But he's also willing to stand up and be a leader for civil rights for gays and lesbians. As an openly gay man challenging the antiquated and embarrassing Don't Ask, Don't Tell rule, he's formed an advocacy group, risked the career he's worked so hard for by coming out of the closet, and decided to go the civil disobedience route. Clearly, he's willing to take a stand for a cause he believes in. Again, a trait I admire.
I also admire his forthrightness about a problem common to advocacy groups in general, and the LGBT lobbying community in particular (via Andrew):
When did you decide to take this step, to go beyond talking and do something like chain yourself to the White House gate?
There are so many moments. When I first fell in love? When I was closeted while serving in Iraq? You know, the military puts the idea of sacrifice in your mind the very first day you join. We learned very quickly that someday we might be asked to sacrifice life, limb, comfort, and freedom. My soldier training has made me a better activist, and being a gay activist makes me a better soldier. I can use tactics of both to make both roles better.
Why now? Because you get tired of talking. [Over the past two years] I've done 50 live interviews, a hundred other interviews, how much more talk am I expected to produce? When I heard Kathy Griffin was going to be a spokeswoman for Don't Ask, Don't Tell, I wondered about that. I have great respect for her as an advocate. But if [the Human Rights Campaign] thinks that having a rally at Freedom Plaza with a comedienne is the right approach, I have to wonder. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is not a joking matter to me. To be at Freedom Plaza and not at the White House or Congress? Who are they trying to influence? I felt like they were just trying to speak to themselves. If that's the best the lobbying groups and HRC can do, then I don't know how these powerful groups are supposed to represent our community. Kathy Griffin and [HRC president] Joe Solmonese said they would march with me to the White House but didn’t. I feel so betrayed by them.
I think Kathy Griffin is pretty funny, though her humor is based more on dishy gossip than an especially witty or insightful viewpoint. (Also, a willingness to be obvious in desperate pursuit of attention.) But then, chances are I'd find Kathy Griffin amusing, since she falls all over herself to ingratiate herself with gay men. (We are, if nothing else, suckers for dishy gossip.) What I don't find Kathy Griffin is a convincing spokesperson for changing military policy.
I think it's an inarguable indication of the Human Rights Campaign's fundamental unseriousness that they would choose Kathy Griffin to be a public face for a controversial issue like DADT. First of all, she is famously willing to be confrontational for its own sake, which is not a great trait in a spokesperson. But what kind of authority does she have about military issues at all? Who is she going to convince?
This reminds of a huge rally I attended in DC, many years ago. It was in favor of reproductive rights for women, and I was there as part of a physician lobbying organization. As such, I got to go backstage and meet a bunch of famous people. (I missed Sheryl Crow, which still makes me disappointed. It was cool to meet Moby, though.) Various celebrities got up and made relatively meaningless speeches (Ani DiFranco thought that the best way of supporting women's reproductive freedoms was to sing not one, but TWO songs). Meanwhile, the head of a major labor union's time to speak was cut, and he got angry and left. Which of these people is more likely to get voters to the polls to elect leaders in support of this agenda -- Christine Lahti or the head of a major labor union? Guess which one got more time.
Don't get me wrong. I love to schmooze with famous people on those rare occasions when I get the chance. But let's not call that advocacy.