Bass Event at Clinton Office Highlights Disunity of Oberlin Gay Community

Brendan Eprile, Contributing Writer

Regardless of your stance on the *NSYNC versus Backstreet Boys debate, former *NSYNC member Lance Bass’ Sept. 27 visit to the Clinton campaign offices in Oberlin was exciting. It didn’t hurt that he was joined by Robbie Kaplan, the attorney responsible for the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, and thus entitled legally married same-sex couples to federal benefits. These two superstars of the queer community spoke at the Clinton office as part of their countrywide campaign to rally LGBTQ support for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Despite Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s lofty claim that “the gays love [him],” he would be absolutely detrimental for LGBTQ people across the U.S. During his talk, Kaplan asserted that Trump would appoint judges to the Supreme Court who would try to undo the legalization of same-sex marriage and support state-sanctioned discrimination against transgender people. Trump has also expressed support for “religious freedom” laws that allow discrimination against gay and transgender people in the name of religious liberty. To boot, he picked Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate — a politician who signed a bill to jail same-sex couples for applying for a marriage license, tried to divert funding from HIV prevention to conversion therapy and supported a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality.

Even when Trump does attempt to support the LGBTQ community, he usually uses it as a tool to advance his xenophobic policies, such as in his disgusting tweet after the Orlando shooting: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”

Kaplan and Bass not only disparaged Trump as unfit for the presidency, but also discussed why Clinton would excel in the position. Both speakers agreed that Clinton is the most qualified person ever to run for president, and in particular, Kaplan emphasized that she thinks Clinton truly cares about improving people’s lives. She told a story about Clinton calling a friend of Kaplan’s with cancer to offer emotional support as an example of Clinton’s genuine kindness.

While Bass said he used to avoid publicly expressing his political views so as not to be seen as “one of those celebrities advancing a political agenda,” he soon realized that this election is too important to remain silent; now his fame has become a platform for political activism. “I don’t want my husband taken away from me,” he said in a tender moment.

The inspiring event highlighted how crucial this election is to LGBTQ people in the U.S, and that now is the time for the queer community to work together. And yet, at this same event, I saw just how disconnected the gay community at Oberlin is. The event was shockingly poorly attended, with roughly 20 people in attendance. Out of the people who came, the majority were gay men. There are few events at Oberlin specifically catered to gay men, and one would think that this would be the perfect chance for us to interact. The lack of interaction between attendees at this event confirmed the weakness of Oberlin’s gay male community. But it is crucial that we now unite. For queer people across the country, our very way of life is at stake in this election. I truly believe that we queers can be a powerful force in driving the outcome of this election if we put our energy in the right place. We must follow in Lance Bass’ footsteps, volunteer for the Clinton campaign and use our voices to speak out against injustice. I beg the gay community at Oberlin to unite on this issue, because we can’t make a difference when we are not a cohesive group. This election, and our way of life, is too damn important.