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Interview with former HRC head Elizabeth Birch

MetroWeekly, DC’s gay and lesbian mag, has an interview with the former head of Human Rights Campaign, Elizabeth Birch. She has a new interview show on the cable channel here! (we don’t get that down in NC). Here are a couple of interesting sections. The first is a question on who she wouldn’t have on her show…

MW: You mentioned earlier a list of people such as Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter. I’m thinking of Coulter in particular — is there anybody that you would consider beyond the pale as a potential guest, in terms of the way they conduct themselves or the types of things they promote?

BIRCH: Someone said, ”Why don’t you bring on Fred Phelps?” The truth is he should be a mental patient. He should be institutionalized. He’s sick. He’s lost and sick and I think what we fail to realize is that there are a great number of conservatives that are just as offended by Fred Phelps. We have to get more and more sophisticated about how to talk to those people in our country who may identify as conservatives but know that it’s probably inherent that a certain number of people in their community will be born gay. We need to walk down the country lanes of America and get better at giving people a break and the benefit of the doubt that they are smart enough to realize that there will always be gay people.

She also weighs in on our friend, lying-pastor-obsessed-with-lesbians Willie Wilson.

MW: Were you surprised by the recent controversy over homophobic remarks by Rev. Willie Wilson? Did you know him from your work at HRC?

BIRCH: I was shocked. Yes, I knew him. I think it’s safe to say I was the only white person at a major reconciliation between Rev. Wilson and the African-American gay community a few years ago and in the middle of that reconciliation, which included a lot of black leaders in the clergy and from different denominations. That night, the gathering was sort of stormed by Farrakhan followers, saying ”This is a white man’s disease…. We don’t need this kind of toxic waste in the bloodstream of our sons and daughters.” Really hostile, really angry. Rev. Wilson was confronting these really strong, animated, angry men. He took them on. And so for him to be so irresponsible and so cavalier about dismissing a whole part of his congregation is shocking.

MW: Have you seen that a lot in your career where someone who is supportive suddenly makes an about-face?

BIRCH: Never. I think the general experience that once there is enlightenment it only deepens.

MW: Do you think there will be GLBT inclusion in the Million More March or do you think that’s going to be a stand-off?

BIRCH: I think it will be a stand-off because it’s a cause célèbre right now and there’s a small but growing number of black preachers that are getting a lot of attention. It’s also one of those ways that Farrakhan can draw a line in the sand that he loves. A guy who’s so willing to be so openly anti-Semitic has no problem being rabidly homophobic.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding