I started screening this film to small groups
of audiences how surprised they were by this information, not only, you
know, which people were closeted and hypocrites but the fact that this
was an issue at all, because the mainstream media has completely â I
wouldnât say completely, but in large part stayed away from this. And
thatâs why the information that youâre looking for, that you would like
to have as backup, it doesnât exist in the mainstream media.
It does exist in the gay press and in the alternative media. That does
GROSS: What does exist?
Mr.Â DICK: This information, this corroboration that youâre looking for,
but it does not exist in the mainstream media, and you know, coming,
say, somewhat new to this subject here, I understand the discomfort. But
thatâs one of the things I hope that this film does, is I hope that by
coming out it will start a discussion about this. It will bring the
mainstream media to this, and these issues will be discussed, these
issues will be investigated, and it will no longer seem like this
subject matter is coming out of the blue.
GROSS: You talked to a few people in the film who were outed for this
reason of hypocrisy. They were outed by people who are devoting their
lives to outing gay politicians. Did you meet any people who you think
their lives were changed for the better by being outed?
Mr.Â DICK: I think - yeah, absolutely. I mean, I interviewed former
Congressman Jim Colby of Arizona, and you know, his story was he was
closeted until 1996. He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, which
restricted the rights of gays and lesbians to marry, and as a result the
Advocate, who knew that he was gay, there were discussions that it was
going to come forward with an article and out him.
And so heâs opposed to outing, but he made the decision Iâm going to
step forward and Iâm going to beat them to the punch and Iâm going to
come out and, you know, tell the world that Iâm gay. And he describes
that experience of coming out as one of the most important experiences
of his life, almost a near-religious experience. And you can imagine
that the weight of this secret that heâs kept and had to worry about for
so many years is suddenly lifted off of him.
And Jim McGreevey as well has a very similar experience, that finally
for the first time he can be honest with the world and honest with a lot
of people that are close to him as well. So - and what happens too, as
you â you know, with Jim Colby, is when the Federal Marriage Amendment
came up, which was an even more restrictive attempt to restrict the
rights of gays and lesbians to marry, he was a very vocal opponent to
So what happens is once people are out of the closet, they donât have
anything to protect in terms of their secret, and then they can vote for
GROSS: So with Colby, was he shunned by his party after he came out?
Because the party has been so anti-gay in its platform.
Mr.Â DICK: Right. Well, what happened was actually â I think it was at
the 2000 Republican convention. He was invited to speak on - not on gay
issues. I think it was on trade.
GROSS: And did we say heâs a congressman from Arizona?
Mr.Â DICK: Heâs a congressman from Arizona and he was invited to speak,
and that a very important moment in the Republican Party, an out gay
Republican speaking at the national convention. Well, the Texas
delegation stood up and turned their back on him. So â and that, you
know, I think in some ways was sort of was â in many ways it was the
beginning of what we saw as the George W. Bush legacy of attacking gays
and lesbians for their own political gain.
GROSS: You know, I often wonder with closeted gay politicians who are
voting against gay rights, whether theyâre doing it to, like, cover up
for the fact that theyâre gay or whether theyâre so guilty and
conflicted about being gay, and if sometimes the same thing that
explains why theyâre in the closet, that they were brought up, you know,
in a way where they truly believe that being gay is evil and so that
maybe they actually somehow truly believe that gay marriage is bad, just
as they believe theyâre bad for having this feeling towards people of
the same sex.
Mr.Â DICK: I think thatâs true for some. I think that some â you know,
Iâve been told stories whereâ¦
GROSS: Which doesnât make it any better for gay people who are getting
voted against, but I just wonder about that.
Mr.Â DICK: No. You know, in my interviews Iâve been told stories where â
of people who would have â of a man who would have sex with another man,
and then immediately afterward heâd turn to his partner and say, Iâm not
gay. I mean the denial was quite incredible.
