Gay activist Robert Erickson* showered Newt Gingrich with glitter during a book signing at the Minnesota Family Council event last night. Finally, gay protests are fierce once again!
Minneapolis-based Erickson’s protest came in response to Republican presidential candidate Gingrich’s recently inflamed anti-gay politics, including his desperate courting of the nefariously homophobic Minnesota Family Council.
That particular group, part of the larger social conservative brood, claims that Gay-Straight Alliances “indoctrinate” youth with a “homosexual agenda” that leads to an “unhealthy lifestyle,” according to MFC president Tom Prichard.
As for Gingrich — who has a lesbian half-sister — he said in 2008, “I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can
get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion.”
Good thing Erickson used glitter instead of water. Gingrich may have melted.
During the demonstration, Erickson shouted, “Feel the rainbow, Newt! Stop the hate! Stop anti-gay politics! It’s dividing the country and it’s not fixing the economy.”
Gingrich, sounding like a political pro for the first time all week, later commented, “Nice to live in a free country,” while the MFC security guard — goon? — who ejected Erickson channeled Robert Mitchum’s character in ‘The Night of the Hunter,’ telling the activist, “So goes you [gays], goes the rotting of the country.”
As someone with vast experience on the subject of gay, I can say that’s not the case. I can also say that Erickson’s demonstration — and message — are fabulous! And inject some much-needed entertainment into LGBT protests, too.
The most recent high-profile LGBT protest was when former Army LT. Dan Choi hand-cuffing himself to the White House gates to push Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’s repeal. There have been other protests in recent months, to be sure — New Yorkers rallied for nuptial equality just last weekend — but none have been as headline-grabbing as Choi’s. His was effective and dramatic and totally worthy of respect. But it was also so stoic and Spartan, lacking in oomph.
Erickson, sure to be an an instant darling among the LGBT activist set,** reintroduced spectacle into the typical political theatrics. “Feel the rainbow!”? That’s a catchy, memorable opener that leads into a valid, succinct argument: anti-gay politics divide this country and don’t fix the economy.
His was a far more dynamic approach than Choi’s or a comparably run-of-the-mill march, recalling the dynamism of ACT-UP’s early HIV/AIDS activism.
ACT-UP’s members enacted the most sensational and compelling of all gay protests: in 1987, they sprawled out at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway to demand more access to newly developed AIDS drugs, and that same year hung their famous “Silence Equals Death” banner in front of Ronald Reagan’s White House. Seventeen years later, ten nude ACT-UP activists protested the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.
Though some of the group’s protests were grim, they all effectively employed a blithe spirit, catapulting them onto front pages around the nation, and the world. So too has Erickson’s stunt, which will hopefully inspire more imaginative and playful protests that capture the nation’s attention.
In a week full of Gingrich-related hubbubs — his gaffe about Obama being a “food-stamp president,” the Republican’s outrageous Tiffany bill and Medicare comments that resulted in Gingrich being balled out by an irate Iowan — Erickson’s action will stand out. And for good reason.
*”Robert Erickson” appears to be left-leaning activist Nick Espinosa’s nom de guerre.
Update: I was right. My pal Phil Reese has already interviewed Erickson/Espinosa for the ‘Washington Blade.’ Check it out.