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social sciences

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Socarides, Richard (b. 1954)  
 
page: 1  2  

Socarides served the White House in several capacities. In 1995 he helped organize the first White House Conference on HIV/AIDS. In May of 1996 he became a Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Political Affairs, acting as liaison to lesbian and gay communities.

He added other constituencies to his scope when Clinton named him Special Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor for Public Liaison in February 1997. In the fall of that year he directed the White House Conference on Hate Crimes and received a Courage Award from the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project. He also served as Chief Operating Officer of the 50th Anniversary Summit of NATO in April 1999.

Sponsor Message.

All of these positions involved Socarides in planning, communications, and acting as spokesperson for administration policies. The latter role was often thorny when addressing glbtq constituencies.

Gay men and lesbians, a reliable voting block for Clinton in 1992, had great expectations of his presidency. However, fierce opposition from Republicans and social conservatives impeded progress on sexual minority rights. Many gay men and lesbians perceived Clinton as yielding or seriously compromising on these issues in order to salvage the rest of his program.

Clinton's early promise to integrate gays into the military backfired, producing the counterproductive "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. When Hawaii's courts ruled favorably on same-sex marriages, Clinton felt obliged to sign the Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting the federal government from recognizing such unions and permitting other states to refuse to recognize them as well.

Though the White House fervently endorsed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, both of which would have added sexual orientation to federal statutes, both failed in Congress, thanks to Republican opposition.

Socarides cited the closeness of some of these votes and support from high-ranking officials as signs of incremental progress. He urged gay voters to view the rancorous debates surrounding these measures as part of a necessary process of public education. He developed a reputation as an effective bridge builder within the administration.

Indeed, there were some successes. Clinton's nomination of philanthropist James Hormel as Ambassador to Luxembourg made him the first openly gay American to hold such a post. Executive orders banning sexual orientation discrimination in federal employment and issuance of security clearances survived Congressional opposition. In addition, White House influence averted Congress's attempts to ban gay men and lesbians from adopting children in the District of Columbia and to withhold federal funds from localities that enacted domestic partnership benefits.

At Socarides' urging, Clinton addressed the 1997 Human Rights Campaign annual dinner, the first time a sitting president had appeared before a designated gay and lesbian audience.

The Private Sector

In October 1999 Socarides resigned from the White House staff. He accepted vice presidential positions handling media relationships, first, at Robinson Lehrer & Montgomery Communications and, later, at AOL Time Warner. He also served as Vice President of the AOL Time Warner Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the company, helping to oversee an annual budget of $20 million in corporate giving.

In October 2003 he became a senior vice president at New Line Cinema, where he managed media relations and helped position installment three of The Lord of the Rings to receive its record-setting eleven Academy Awards.

Socarides has credited the Clinton administration with "a record to build on." Encouraging gay men and lesbians to persevere in the ups and downs of electoral politics, he predicted that Clinton would be remembered as "a hugely important and transformational figure" in glbtq political progress.

Ruth M. Pettis

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    Bibliography
   

Bull, Chris. "His Public Domain, His Private Pain: Richard Socarides Is the White House Gay Rights Advocate, An Insider for a Movement That Hasn't Had One. ..." The Washington Post (July 11, 1999): W-18.

Condon, Lee. "Topic of the Day: Hate Crimes. President Clinton's Conference on Hate Crimes Has America Talking about the Violence Endured by Gay Men and Lesbians." The Advocate 747 (November 25, 1997): 45-47.

Dunlap, David W. "An Analyst, a Father, Battles Homosexuality." New York Times (December 24, 1995): I.10.

Ghent, Bill. "Socarides Bows Out of White House." The Advocate 797 (October 26, 1999): 12.

"Richard Socarides to Head Corporate Communications Department at New Line Cinema." (October 15, 2003): http://www.timewarner.com/corp/newsroom/pr/0,20812,670068,00.html

Socarides, Richard. "Bill Clinton: November 1997: Clinton Adviser Richard Socarides Marks the First Time a Sitting President Addresses a Gay Rights Group." The Advocate 876 (November 12, 2002):  75.

_____. "My Perspective: Stay Involved, Stay Focused. We Have Made Remarkable Progress...." The Advocate 771 (October 27, 1998): 11. http://www.oasismag.com/Issues/9811/opinion-socarides.html

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Pettis, Ruth M.  
    Entry Title: Socarides, Richard  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2006  
    Date Last Updated October 19, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/socarides_r.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2006 glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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