I think there are other politicians, though, who are very skilled at
living that double life. I mean Mark Foley, for example, who lived
somewhat of an out life personally, although politically he didnât, I
think was a person, was and is a person whoâs very accepting of his own
So it really spans the gamut here. And again, this is what made for such
interesting material psychologically, is there was such a range of
different kinds of approaches to this.
GROSS: Do you know if any of the closeted gay politicians who were outed
changed their voting patterns after being outed?
Mr.Â DICK: Actually, yes. Certainly Mark Foley did. Mark Foley, there was
sort of a small outing of him in the late â90s, and shortly after that
heâs had â since then heâs had a very positive, pro-gay voting record.
The same is true with Congressman, former Congressman Jim Colby of
Arizona. Once he came out, his voting record, his pro-gay voting record,
was very strong.
So itâs a very common thing, because again, they no longer need to
protect the closet. They can â in fact, I think if they voted anti-gay
and were gay, a lot of people would say whatâs going on here? I mean, I
know I would.
I mean why is somebody in power voting against who they are? I mean,
there would be something I think almost twisted about that. So - but the
real reason they do is because thatâs what they believe, and they
finally have the opportunity to vote the way they believe.
GROSS: So did making this film affect your gaydar?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr.Â DICK: It did, it did.
GROSS: Raise your sensitivity level?
Mr.Â DICK: It did. I think, you know, I had pretty decent gaydar, you
know, living in Los Angeles. But no, itâs much more refined. Itâs very
funny you say that, because I find myself identifying people as gay that
I know two years ago I wouldnât.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: Whatâs the secret?
Mr.Â DICK: You know, I just â I guess immersion, and you know, itâs â I
mean, one of the pleasures of making this film was â I mean, these are â
many of my interview â all of my interview subjects, you know, were very
experienced and very articulate. But this was also a very important
personal issue for them. I mean - and they had lived this life, as I
said, many of them had been closeted, and many of them had seen the toll
of the closet. And they had thought about this. Thereâd been a
meditation. So in many ways the themes of this film were being handed to
me by people who had thought about them for 20-plus years.
GROSS: Well, Kirby Dick, thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr.Â DICK: Thank you.
GROSS: Kirby Dick is the director of the new documentary âOutrage.â It
opens Friday. Coming up, Dan Gurley talks about what it was like to be
outed. Heâs the former field director of the Republican National
Committee. This is FRESH AIR.
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Dan Gurley, From RNC Staffer to LGBT Activist
TERRY GROSS, host:
After talking to Kirby Dick about why he thinks itâs important to out
politicians with anti-gay records, we wanted to talk with someone who
had been outed.
My guest, Dan Gurley, was the field director of the Republican National
Committee when he was outed in 2004 by Mike Rogers on his blog,
BlogActive, which Rogers describes as dedicated to telling the truth
about hypocrisy in government. Rogers said Gurley had ultimate authority
over an anti-gay flyer sent out by the RNC.
Gurley now lives in North Carolina. He works with a nonprofit policy
organization and serves on the board of the North Carolina gay rights
group, NC Equality. Heâs one of the people featured in Kirby Dickâs
documentary âOutrage.â Hereâs an excerpt of the documentary in which
blogger Mike Rogers describes what he perceives as the positive impact
of having outed Gurley.
(Soundbite of film, âOutrageâ)
Mr.Â MIKE ROGERS (Blogger): Recently I get an email. Dan Gurleyâs on the
board of North Carolina Equality, and Iâm like: What? And I went to the
Web site, I looked it about, and Iâm like: This is hot. This is why I
Heâs an out gay man and heâs proud and heâs on the board of a statewide
national gay group. This man is using his skill to secure gay rights.
What could be better and what better effect could I have as an
GROSS: Thatâs Mike Rogers. And Dan Gurley, heâs talking about you. So
let me ask you: Do you think that your life now justifies Mike Rogersâ
work outing people?
