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MAYBE ACT UP WASHINGton’s Steve Michael is a loudmouthed maniac and a menace to Bill Clinton, animal rights activists, the local gay establishment, and others (“Loose Lips,” 7/7). But Michael is absolutely right on several points. After 15 years of this epidemic, we’ve settled into a mixed state of apathy, frustration, and contentment with the AIDS status quo.
Consider the AIDS Cure Act, New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s House bill, the Manhattan Project research effort Clinton promised to support in 1992 and then forgot. According to an April 12 Washington Blade story, the act is “not being actively supported by mainstream AIDS groups, but organizations such as ACT UP Washington have called repeatedly for its passage.” Incredibly, the dozens of groups and thousands of individuals who organize, participate in, and donate to all those AIDS memorials, fundraisers, walks, etc., refuse to demand that their elected officials enact the one proposal that might bring the plague to an end. It’s not that people are against the AIDS Cure Act. It’s seldom even discussed in the queer press.
Mainstream groups like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, AIDS Action Council, the Human Rights Campaign Fund, and others will not criticize the president for this broken promise. Neither will they challenge him for setting up the National AIDS Policy Office, a powerless White House flack bureau, instead of a Cabinet-level AIDS position which would coordinate national research and prevention, another 1992 Clinton platform. These organizations don’t want to jeopardize their hard-won access to the administration. In other words, we finally have a queer-friendly president; let’s not antagonize him by asking him to do anything.
If the rumors are correct that ACT UP Washington has only three or four members, then ACT UP Washington does not exist, since ACT UP stands for “AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power,” and four people who hold no public meetings do not a coalition make. Where are all the people enraged by Clinton’s half-assed response to AIDS, who are terrified by the threat to the Ryan White AIDS Care Act, who felt betrayed when the Clinton Department of Justice refused to side with queers in an upcoming Supreme Court case which will decide whether their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights can be rescinded by popular vote (Colorado’s Amendment 2)? If Steve Michael is such a pill, why have we left him all the important work?