Activist Actors Hurt Causes with Actions: Gay Rights, HIV & Jennifer Aniston Caught in Activists’ Wake
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie recently announced they would not get married until everyone in the United States who wants to get married can get married. What Pitt and Jolie are referring to, of course, is the inability of same-sex couples to marry. As a gay guy, I appreciate Brad’s and Angelina’s intentions. However, I think they do more damage to the gay marriage debate by refraining from marrying. Pitt and Jolie seem to muss up everything they touch with their constant self-promotion – not the least of which is the damage they have done to Jennifer Aniston by putting forward this Father and Mother Teresa image designed to distance Pitt from the fact that he cheated on wife Aniston with mistress Jolie. Then there’s HIV and AIDs. Working on the cause of HIV in Africa is noble, no doubt of that at all, but problems at home should come first. As an American living with HIV in America, I believe firmly that the American responsibility lies on American soil first; and, in America, HIV continues to menace all people of all colors, religions, and orientations. Almost 50% of gay black men – that includes those of you on the D.L. – are believed to be HIV positive, whether they know it or not. As of a few years back, there were HIV positive patients in over 10 states in the U.S. who could not take the medications that have turned HIV into a largely manageable illness because their states have waiting lists for uninsured HIV patients. As surely as my fingers are pressing against my keyboard, these people will die if left untreated. Most HIV medicine combinations cost in excess of $1,200 a month. The HIV problem in the U.S. continues though every time I read an article about celebrities like Pitt and Jolie working on HIV awareness, it has to do with HIV in Africa. Every month, thanks to the so-called leading example of Pitt and Jolie, more celebrities focus attention on the issues of HIV, AIDs, poverty, and death in Africa. The problem is that there is an implication from the dearth of attention on HIV in America that the virus that causes AIDs is no longer a problem in the States when nothing could be further from the truth. More people have HIV and AIDs than ever before yet agencies are scrambling to spread the annually diminishing returns coming from the Federal and state governments. That’s why, to some degree, many states still have waiting lists for HIV drugs for uninsured patients. Senator Barrack Obama, the freshman, now sophomore, Senator from Illinois, returned to his African homeland last month and took an AIDs test to raise awareness of the issue. He should have taken an AIDs test at one of the HIV/AIDs agencies in Illinois to raise awareness of this issue where it’s supposed to count – for his Illinois constituency. Except 2008 is just around the corner and Obama’s posturing for a possible Presidential run then or in the near future. Even Lindsay Lohan is about to take up the cause of AIDs in Africa. Africa has suddenly become the place for Hollywood bad boys and girls to do penance. Thank you Brangelina. So now the pair essentially blames gays for why they aren’t married yet. Even if I believed you really lost sleep at night over the fact that I can’t marry another guy, Brangie, how is showing the world that a couple with children can get along just fine without getting married any help to the cause that gays want complete marriage rights (and not some unreasonable facsimile thereof called civil unions)? The longer you show that, to you, marriage is just an accessory that you can slip into your relationship at any time, the more you undermine the exigency of this situation for countless gay couples who year after year spend thousands of dollars on lawyer’s fees to create documents that create some of the same marriage rights and responsibilities as a simple “I do”. What about the children of gay couples who cannot legally refer to both of their parents as their parents without a costly adoption proceeding? The biggest favor anyone thinking of getting married can do – celebrity or not – to show support to the cause of gay marriage is to get married after thoughtful deliberation so that the marriage lasts. Both Pitt and Jolie have been married already which just makes the decision to refrain from marrying again seem even more arbitrary and contrived. Viewing the divorces in the aggregate with this decision to hold off on marrying each other does more to undermine the importance of marriage than the hordes of men and sheep waiting to take the slippery slope of gay marriage to what the Right thinks is the next logical place – bestiality.