Mr.Â DAN GURLEY (Equality North Carolina): Well, I think that, first of
all, when you discuss outing that the thing you have to keep in mind is
that like many other areas of public life and private life, this is not
clearly a black or white issue. Thereâs lot of grey area. Iâm doing what
Iâm doing now in my role with Equality North Carolina because I believed
it was the right thing to do and not specifically because of the
experience that I went through with Rogers or with blogging.
You know, I have been open about my sexuality for many years to many
people â my parents, my family, many of the people that I worked with,
you know, my professional colleagues, both when I worked on Capitol
Hill, some of the people I worked with at the Republican National
Committee. So you know, in one sense I suppose I was outed on a blog,
but it wasnât really big news to most of the people who knew me.
GROSS: So can you tell us the story of when and how you were outed on
Mr.Â GURLEY: Sure, sure. What really launched this whole process was in
February of 2004 President Bush announced in a press conference his
support of the Federal Marriage Amendment, and so as a way to get back
at or to seek retribution towards those that were involved in that,
Rogers and others like him started blogging and, quote-unquote, âoutingâ
And so over the course of the months leading into the summer, a number
of people that I knew who worked on Capitol Hill became targets of
Rogers and others as he posted, you know, information about them on the
So how it ultimately came about was in â I believe it was in September
of that year I got a phone call, I believe on a Thursday night, from a
friend who told me that he had had some contact with Rogers and that I
was to be the next person that he wrote about on his blog.
And three or four days later, I believe on a Sunday night, I actually
got a phone call at my home from Rogers, telling me that he was going to
be writing about me the next day and asked me several very pointed
First of all, you know, was I gay? I answered that yes, in fact I was.
And then he questioned me with regards to the Republican National
Committee and my work at the committee and wanted to know if I did not
have some guilty conscience or other problems with the work that I was
doing at the committee in helping to elect, you know, a president and
other elected officials who did not support equality.
And you know, I made it clear to him at that time that there were
positions that the Republican Party held that I disagreed with and that
I was not at a point where I could discuss those but that he had to
understand, and others had to understand, that I and many other people
did not walk in lockstep with our political party in every single issue.
GROSS: Okay, but you were the national field director for the Republican
National Committee, and at this point â at that point in time, weâre
talking 2004, the Republican, you know, National Committee was really
organizing around gay marriage, around an amendment to outlaw gay
marriage. So the fact that their field director was gay, I canât imagine
theyâd be happy with that.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr.Â GURLEY: Well, actually, I think a couple of points I should make
there. First of all, when the blogging happened with Rogers, the staff
of the Republican National Committee could not have been any more
supportive of me. The chairman, the deputy chairman, the political
director, all of those that I worked with directly who I gave a heads-up
to and told them that this was coming were very sympathetic. They
understood what was happening. They made it abundantly clear that I was
a welcome part of that organization, and they wanted, you know, wanted
me to stay there.
Now, with regards to, you know, what was taking place with the marriage
amendment, I think itâs important to point out here that while the
president had endorsed the marriage amendment early that year, up to
that point he had said virtually nothing about it, and during the, you
know, pretty much overall in the campaign there was very little
mentioned on the part of the president about marriage issues.
Yes, there were â there was certainly activity in Congress in terms of
votes on the Federal Marriage Amendment. You know, there were individual
efforts at the state level about, you know, supporting state-level
constitutional amendments, and I think you also have to be fair here and
point out that it wasnât just the Republicans who were supporting those
amendments at the state level. You know, Senator Kerry and Senator
Edwards endorsed the marriage amendment that was on the ballot in
Missouri at that time.
GROSS: Dan Gurley will be back in the second half of the show. Gurley is
the former field director of the Republican National Committee. Heâs one
of the people interviewed in the new documentary âOutrage,â about the
outing of allegedly gay politicians who have opposed gay rights. The
film opens Friday. Iâm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Iâm Terry Gross.
Weâre talking about the outing of allegedly gay politicians and
political operatives who have opposed gay rights. Thatâs the subject of
Kirby Dickâs documentary âOutrage.â One of the people interviewed in the
film is Dan Gurley, who was the Republican National Committeeâs field
director when he was outed by blogger Mike Rogers in 2004. Letâs get
back to our interview with Gurley.
