Ronald Reagan, gay marriage hero?

Ronald Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, told the NYT’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg that that her dad would have been in favor of gay marriage.

It’s sure to be a polemical topic in the gay community, as Ronald Reagan is hardly revered. In part because 70+% of gays are Democrats, but more importantly – and related – Ronald Reagan is roundly reviled for ignoring the AIDS crisis throughout his eight year presidency, which coincided with the entire beginning of the crisis.  AIDS was basically considered a joke:

Shots in the Dark: The Wayward Search for an AIDS Vaccine, by Jon Cohen, a reporter for the journal Science, offers perhaps the best answer on Page 1. The book opens with a transcript of a White House press conference that took place on Oct. 15, 1982. In it, a reporter asks about AIDS, which had cropped up in 600 people, killing a third of them. “What’s AIDS?” asked Reagan press secretary Larry Speakes, as the briefing room dissolved in laughter.

Actions like Reagan’s are the reason that three-quarters of gay voters vote Democratic.

Source: Donald Moffett: He Kills Me, 1987, poster. From a touring art exhibit Act-Up New York.

Anti-Reagan AIDS poster, 1987. Source: Donald Moffett: He Kills Me, 1987, poster. From a touring art exhibit Act-Up New York.

I grew up Republican, and the party’s intolerance shoved me into the hands of the Democrats over two decades ago.

That intolerance, and the GOP’s larger neanderthal ethic (the disdain for science and learning comes to mind) have served increasingly as a gateway drug for young voters to embrace Democrats and never look back.  And Republicans know it – and they’re desperately trying to figure out how to woo the youth vote back.

Of course, the funnier question isn’t whether Ronald Reagan would have supported gay marriage.  It’s whether  Ronald Reagan would could even win a Republican primary outside of Massachusetts.

Ronald Reagan opposed tax loopholes that let millionaires and billionaires pay less in taxes than bus drivers and teachers.  GOP opposition to closing those loopholes is the main reason the budget sequester went into place, and elderly Medicare cancer patients are losing their chemotherapy in the thousands.

Ronald Reagan also raised taxes 11 times, and pushed the country into massive deficit.

Nonetheless, I dont’ think we’re ready yet to make the man an honorary gay.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

Share This Post

39 Responses to “Ronald Reagan, gay marriage hero?”

  1. Kurt Weldon says:

    Ronald Reagan would only have been in favor of gay marriage if his handlers were to tell him he was. I don’t know why we persist in trying to view Reagan as anything but a shill.

  2. Dear old St. Reagan did his best to murder my entire generation of gay men by inaction and by empowering the folks who hoped we’d all just die from HIV. I’m sick to death of this unmentionable bastard being praised as some kind of hero. The historical record is clear and hopefully someday all the things the GOP demanded be named after this force of evil will be renamed for actual heroes.

  3. dirtyboy6 says:

    Would Reagan have been for gay marriage for the men in committed relationships, before or after they died from AIDS? Sorry, can’t have it both ways: a man who showed almost zero concern for a growing health epidemic among gay men would hardly have been capable of showing any interest in gay civil rights.

  4. David Gantt says:

    Reagan destroyed America. He was surrounded by criminal thugs. And he set into motion all the problems of debt, homelessness, hate-based politics, destruction of true Christianity, hateful rightwing radio, neglect of climate change, and corporate control of virtually everything that we deal with today.

  5. BiteMeBoy says:

    Don’t forget, he cut Social Security benefits, too. Reagan turned his homophobic back on people in Hollywood he knew for years and knew to be gay to satisfy the right-wing-nut coalition of religious bigots that was his base, and he cultivated bigotry in others. He spread hatred throughout the land. He did not raise a finger to stop AIDS. He was senile long before he left office, and his daughter must be senile as well, to think that 3rd rate actor would have been supportive in any way of marriage equality. May he rot in hell forever.

  6. lynchie says:

    He started the open trend of being bought and paid for and it continues to this day. Perfected now by Obama, Clinton and the entire congress.

  7. lynchie says:

    Just another rewrite of history. In 20 years George W, will be touted as the social conservative and having been forced into Iraq and Afghanistan. Regan’s other underhanded, illegal actions also negate any consideration for him changing. Have we really forgotten Iran Contra. In total 138 of his appointees had been convicted or indicted.

    It is a good thing Americans have short memories otherwise the GOP would be totally non existent. That is the American way isn’t it, we never learn from history and are constantly rewriting the truth to make it convenient like the brain dead creature Regan was.

