The Reagan-inaction-on-AIDS mythology also holds that he never even uttered the acronym AIDS until 1987. While one could argue that Reagan should have said something sooner, he first addressed AIDS no later than September 17, 1985 — at least 15 months before his critics claim he did. Rather than whisper this word to some obscure correspondent, Reagan told a White House news conference:
Including what we have in the budget for ’86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS, in addition to what I’m sure other medical groups are doing. And we have $100 million in the budget this year; it’ll be 126 million next year. So, this is a top priority with us. Yes, there’s no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer.
Reagan spoke up for gay equality as early as 1978, when he came out against Proposition 6, a ballot initiative that would have dismissed California teachers who “advocated” homosexuality, even off-campus. Reagan railed against the referendum through a statement that September and in his nationally syndicated newspaper column.
“Whatever else it is,” Reagan wrote, “homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual’s sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child’s teachers do not really influence this.” Reagan added: “Since the measure does not restrict itself to the classroom, every aspect of a teacher’s personal life could presumably come under suspicion. What constitutes ‘advocacy’ of homosexuality? Would public opposition to Proposition 6 by a teacher — should it pass — be considered advocacy?”
That November 7 — thanks at least partially to Reagan’s opposition — Proposition 6 went down, 41.6 percent to 58.4.
Finally, anyone else who still considers Reagan an anti-gay bigot should consider Robert G. Kaiser’s news story in the March 18, 1984, Washington Post.
“The Reagans are also tolerant about homosexual men,” Kaiser wrote. “Their interior decorator, Ted Graber, who oversaw the redecoration of the White House, spent a night in the Reagans’ private White House quarters with his male lover, Archie Case, when they came to Washington for Nancy Reagan’s 60th birthday party — a fact confirmed for the press by Mrs. Reagan’s press secretary.”
What a homophobe.
Remember: All of this happened in Ronald Reagan’s White House, 28 years before Barack Obama evolved on gay marriage.
— New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.