The Independence to Advise and Consent

Today I chose a rather different film for my July 4th viewing, Otto Preminger’s superb Advise and Consent, from Alan Drury’s excellent novel of the same title. Preminger became famous for taking on controversial subjects, and in this film he addresses two: the Red Baiting scare of the 40s and 50s, and also the blackmail of homosexual politicians. The cast is stellar, including Charles Laughton in his last performance, playing a Southern senator modeled on Strom Thurmond.

Preminger had no brief for communism, but he deplored the Red Baiting of the 40s and 50s in government and the arts. And while his film seems to portray gay life in a negative light, he means to comment on a world where gay men are stigmatized while straight men (in the form of a senator who dallies constantly with women) go unremarked. Advise and Consent represents the first mainline Hollywood production to address the plight of gay public servants, so far as I know.

We’ve seen great strides in struggle for LGBT freedom in the past few weeks: the right of same-sex couples to marry, and recognition of those marriages by the Episcopal Church (over the objections of the Archbishop of Canterbury, proving the Church of England anything but progressive). Members of the Federal government can now serve without fear of losing their positions because of their sexual orientation.

We’ve won battles but not the war: we will not achieve victory until both Federal and state laws ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Only then will we fulfill the Founders’ vision “that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain [in]alienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among [Humankind], deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . . .

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