One Line Explained Feinstein's Role in Gay Rights

She 'doesn't care who you sleep with, as long as you're in bed by 11 o'clock," a gay ally once said
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2023 10:53 AM CDT
One Line Explained Feinstein's Role in Gay Rights
Acting San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein carries a candle as she leads an estimated 15,000 marchers in memory of slain Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in San Francisco, Nov. 28, 1979.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

Dianne Feinstein, who has died at the age of 90, is being hailed as a trailblazer for women. She was, after all, the first female mayor of San Francisco before moving on to the US Senate, notes ABC News. But as Politico notes in a story headlined "The Dianne Feinstein Paradox," she also was a staunch advocate of gay rights from the very start of her political career back in the 1960s. The "paradox" in the headline is a nod to the fact that Feinstein herself was rather prim and proper—"straitlaced," writes Jeffrey Roberts. In other words, she wasn't the first person you might expect to be embracing the gay community long before most politicians did such things.

The story quotes a famous line from that era by attorney James Haas, a Feinstein adviser who was himself gay but not out in 1970. "Dianne Feinstein doesn't care who you sleep with," he said, "as long as you're in bed by 11 o'clock." As Roberts writes, the "one-liner helps decode Feinstein's complex, half-century of interactions with gay people—gay voters, gay colleagues and the gay community writ large." Feinstein became mayor of San Francisco because she was president of the Board of Supervisors when progressive Mayor George Moscone and renowned gay rights advocate Harvey Milk (also on the board of supervisors) were assassinated in late 1978, notes the New York Times.

"Feinstein rushed to help Mr. Milk," per the Times. When "she reached for a pulse, her fingers slipped into a bullet hole, she would later remember." The Politico story notes that she and Milk had not always gotten along, particularly when she angered the gay community by going on a crusade against pornography and adult theaters. They served together for less than a year, and while they frequently "sniped at each other," Feinstein voted in favor of his landmark gay rights bill, which passed by a single vote. (Read more Dianne Feinstein stories.)

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