A GAY TIDE:
Voters in many parts of the country are still struggling with the notion that same-sex couples should enjoy the same rights as other Americans, but they don’t seem to have any problem being governed by gays and lesbians. The same November election in which Maine voters overturned that state’s marriage equality law by a 53-47 margin also saw more than sixty openly gay and lesbian candidates win elections for posts ranging from mayor of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to Detroit City Council president.
Over the course of the following month, even as New York State legislators rejected same-sex marriage and the DC City Council voted to legalize it (setting up a wrestling match with Congressional conservatives), Georgia voters elected the country’s first openly lesbian African-American state legislator (
); Broward County, Florida, became the largest jurisdiction to be governed by an out gay man (when county commissioner
took over as mayor); and the Democratic majority in California’s Assembly chose an openly gay man as its candidate for speaker (
Then came the really big news. After an ugly campaign in which social conservatives tried to stir antigay sentiment, Houston’s lesbian city controller,
, was elected mayor of the nation’s fourth-largest city. Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund president
got it right when he said, “This is a watershed moment in American politics. Annise was elected by fair-minded people from across the city because of her experience and competence, and we’re glad Houston soundly rejected the politics of division. This victory sends a clear signal that gays and lesbians are an integral part of American civic life.” JOHN NICHOLS
THE REVOLUTION WILL BE TELEVISED:
The first time
‘s now-classic book A People’s History of the United States appeared on TV was in HBO’s The Sopranos, when Tony’s teenage son, A.J., came home from school with a copy of the book and told his parents that, according to Zinn, Christopher Columbus was a slaveowner and murderer. Tony angrily replied, “In this house Columbus is a hero. End of story!”
That was 1999. On December 13 Zinn’s The People Speak–the documentary inspired by his books–premiered on the History Channel. The documentary “gives voice to those who spoke up for social change throughout US history,” says
, who produced and co-directed the show.
The History Channel is best known for World War II documentaries, which has earned it the nickname “the Hitler channel.” The People Speak made it onto this unlikely site apparently because of the irresistible actors who appear in the documentary, including
, along with musical performances by
, among others.
My favorites from the documentary include Malcolm X’s “Message to the Grass Roots,” from 1963 (“America’s problem is us. We’re her problem.”) and Frederick Douglass’s 1857 words, read by
(“Power concedes nothing without a demand”).