Hollywood’s A-List Gays Fighting Over Prop 8. Protests and Boycotts

The internal battle over Prop 8 strategy has taken on a Tinseltown tone as openly gay studio Hollywood directors worry about the tactics of Prop 8 protesters, while queer indie figures like Mysterious Skin director Gregg Araki voice full-throated support for protest and boycott efforts.

The L.A. Times sits down with several prominent gay Hollywood power players and we learn that if you’re a big studio gay, you think that the gay rights movement ought to make peace with the establishment and if you’re outside the system, you’re all for Internet-enabled protests and boycotts– not exactly the biggest shocker in the world, but it’s neat to see how much your career path can influence your politics.

In the big studio camp, Dreamgirls director Bill Condon refers to Prop. 8 protesters as the “off-with-his-head” crowd and rhetorically asks:

“If you’re asking, ‘Do we take discrimination against gays as seriously as bigotry against African Americans and Jews?’ . . . the answer is, ‘Of course we do.’ But we also believe that some people, including [Richard Raddon, director of the L.A. Film Festival who donated $1,500 to support Proposition 8] saw Prop. 8 not as a civil rights issue but a religious one. That is their right. And it is not, in and of itself, proof of bigotry.”

Boys Don’t Cry director Christine Vachon echoes the sentiment by saying “I can’t quite stomach the notion that you fire somebody because of what they believe. It doesn’t feel right to me.”

Queertown’s Patrick Range McDonald says that “the hand-wringing by A-list gays Bruce Cohen, Christine Vachon, and Bill Condon… [make them] sound like apologists for straight, entertainment industry honchos who donated to the “Yes on 8″ campaign.”

And he’s not alone. Greg Arakai isn’t buying the “they know not what bigotry they support” argument and says:

“I don’t think [Raddon] should be forcibly removed. The bottom line is if he contributed money to a hateful campaign against black people, or against Jewish people, or any other minority group, there would be much less excusing of him. The terrible irony is that he runs a film festival that is intended to promote tolerance and equality.”

He’s vowed that he won’t allow his films to screen at the festival, while Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, the producing duo behind Milk, will screen their film at Cinemark Theatre’s despite Cinemark CEO Alan Stock donating nearly $10,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign.

Also in the “off with their head” crowd is Chad Griffin, “a political advisor to Hollywood executives” who says

“A dollar to the yes campaign is a dollar in support of bigotry, homophobia and discrimination. There are going to be consequences. Any individual who has held homophobic views and who has gone public by writing a check, you can expect to be publicly judged. Many can expect to pay a price for a long time to come.”

The discussion is a microcosm of the debate happening in the wider gay community, but gay Hollywood wields enormous political and financial power over the gay-community-at-large. There’s a real sense that there’s a breaking point coming in the near future with the younger, internet-centric activists chomping at the bit to bolt from the older “all in good time” crowd.

For our part, it seems that the whole point of peaceful protest and boycotting is to make people rethink their bigotry (which is what you call the act of denying another person their civil rights for whatever reason) and to make it socially unacceptable to support discriminatory policies. Just because someone’s religious beliefs tell them it’s okay to discriminate doesn’t mean that we should have any acceptance for them pushing those beliefs into the civic square. And honestly, do you remember any time in U.S. history that someone won their civil rights by sitting patiently at the back of the bus?