Republican Party for years had used homosexuality and the spread of
homosexuality as a way to frighten people into voting for Republicans
Mr. GURLEY: Wellâ¦
GROSS: And you know, the idea was that, you know, homosexuals are out
there, they want more rights and they are scary people.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: And that was a kind of like text or subtext of a lot of campaign
literature, and not only of the Republican Party but of the religious
right, which was such an important backer for the Republican Party for
years, but particularly like in the Bush/Cheney campaign; they were a
huge source of votes and money. And there - like that the top of their
agenda was, like, homosexuals are scary, they sin, now they want to get
married, itâs going to ruin marriage for everybody else. So, like, how
did you feel being, you know, if not explicitly, implicitly a part of
that by being the field director for the Republican National Committee?
Mr. GURLEY: Well, I â a couple of points I would make here for you,
GROSS: Yeah, please, go ahead.
Mr. GURLEY: One is that, first of all, I absolutely disagreed with the
position that the Republican Party had on the marriage issue, with
regards to equal rights for the gay and lesbian community. You know, the
unfortunate circumstance, I guess you could say, for folks like myself,
is that we live in a country where there are two viable political
parties. And if there were a third one I would be a member of that, you
know, a political party that was fiscally conservative and socially
I wish there was, but there isnât. And so ultimately, you know, I and
many others had to make decisions on who we were going to, you know, the
candidates we were going to support; the campaigns that we would be
involved in based on a whole host of factors. You know, I think a good
example of that is just this very past election. You look at the fact
that, you know, there was a recent CNN poll where four percent of the
electorate identified as gay or lesbian, and 27 percent voted for John
Itâs not that uncommon to have people in both political parties that,
again, are not walking in lockstep or agreeing with every tenet of their
party. Now I personally have qualms about the role of the religious
right in Republican Party politics. I think that in many ways, the
religious ride has certainly captured elements of the Republican Party.
Theyâve driven away a lot of the moderates and the, you know, the
libertarian-thinking Republicans that are out there, and I think thatâs
a huge problem that the Republican Party is going to have to deal with
in the future.
GROSS: Now, the movie âOutrage,â which is about the outing of gay people
in politics, says that you â when youâre with the Republican National
Committee as a national field director, the movie says you oversaw
mailings that opposed gay marriage or gay rights. Can you tell us what
the mailings wereâ¦
Mr. GURLEY: Sure.
GROSS: â¦that the movie is referring to? Yeah.
Mr. GURLEY: The particular piece of mail that seemed to - that really
caused a lot of people in the gay community to get angry - was a piece
of mail targeting voter registration, trying to get people to register a
Republican. And it only went out in two states. It went out in Arkansas
and West Virginia. I first became aware of this one particular piece of
mail when it actually showed up on my desk as a proof for me to check to
make sure that it had the proper legal disclaimer on it and that there
were no typos in it.
I had absolutely nothing to do with targeting of that mail, with the
design, the production, the content, anything to do with it until that
point. And when I first saw the piece of mail I knew that it crossed a
GROSS: How did it cross the line? What did it say that crossed the line?
Mr. GURLEY: Okay. What it did was, there were a couple of scenes in the
piece where one showed a picture of a man on his knees proposing to
another man. And there was gold letters stamped across it that said -
allowed. And then when you turn the page over on the other side, there
was a picture of a Bible and in gold letters stamped across that it said
- banned. And so itâs clearly an appeal to religious conservatives to
vote Republican because Republicans would be better at blocking same sex
marriage than Democrats would be.
GROSS: So you thought that this literature crossed the line?
Mr. GURLEY: Yeah I did. I thought it was â I thought it wasâ¦
GROSS: So what could you do about it?
Mr. GURLEY: Well that was just it. There was little I could do about it.
