Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Clinton Deplored AR Gay Sodomy Law Due to Carl Goodman of ACT UP

(With mics in his face, Carl explains at an NYC news conference at Ross Perot's campaign office why he was a bigot for saying if elected president he wouldn't put gays in his cabinet. I'm holding up the Daily News' front page with a photo of the third-party candidate and the words "No Way on Gays" with a Queer Nation sticker on my jacket. Center photo from the late Jeffrey Schmalz's "Gay Politics Goes Mainstream" from the October 11, 1992, New York Times Magazine. Credit: Tom McKitterick, Impact Visuals.)

Thanks, to all of you who have expressed your condolences after the suicide of my friend and ACT UP co-founder Carl Goodman, and shared love and support for his surviving husband Mario Roberto Cavero. You've helped make a truly difficult time a lot easier to endure as we grieve over the loss of our beloved Carl.

I wish to share a story about one of our political projects, to remind those who were around and active at the time what activism was like for us, and for our queer young a bit of homo history.

In the spring of 1992, as the Democratic presidential primary was winding down and Bill Clinton was striding ever forward toward clinching the nomination, Carl went to ACT UP/New York's Coordinating Committee with a proposal and budget for funds that would allow us to travel to Arkansas for the late May state primary.

Carl's chief goal was to force Governor Clinton to address Arkansas's sodomy law, one that equated gay sex and bestiality and prohibited both, and our secondary goal was to highlight Clinton's very weak record on AIDS matters. With the ACT UP grant in hand, Carl rented a car, stuffed the trunk with a thick milk crate full of his research about the sodomy statute, its very real application against gays and lesbian, and Clinton's policies on AIDS.

He also brought along the Damron Guide, so we could stop at rest stops and truck stops along the way, to make the traveling fun.

Before we left New York, Carl had lined up a place for us to stay in Little Rock with a local gay doctor and his longtime partner, made contact with gay and AIDS groups and leaders, and generally made excellent preparation so our time would be wisely spent on raising awareness of LGBT political concerns.

(Letter that was hand-delivered and faxed to Clinton's staffers, after they met with LGBT and AIDS advocates.)

After a few hours of sleep on our first night in Little Rock, Carl took office for the governor's office and the Clinton campaign office, then headed over to the Women's Project, a health services and political advocacy agency run at the time by Kerry Lobel and met up with her and longtime gay activist Jan Michael Hodges.of the Arkansas Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Carl quickly secured a meeting with Clinton's gubernatorial senior executive assistant Carol Rasco and other staffers, and another meeting with his longtime aide in charge of bimbo eruptions and other matters Betsy Wright, a semi-closeted lesbian, with the presidential campaign office.

Long story short, we made it clear at both meeting we wanted Clinton to speak unreservedly against the horrific sodomy statute, something no one had ever publicly asked him to do until Carl showed up in Little Rock.

Slick Willie himself didn't make his initial public comments against the statute, that task was left to Wright, as the Associated Press story above shows and which reports she made her statements on behalf of her boss on the very same day of our meeting with her. That page contains the wire story and the language of the statute, below Carl's handwriting, that he copied on single page that I faxed out far and wide.

Our advocacy didn't end after the Little Rock trip. Carl wanted Clinton to address the gay and bestiality sodomy law in public in his own words. In July 1992, Clinton's Broadway backers held a fundraiser for him at the St. James Theater and we were in the upper balcony, how we got in is a story for another day.

As this story from the July 13, 1992, issue of New York magazine reports, an unnamed loudmouth (guess who!) heckled Clinton relentlessly and could be heard even from the lobby about the statute. Our plan was classic "good activist/bad activist". I was removed from the theater and Carl stayed in his seat to do the follow up inside.

New York said:

The Arkansas law is, as Carl Goodman says, gay-specific, forbidding anal and oral sex only between members of the same sex and, to drive home point of depravity, between humans and animals. [...] "Bush ain't no friend, nor is Perot, but Clinton can't be trusted either," says Carl Goodman. "He has fantastic position papers on gay issues and AIDS issues, but his record stinks."

Carl fought the good fight, pushed AIDS and queer issues to the forefront of the community and media agenda regardless of popularity, possessed tremendous ethical standards and was also a very funny friend with a great giggle. He is sorely missed.

My post about Carl's death from suicide is here.

How to find help if you feel suicidal

If you or a young person you care about needs support, call The Trevor Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. Learn more at

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education:

Suicide Prevention Resource Center: 

Every county operates immediate mental health crisis response services. For information, contact your local county human services agency.

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