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Brad and Angelina Stand Up, While Lance and Reichen Accept an Award September 9, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in entertainment, lgbt Issues, lgbt organizations.

Celebrity magazines across America were dealt a terrible blow yesterday: They will not have wedding pictures of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for a long time to come.

Although my ignorance of celebrity gossip is a constant obstacle when talk about Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model dominates lunchroom conversation, I was more than pleased to hear about the recent announcement by one of Hollywood’s favorite men.

In an interview with Esquire magazine, Brad Pitt announced that he and Angelina Jolie will not be getting married until “everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.” In the obvious reference to gay and lesbian couples, Brad and Angelina (Brangelina as my more hip friends tell me) have joined other celebrities like Charlize Theron in a stand for marriage equality.

The announcement is a generous sacrifice on behalf of the Hollywood couple and is sure to generate positive media coverage about same-sex couples, but it is important to note the relative ease in which Brad and Angelina can make this decision. The couple is more than financially secure and is able to forgo the protections and benefits of marriage because of this security. In addition, Brad and Angelina have the money and resources to draft hundreds of pages in legal documents protecting their assets and ensuring their children will remain together if one parent were to be injured or killed. This is a great luxury that most same-sex couples cannot afford, placing their children and assets at great risk if some unforeseen event were to occur. Brad and Angelina’s move is welcomed, but remember that many gay and lesbian couples who need the protection of marriage do not have this choice to make.

But while Brad and Angelina take a stand in support of marriage equality, the Human Rights Campaign will be awarding another couple for reasons unknown. As a recent Washington Blade article noted, the nation’s largest gay and lesbian organization will be giving their “Visibility Award” to the latest celebrity gay couple: Lance Bass and Reichen Lehmkuhl. Lance Bass, who was outed by the New York Post and countless bloggers, will be receiving the award despite refusing to take a stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues. Here is what Lance Bass has said since coming out:

  • It’s helping the career: “I think, business-wise, it’s been crazy, because everyone is paying attention to what I’m doing now… Everyone’s been very supportive.”
  • I don’t hate myself: “The thing is, I’m not ashamed – that’s the one thing I want to say. I don’t think it’s wrong, I’m not devastated going through this.”
  • Just enjoying what others work hard for: “I think the gay community is going to hop on my back because I’m not going to lead the parades and be this crazy activist. I don’t want to be a poster child.”

Although Lance Bass has every right to live his life the way he wants, the Human Rights Campaign should not be handing out awards to celebrities simply because they were outed. Celebrities are wonderful carriers for messages of equality: The media pays attention to their every word and countless movie-watching Americans consider them idols. But Lance Bass has essentially said he will not work to advance equality for gay and lesbian people, so it is shameful that HRC is wasting an award that should be going to a true advocate for gay and lesbian rights.

In the last few days, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have taken a stronger stand for gay people than Lance Bass has in the past two months. Although Lance does not want to end up a “crazy activist”, I have little doubt that he will take advantage of all the rights and privileges those “crazy activists” have worked so hard for. Hopefully, the “crazy activists” at HRC will realize their fundraising-first decision to recognize Lance Bass will harm their credibility as an organization that places principles over budget concerns. Celebrities are great, but not at the expense of making the advancement of gay and lesbian rights the first priority.