I raised objections to it internally. I went to my superiors, I told
them that â that I thought it crossed the line, I thought it was - it
would come back to bite us, and that it was â it was over the top. And I
did that both with the Republican National Committee and with the
GROSS: And did it go out anyway?
Mr. GURLEY: And it went out anyway. Now, you know, at that point, you
know, Iâm not sure what I could have done. I mean I was in no position
to stop the piece of mail, you knowâ¦
GROSS: I understand that. But is there a part of you that felt like, I
donât want to play for this team, if this is what theyâre sending out.
Mr. GURLEY: Yeah, yeah, yeah there was. There absolutely was. But at
that point, you know, what do you do, you know? I raised the objections
that I thought were appropriate at that time, and, you know, they
werenât heeded. The piece of mail was distributed; there was a backlash
to it as I had predicted. And because of that backlash, there were
additional internal controls placed on the mail programs across the
board and - from the Republican National Committee - and nothing like
that happened again.
GROSS: One of the premises of outing, is that, if all the people who
were in the closet were out, then we would look around us and we would
see all of these gay people, our prejudices would be undone because we
would see all these people who we were close to and we assume were
straight are actually gay. People would realize they canât get their
jobs done without the support of the gay people who work with them.
Mr. GURLEY: Umm, hmm.
GROSS: And it would just not be possible anymore to have some of the
same stereotypes that so many people have. Do you think that, thatâs
Mr. GURLEY: Yeah, I â I certainly donât disagree with that. I think
that, you know, the more people who are out and open about who they are,
the better off we ultimately all are going to be. And I think that
applies not just in â in the realm of politics and public policy, but I
think it appeals to or, you know, its â its same regardless of whether
youâre talking about, you know, Hollywood in the entertainment industry
or whether youâre talking about, you know, the factory or the office
that you work in.
I think the more people there are that are out the better off ultimately
we - weâll be. But at the same time I think that you also have to take
into account, particularly, with middle age and older individuals, you
know, there â there is very much a generational divide here. And that,
you know, many of the younger people in this country in their teens,
20s, and 30s are much more accepting of gay and lesbian individuals than
are people in, you know, in their older years. And I think that thatâs
something you have to think about when youâre talking about outing.
You know, someone, you know, a man or a woman who is in their 60s that
may have known their whole life that they were gay, simply did not have
the options available to them. They â theyâre not in a climate where
they could do this sort of thing back in the 50s or the 60s or
something. It is very much a generational thing and, you know, they
responded as they thought they had to respond at that time. They got
married, they had children, they have grandkids today. And, you know,
itâs inevitable that now you hear stories of, you know, almost daily of
people - men and women in their 50s and 60s and even 70s who are just
now coming out.
And I think thatâs a good thing, I think itâs because of the, you know,
public attitudes are changing. But at the same time, I think you have to
have at least some understanding of where these people are coming from
and what their lives were like when they made the decisions that they
made many years ago. And that was one of the points that I - that I
brought up and that was so important to me to make in this movie and it
was one of the reasons I agreed to be interviewed for this movie. And
Iâm thankful the footage of my comments was included at the beginning of
the movie, as you know, ultimately I do think outing is â is a process
or a thing that â that can be very harmful to people.
I also believe that you â no one can know or understand the personal
journey that an individual takes to accepting their sexuality. And no
one, be it either, you know, Mike Rogers or Kirby Dick or anybody else
can be ultimately the - the decider on that they can be the arbiter of
when it is right and when it is not to - to come out. And I think that
thatâs important to recognize. Again I â I think that, you know, there
is â this is just not something that can be clearly defined in black and
GROSS: So what impact did outing have on you as â as you said youâre
already out to some of your colleagues at work. Youâre out to your
family, youâre out to your friends. So itâs not like, you know, like
some people are so deep in that cause that they havenât admitted to
themselves they are gay, you were not in that position.
Mr. GURLEY: Not at all.
