Would Reagan have supported equality?

Timothy Kincaid

April 4th, 2013

Ronald Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, is saying that she believes that her father would support marriage equality. She also filled out a bit more about her family’s relationships with gay people which has often in the press been limited to a mention of Rock Hudson.(NY Times)

Ms. Davis, now 60, offered several reasons her father, who would have been 102 this year, would have bucked his party on the issue: his distaste for government intrusion into private lives, his Hollywood acting career and close friendship with a lesbian couple who once cared for Ms. Davis and her younger brother Ron while their parents were on a Hawaiian vacation — and slept in the Reagans’ king-size bed.

“I grew up in this era where your parents’ friends were all called aunt and uncle,” Ms. Davis said. “And then I had an aunt and an aunt. We saw them on holidays and other times.” She added, “We never talked about it, but I just understood that they were a couple.”

It’s impossible to know the beliefs of a man who is dead, but that doesn’t stop speculation. And those who best knew the person are most suited to make such a guess.

Nancy Reagan has not, to my knowledge, made any comments about same-sex marriage or expressed her husband’s views. But during their administration, her decorator and his partner were the first known gay couple to stay at the white house, and Nancy joined Patti in their outrage at a television depiction of Ronald Reagan which portrayed him as personally hostile to gay people.

I certainly don’t know that Reagan would have supported equality. But Patti’s voice is a welcome rebuttal to those in the Republican Party who would use the former President’s name to oppose marriage and serves as a reminder that the Party of Reagan has in many ways morphed into an entity in which he would no longer feel welcome.

Priya Lynn

April 4th, 2013

Well, I suppose his daughter knows him better than any of us, but I think its doubtful he’d have supported marriage equality. I think its wishful thinking on her part, I know I was very surprised when my family was unsupportive of my transitioning to female.


April 4th, 2013

You’re forgetting your Tony Kushner and ACT-UP mythology. Ronald Reagan was directly responsible for AIDS. He killed all those gay men in the ’80s with his bare hands. Remember?


April 4th, 2013

Keep in mind that Reagan very publicly spoke against Proposition 6 to ban gay teachers in California.

Reagan wasn’t the guy that Liberals demonize or Conservatives lionize today. He was a moderate Republican who actually cared about governing.


April 4th, 2013

No one in 1965 would have predicted George Wallace would have denounced racism in his latter days, so who knows how a coherent Reagan would react to the modern LGBT civil rights movement. It is entirely possible that the same man who followed Pat Buchanan’s advice in the 80s might be moved by the Zach Wahls and Ellen Degeneres’ of our time to renounce his former bigotry. However I suspect Ms. Davis’ comments are aimed squarely at her right-of-Atilla-the-Hun older brother who has doubled down on his anti-gay BS recently.

Jim Burroway

April 4th, 2013

I would add that not only is it impossible to know the beleifs of a man who is dead, but it is also impossible to know how someone from 1980 would feel about same-sex marriage today. How many people over fifty who do support marriage equality today supported it back in 1980? How about people who are over forty today who support marriage equality? Did they in 1990?

People who continue living, do so in changing times. Some have a greater capacity to change with the times, others find it more difficult, and others still just plain don’t.

And so all of that said, I think Patti Davis may have some solid ground to stand on in her speculation. I also however seem to recall that Patti Davis was always a rather liberal member of the family, and she could just as easily be remaking her father’s memory into her own image, as we all often do with loved ones who are no longer with us.

Regan DuCasse

April 5th, 2013

It’s interesting to speculate about Reagan during an era when gays and lesbians were becoming much more visible and political and the AIDS plague was decimating the community at the same time too.
It was a time of flux.
However, the anti gay aren’t speculating at all about Dr. King and what HE would have done or thought of all this.
They use his niece, Alveda King who never knew him as the spokesperson against equality and the go to person as far as any King family ideas about the issue are concerned.

Completely ignoring the unequivocal statements that Coretta King has made about it. What she herself has said about it. The true history of King and Bayard Rustin. These men were both threatened by JE Hoover and his henchmen if King didn’t renounce his association with Rustin. Which did conflict King for a short time. In the end, he did not abandon Rustin and they continued with their work together, especially focusing on the March on Washington.
So, as Jim is pointing out, Michael Reagan is doubling down on the anti gay rhetoric.
To speculate on what a dead man might do or say now of the changes seems a waste of effort.
But it does bear consideration what those closest to him would say. And why…and most of all, in the context of their own histories and political agendas.

J. Peron

April 5th, 2013

Reagan’s message on Prop 6 did turn the tides against the measure. I knew several people who had worked in the Reagan White House, all of whom were favorable toward rights for gay couples. I think Patti is more on target than adopted son Michael.

Michael has tried to out-rabid the most rabid Republican. He has always felt rejected as the adopted son of Reagan and Wyman. He resented staying with Wyman and not going with Reagan after the divorce. He particularly resented the Reagan kids who were born to Ronald, unlike himself. I just think he is one messed up dude who became obsessed about being the “legacy of Ronald Reagan” by trying to top his father on his political views. He tries to be more Reagan than Reagan, with none of the humor.

When Patti speaks about what she experienced growing up with Reagan, just remember that Michael has few such memories. He wasn’t there because he lived with Wyman. She is more the expert and Michael resents that.

I was there

April 5th, 2013

Yeah, but, I’m sorry, Ronald Reagan courted and leaned on and owed his political rise to the Moral Majority and others of such ilk. His history on that count (which Patti Davis never says much about) is thoroughly shameful, and was extremely harmful to gay people. To me, that trumps everything he would theoretically say if he were theoretically still alive, or whatever his “personal views” may have been. He was in cahoots with, and nontrivially affected by, people who didn’t want gay people to exist.

Check out the movie “Pink Triangles” and the interview with the head of the Moral Majority in Santa Clara County, California.

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