  8. Bill_Perdue says:

    The Irish in me says never forget, never forgive.

  9. Bill_Perdue says:

    Reagan was a pig who slept while millions sickened and died.

  10. FLL says:

    Yet one more terror that Reagan inflicted was Caspar Weinberger, under whose direction military police would stake out gay bars until closing time if they suspected that a serviceman was inside. That practice gradually subsided under George H. Bush. Weinberger was Secretary of Defense from January, 1981 to November, 1987.

  11. BeccaM says:

    As far as I’m concerned, his private pre-election negotiations with the Iran hostage-holders was nothing less than an act of high treason.

  12. BeccaM says:

    I know… I wasn’t out of the closet myself back then, being just a very sexually confused and conflicted teenager (and would stay that way for another 17 years), but I do remember that the late 70s were a horrific time to be a gay person. I don’t doubt it contributed to my desire to hang onto the denial for as long as I did.

    Many of the anti-discrimination measures passed at the local and state level in the first half of that decade were systematically rolled back all over the nation by the homophobic bigots, led by Bryant and her group, “Save Our Children” (sic). (As well as Falwell’s ‘Moral Majority’ (also sic). They did manage to enact a version of Briggs in Oklahoma, and went even further in Arkansas in banning gays and lesbians from careers in-state in psychiatry, counseling, and pediatrics.

    That was when most of the laws banning adoption by gays and lesbians were passed as well. And we’re not talking two-parent adoptions, but outright bans on adoption and fostering. If there’d been even a whiff of same-sex marriage being a possibility, it would’ve been banned outright then, too. As it was, gays and lesbians kept going to court to contest being fired or denied housing — and losing. Anti-gay violence was at an all-time high, too.

    I wish I could find the full text of that editorial, but it seems not to be available online. But from the excerpts I could find, he had two points — one that being gay wasn’t “contagious, like the measles,” and the other that Prop 6 wasn’t necessary because there were “other mechanisms” in place, presumably to deal with any teacher who became known publicly as a homosexual. Plain fact was it was still legal in California back then to be fired from ANY job for exactly that reason, and so Briggs was just piling on in an unconstitutional and fascist way. (CA didn’t pass an anti-discrimination law until 1992.)

    The one upside is Bryant’s insane homophobia did come home in abundant karma, in bankruptcy, divorce, and with her performance career utterly ruined. Even her fundamentalist allies abandoned her, because she committed the sin of divorce.

  13. Sweetie says:

    There is Stalinist revisionism happening in Russia and Ann Coulter and other have tried to ressurect McCarthy. Reagan was already deified (remember Bette Midler at his funeral?), so further revision is hardly surprising.

  14. Sweetie says:

    Reagan apparently laughed at a comedian’s AIDS joke, too.

  15. Sweetie says:

    Reagan apparently laughed at a comedian’s AIDS joke, too.

  16. Sweetie says:

    Reagan knew what he was doing, at least in his first term. A lot of the blame falls on him.

  17. FLL says:

    That’s exactly why I think it’s too much of a stretch to imagine support for marriage equality based only on opposition to the almost neo-fascist Briggs Initiative, which was a truly frightening specter coming just after the most successful year of radical anti-gay success—the year of Anita Bryant, 1977.

  18. BeccaM says:

    One of the reasons so many came out against the initiative, also known as Prop 6 at the time, was it was so broadly worded as to be utterly unconstitutional — and back then, even conservative Republicans still had a modicum of sanity about them. Provision 2 in it read:

    “public homosexual conduct,” which the initiative defined as “the advocating, soliciting, imposing, encouraging or promoting of private or public homosexual activity directed at, or likely to come to the attention of, schoolchildren and/or other employees.

    In other words, publicly stating you were in favor of gay rights could get you fired, because you were technically ‘encouraging or promoting homosexual activity.’ All that had to happen was for some child, school administrator, or school board member hear you say it, or to be told that you’d said it. As was mentioned at the time as an anecdotal example, attendance at a Gay Pride parade or rally would be a terminable offense for any schoolteacher, teacher’s aid, counselor, or school administrator.

    Fun fact I gleaned from the wiki article on Briggs: The Log Cabin Republicans were formed in 1977 specifically to fight against this proposition. They lobbied Republican leaders to come out (no pun intended) in clear opposition to the measure.

  19. I think she means that now, out of office, over time, he may have softened. But in office, I agree. He was scum of the earth.