GROSS: But there were plenty of people who you worked with and plenty of
people in the party that you represented who had no clue that you are
gay. So what was the impact of being outed on Mike Rogers Web site?
Mr. GURLEY: Okay, all right. Well the - the impact was this: First of
all, the position that I was in at the Republican National Committee was
one â that was scheduled to be phased out after the end of the election
cycle, and I knew that when I accepted it. The typical pattern would be
that, as the political parties, the committee is downsized after an
election those people would move from campaign positions into positions
within the administration.
And that would have been the route that I would have gone as well, is
leaving â leaving the Republican National Committee and being â taking a
position somewhere in the Bush administration, a policy position,
probably at a cabinet agency or something of that nature. I began on
that path, working with the office of presidential personnel and going
through interviews and such. But ultimately about, oh I guess maybe two
months, after I left the committee - month and a half - I got a call
telling me that I was no longer going to be considered for a
presidential appointment and that I needed to start looking in the
private sector. So, even though that the people that I worked with at
the RNC were fully supportive of me at the time and were even vouching
for me and serving as references for me to go into the administration,
the office of presidential personnel made the decision that they did not
want me as a part of the administration. So that certainly was one
GROSS: Dan Gurley thank you so much for talking with us.
Mr. GURLEY: Iâm glad to talk with you too, Terry.
GROSS: Dan Gurley is the former field director of the Republican
National Committee. He is one of the people interviewed in the new
documentary âOutrageâ about the outing of allegedly gay politicians
whoâve opposed gay rights. The film opens Friday. Coming up, why Iowa
was chosen as the state to focus efforts to legalize gay marriage. We
talk with the architect of the successful lawsuit, Camilla Taylor. This
is FRESH AIR.
*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
Camilla Taylor: In Iowa, A Same-Sex Marriage Win
TERRY GROSS, host:
Gay marriage is now legal in the heartland state of Iowa, and many
people think the Iowa state Supreme Courtâs decision represents a
turning point in the movement for marriage equality. My guest, Camilla
Taylor, was the architect of the case and its lead lawyer. Sheâs a
senior staff attorney in the Midwest regional office of Lambda Legal, a
legal organization which works for the civil rights of lesbians, gays,
bisexuals and transgender people. Camilla Taylor, welcome to FRESH AIR.
Why did you think Iowa would be a good place to sue on behalf of the
right â right of gay people to marry?
Ms. CAMILLA TAYLOR (Senior Staff Attorney, Lambda Legal): Well thanks so
much for having me Terry. We really believe that Iowa could open the
door to equality for the Midwest. And in addition to having very strong
precedent with respect to liberty and equality, and a tradition of
independence in the state courts in Iowa, there was also a long and rich
tradition of doing the right thing in a number of civil rights struggles
that came before us.
And just to give you a few examples, Iowa was the first state to admit a
woman to the practice of law. And Iowa permitted women to own property
very early in the 19th century, actually at a time when most other
states still considered married women to be property themselves. And
Iowaâs courts desegregated Iowaâs schools almost a hundred years before
Brown vs. Board of Education, and Iowa was one of the first states,
actually, to eliminate its ban on interracial marriage.
So we knew we could rely on Iowaâs tradition of standing up for whatâs
right often long before other states. And we also had spoken to a number
of couples, you know, dozens of couples if not more over a period of
years who had been eager for us to bring a law suit on their behalf. And
all of these couples assured us that they would be treated fairly and
with respect and that we could â we could bring a law suit and have it
embraced by the people of Iowa.
GROSS: Was there also like some (unintelligible) function on your mind
because like Iowa symbolizes the Heartland. So if you could win in the
heart of the Heartland?
Ms. TAYLOR: I think thatâs absolutely right. I think in many ways, this
decision both that it was unanimous and that it was in the Heartland has
been more effective than any other marriage case so far in demonstrating
that. Really it is the - it is just the common sense and decent thing to
do to strike down discrimination in marriage. And that itâs consistent
with the most core main stream American values of fair treatment by
government for example or commitment to families to end discrimination
in marriage and to make sure that everyone is treated equally.
