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Cindy McCain Wins Prestigious LGBT Award, Backlash Ensues

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Wednesday Jun 19, 2013

Cindy McCain, the wife of Arizona senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, won a huge award on Monday for her support for the LGBT community.

McCain was awarded the Trevor Hero Award at TrevorLIVE, the annual event benefiting the Trevor Project, in New York City. Megan McCain, Cindy McCain's daughter who has been vocal about her support for LGBT rights, presented the award, the Huffington Post points out.

In a somewhat scathing article, Salon notes that the award has gone to a number of openly gay celebrities in the past, including playwright Tony Kushner and Broadway star Nathan Lane. In the last three years, actor Daniel Radcliffe, best known for his role as Harry Potter, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry have nabbed the same award.

Though Mother Monster has probably been one of the most vocal celebrities for gay rights, Cindy McCain has participated for the "NO H8" campaign, along with her daughter, and has spoken about her support for gay rights. But Salon writes, that she "may not exactly have done as much as the writer of 'Angels in America' on behalf of gays, but the parallel-universe-first lady may be more of a marquee name."

"National lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations are committed to promoting acceptance, but they're also committed to fundraising," Michael Bronski, the professor of the practice in the studies of women, gender and sexuality at Harvard and author of " 'You Can Tell Just By Looking,' And 20 Other Myths About LGBT Life and People," told Salon. "Cindy McCain gets a lot of coverage in the mainstream media. Would you be doing this story if the award went to a gay activist from Minneapolis?"

Nevertheless, Bronski still found it peculiar that Cindy McCain was being honored for her slight LGBT support.

"It's pandering, to use an ugly word, to the most common level of what it means to get support," he said. "Cindy McCain has said a few things in support of same sex marriage that seem to me to fall under the rubric of supporting basic civil rights. Some people don't do that, like her husband. But have we reached the point where national groups are rewarding people for doing low-level basic common decency? Thanks for not kicking us in the head again!"

But Linda Hirshman, a lawyer and activist, told Salon that allies like Cindy McCain are important in changing attitudes on LGBT rights and their involvement in the gay rights movement should not go unnoticed because they are connected to the GOP.

"I myself am personally very radical, but I believe that the gay revolution came from a place of such stunning marginalization and disempowerment that you couldn't possibly make those changes," Hirshman told the website. "There are social movements that could make radical change; the gay revolution shouldn't be criticized for not doing it all at once."

Even Richard Socarides, White House adviser under President Clinton and gay rights advocate, applauded Cindy McCain’s support and wrote to Salon that he hopes she "can persuade others in her party. She’s a passionate advocate and not one to worry about rocking the boat, or leading the way. We need more Cindy McCains."

But Bronski said "if she had real power" she would have been able to change her husband’s mind on gay marriage. During the 2008 presidential election against President Barack Obama, John McCain did not support gay marriage, but backed civil unions for same-sex couples and condemned the Defense of Marriage Act, saying states should decide on their own marriage equality laws. He also supported the repeal of the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," which barred military members from openly serving.

But when Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio became one of the highest-profile members of the GOP to back gay marriage in March, John McCain said he did not see himself having the same change of mind, the Hill reports.

"I respect anyone else’s decision and we all learn in life and grow and mature. I have changed my position on other issues in my life, but on this one, I had not contemplated changing my position," John McCain told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

At the time, his daughter Megan McCain issued a statement and said, "I look forward to spreading the message that the tenets of family, personal freedom, and responsibility point the way toward a GOP that fully embraces the freedom to marry."

The senator told Cooper that he won’t be swayed by his family but respects his daughter’s views.

"We have discussions about the issue. And she makes strong arguments and I think we ought to continue this dialogue throughout the country," he said.

Still, that did not stop Cindy McCain from telling the Wrap on Monday that she believes that gay rights won’t be a partisan issue by the 2016 presidential election.

"You’re going to see a major turn," she said. "By the next presidential election, I think this will be an issue that will be very much agreed on by both parties."


  • Bob K, 2013-06-20 04:17:49

    Good for her! The criticisms quoted are ridiculous -- the entire point is to get people from the conservative side to come around.

  • , 2013-06-20 20:44:18

    I would be very surprised if Mr. McCain would change his view on gay rights. He is practiced at his conservative views and is not one to cave in. Must be some heated dinner time conversations in that

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