  20. Indigo says:

    Saving appearances . . . no, he was just a B movie actor who got a big gig at the WH and recited his lines perfectly. Except when he forgot.

  21. Skeptical Cicada says:


  22. FLL says:

    Sorry, but no. Patty obviously equates supporting marriage equality with being a good person, and that’s to her credit. Following that to its logical conclusion, she wants to think of her father as a good person, and to her mind, that includes support for marriage equality. This looks more like wishful thinking from a well-meaning daughter than anything else. In 1978, Ronald Reagan opposed California’s Briggs Initiative, which would have mandated firing all gay teachers employed by California’s primary and secondary public schools. Reagan’s publicly stated opposition helped defeat the Briggs Initiative, but it’s a very long stretch to imagine that Ronald Reagan would favor marriage equality. In view of Reagan’s response to the AIDS epidemic, it’s just too long of a stretch for me to believe.

  23. I prefer to remember Patti the way she wanted to be seen when she was 41; on the cover of Playboy, with the hands of a black man covering her naked breasts and an “I hate you, Daddy!” smile on her face.

  24. karmanot says:

    Here’s the nexus John. Tens of thousands of deaths later the conservatives could care less. It’s still on. One state has recently suggested quarantine of HIV patients again. It’s not just a political game but a universal moral one as well.

  25. karmanot says:

    No, not OK—not by any stretch.

  26. karmanot says:

    Let’s give Kevin Philips his evil do as well.

  27. Ted Hayes says:

    And I would have been in favor of trickle-down economics.

  28. nicho says:

    Ronald Reagan was a mentally ill, broken-down actor who only recited lines written for him by his corporatist handlers. His administration is responsible for incredible damage to all segments of US society, save the one percent. This new attempt at a revisionist biography is an insult.

  29. BeccaM says:

    Given Ed Rollin and Lee Atwater were the brain-trust behind Reagan’s ‘Southern Strategy’, I have zero doubt whatsoever that they would have used gay rights as a wedge issue, had such been seen as relevant back then. But they had naked racism and that was good enough for the win.

  30. BeccaM says:

    Nice try, but I don’t think so.

    “My criticism is that [the gay movement] isn’t just asking for civil rights; it’s asking for recognition and acceptance of an alternative lifestyle which I do not believe society can condone, nor can I.”
    – Ronald Reagan, 1980

    This is what he believed. No civil rights legislation for LGBT Americans was passed during Reagan’s administration. The HIV (then known as AIDS) epidemic started in 1981. It took him four years before he even mentioned it, and it was in the context of suggesting it might be best if children with HIV were not allowed to attend school. It would take him until 1987 before he talked about HIV as something needing government intervention. By this time, more than 20,000 people in America had already died.


    True, he did previously oppose a proposed California law which would have made it illegal for a gay or lesbian person to be granted a teaching license, but that’s as far as it went for him. His statement at the time:

    Reagan: “I don’t approve of teaching a so-called gay life style in our schools, but there is already adequate legal machinery to deal with such problems if and when they arise.”

    (Emphasis added.) To ascribe new positions and attitudes for a man now decades dead is a sophist attempt to rewrite history. The claim serves only to make Patti Davis feel better about her father — which is understandable, but foolish and pointless. It’s about as plausible as suggesting that if Abraham Lincoln were alive today, he’d be in favor of LGBT civil rights.

  31. Fifi says:

    Mmm. Ok. It’s official, now.

    Reagan IS Jesus.


  32. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Just checked. Apparently, Larry Speakes is still alive, so he’s not burning in hell yet.

  33. Fifi says:

    Mmm, Ok. It’s official.

    Reagan IS Jesus.


  34. Drew2u says:

    The Revisionist shot across the bow. Start looking for more and more republican/conservatives/corporatists to start following suit.

  35. karmanot says:

    There is no way in hell, that those of us who lived through Reagan’s HIV/AIDS policy of neglect and denial are going to stand for some syrupy Hagiographa rewriting history. I don’t give a shit if Patty loved her dad. I don’t imagine she lost to terrible suffering and death a few hundred acquaintances, family and friends. God, stuff like this pisses me off!

  36. 2patricius2 says:

    He was such a hero he presided over years of the rise of the AIDS epidemic in silence.

  37. Though, anything to rattle the right, and it’s image of Saint Reagan as a ‘conservative’ works for me.

  38. S1AMER says:

    Let’s just chalk this up to Patti loves her dad, and wants to believe he’d always be a good guy, okay?

© 2019 AMERICAblog Media, LLC. All rights reserved. · Entries RSS