GROSS: So, this was a judicial case, you know, you were suing in the
court. So you didnât need like the popular vow. You didnât need the
legislature. But did you want popular support any ways? Did you lay the
groundwork for popular support even though there wasnât going to be a
Ms. TAYLOR: Absolutely. We think itâs actually irresponsible to bring a
lawsuit if you are not also doing your homework with respect to building
public support for the essence of the lawsuit, for what it is that
youâre trying to do through the courts. And so itâs our obligation I
think to make sure that we can bring along with us the hearts and minds
of the people of the state. And so we had been working in Iowa for years
with Iowans on the ground, trying to do grassroots organizing and to
start a conversation with people across the state about why it is that
it is so very unfair to exclude some families from the protections and
the responsibilities of marriage. Andâ¦
GROSS: What was your most winning argument? What was the argument that
you felt had appeal to convince people who werenât already on board
about gay marriage?
Ms. TAYLOR: Well, I think the most effective thing is to have the
families who are affected, who are really harmed by the exclusion from
marriage out there talking to their communities. And there were number
of stories that they told that I think really changed people hearts and
minds. And one of those stories was a story that we highlighted in the
oral argument before the Iowa Supreme Court in addition to in our
briefing in the case. And this was the story told by a couple from Iowa
city, Jean and Don Barbarosky(ph).
And they have two beautiful daughters who are â who are now 11 and
eight. But when the eldest daughter was pre-school age and they were
seeking a pre-school for her, they interviewed a number of pre-school
directors and visited a number of places and they were about ready to
put their money down on a place that seemed perfect. When they thought
to ask the director of the pre-school whether their daughter would be
treated any differently because she had two moms. And the director of
this pre-school answered, after thinking about it for a moment, well she
wonât be allowed to give a presentation on her family during the unit
when all of the children are invited to stand up before the class and
talk about their families.
So it became clear to them that their daughter will be forced to seat
alone listening to stories about families told by every other child in
the class. And this was really a demonstration of what happens when you
exclude some families from marriage. When you as a government, as a
society send a message that some families shouldnât be treated equally
or they are less deserving of dignity or respect than other families,
you hurt the whole family and their children suffer as much as anyone
GROSS: So when this - Iowa Supreme Court handed on its decision, what
parts of that decision did you think were most significant in setting
the tone or setting a precedent for other states?
Ms. TAYLOR: Well, I think the decision was significant not just because
it was unanimous and issued by a court the included both Republican and
Democratic nominees and not just because it was in the Heartland but
because of the substance of the decision as well. And for one thing Iowa
is now the â the third high court to rule that classifications based on
sexual orientation merit heightened scrutiny. And what that means in
lay-person terms is that when a law singles a group of people out based
on their sexual orientation for different treatment that a court has to
look particularly carefully at that classification to see if itâs in
some way motivated by discrimination.
And thatâs because of the history of discrimination against gay people
and also because we know that sexual orientation doesnât have anything
to do with an individualâs ability to contribute to society. There are a
couple of other things that I think were particularly noteworthy about
this decision. One of the things that the court did was to address in
very simple terms the argument made by many people that is faith based.
Many people who are people of faith believe that marriage is exclusively
between a man and a woman and would like to exclude other people from
marriage and the court pointed out that government has no business
interfering in church matters.
And that churches will continue to be able to do whatever theyâve done
in the past, they will continue to be able to make their own decisions
about whom to marry, that the case concerned only civil marriage,
marriage licenses issued by government. And by addressing this argument
head on and by talking about the separation between church and state, I
think the court made a powerful statement thatâll be, you know, read
widely and will be effective in showing that the discussion that takes
place among many faith traditions about marriage for same sex couples is
a really distinct discussion that has no place in courtrooms when weâre
talking about governments obligations to treat people fairly.
GROSS: My guest is Camilla Taylor, the lead lawyer on the suit that
culminated in the legalization of gay marriage in Iowa. Weâll talk more
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
Letâs get back to our interview with Camilla Taylor, the lead lawyer on
the suit that ended with the Iowa State Supreme Courtâs decision to
legalize gay marriage. She is a senior staff attorney with Lambda Legal.
So, youâve won for gay and lesbian couples in Iowa, the right to legally
marry. Did that assure them equality in marriage nationally?
Ms. TAYLOR: Well, what we won was a decision from the Iowa Supreme Court
that the Iowa Constitution guarantees the right to marry for same-sex
couples, which means that under state law, Iowa same-sex couples must be
treated equally to different-sex couples. Unfortunately, the Federal
government still purports to deny any form of legal recognition for
relationships between same-sex couples. So, what this means is that Iowa
couples who marry will still not be able to get any of the thousands of
federal rights and responsibilities and protections available to married
GROSS: Last November Californians voted to Proposition 8 which basically
overturned the right to marry that gays and lesbians had recently won in
California. That seem like a real setback to the gay rights movement.
But subsequent to that, gays have won the right to marry in Iowa and
Vermont. So, looking back now, how do you see Prop 8 as fitting into you
fight to legalize gay marriage?
Ms. TAYLOR: When Prop 8 passed, it was really a disappointing blow and
we and a number of other legal organizations immediately filed a
challenge to Prop 8. We were honored to have the support in addition of
a number of organizations representing people of color and representing
women and many others. And the essence of the challenge is that Prop 8
was not passed with the proper deliberative process that is required
when you are going to make such a fundamental change to a state
constitution, into Californiaâs constitution in particular. Weâre
expecting an answer from the California High Court in this legal
challenge by the beginning of June. So, we will know whether Prop 8 has
GROSS: Iâm sure a lot of our listeners are assuming that youâre a
lesbian and thatâs why you care so much about the issue of gay marriage.
But youâre straight, youâre married to a man and you still care a lot
about the issue of gay marriage. So, why has this become your cause?
Ms. TAYLOR: Hints too - Iâm married to a man, a wonderful man. We got
married in June of 2005 and we have a daughter who will turn two in
July. But I wanted to become involved in this movement from the â the
time I was in Law School and it became apparent to me, you know, I have
enormous respect for all of the civil rights activists who came before
us and the people whoâve fought so hard in the courts and as grassroots
activists for rights for people of color and for women. And it became
clear to me that it is my social justice movement too because I â I
donât want to live in a country in which people are treated unfairly.
I â I donât want to â to be a person taking advantage of privilege and
bias. And so, itâs, you know, part of that agile feeling that â that so
many I guess members of social justice movements have felt, which is
that weâre not free until everyone is free. And so, it does feel like it
is my movement because of my obligation as an American to do something
about discrimination, I suppose. Iâm not sure how to put it differently.
GROSS: So â so how many gay couples in Iowa have gotten married since
the state Supreme Court decision, approximately?
Ms. TAYLOR: I donât know how many couples at the moment. Marriage has
only been available for a little over a week. But on the very first day
that marriage was available, that a (unintelligible) register published
an account that suggested about 380 couples around the state had applied
for licenses. And thereâs a three-day waiting period and Iowa for
marriage licenses that applies. So, you can begin to get married after
those three days but you can get married for a long time after that. So,
I donât know how many of those couples have actually gotten married at
GROSS: So, youâre getting a lot of invitations to gay weddings?
Ms. TAYLOR: I have been invited to a couple and Iâm really looking
forward to going. I will try not to cry.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: Camilla Taylor, thank you so much.
Ms. TAYLOR: Oh, thank you very much Terry for having me.
GROSS: Camilla Taylor was the lead lawyer on the case that resulted in
the legalization of gay marriage in Iowa. She is the senior staff
attorney in the Midwest regional office of Lambda Legal which advocates
for the civil rights of gays and lesbians. You can download podcasts of
our show on our Web site, freshair.npr.org. Iâm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.