Good Christian belle

Gay ally Kristin Chenoweth talks about her new country music CD (she adores Dolly!), queers … and the right way to be a Christian

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO KRISTIN | The performer has conquered stage, recording, TV … and uniting gay rights with her faith.

Kristin Chenoweth doesn’t get miffed very easily. But when she does, watch out. Last year, after Newsweek published a commentary on the inability of gay actors to play straight roles, she wrote an extensive letter to the magazine, calling the article “horrendously homophobic.”

But Chenoweth’s allegiance to the gay community goes back to growing up in Oklahoma — a place she returned to for her latest album, Some Lessons Learned, the first of four where the opera-trainer singer fully embraces her country roots.

We had lots to talk about when we caught up with Chenoweth, on a dinner break from shooting her upcoming series, Good Christian Belles. She discussed her history of dating gay men, her opinion on Michele Bachmann’s support of gay conversion clinics … and being a little bit wicked.

— Chris Azzopardi

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Dallas Voice: Your character’s name on Good Christian Belles is Cockburn — Carlene Cockburn. Chenoweth: I can’t wait for my family to hear that one. Are you kidding? I was like, “Wait a minute…!” But I just think the most important thing for me as an actress, because of the lines that come out of my mouth, is to just have to speak them and keep going, because they’re so funny and her name is so funny and the whole thing is just so great. I love it.

Does your character have anything in common with April Rhodes, who you play on Glee? Probably not on paper, but they’re both pretty outlandish people. Carlene, though, is the antithesis of April.

You grew up in Oklahoma, so country music is your roots. How is your new album a reflection of that? It’s so funny, because I get asked, “Why a country album now?” But that’s how it all began for me. Of course, why would anyone know that? It’s not something I’ve been talking about a lot, but it’s the music I grew up listening to. One of my biggest influences is Dolly Parton, and when you look at the history of songs in musical theater and in country, they’re both usually great storytellers.

I know just how lucky I am to do this kind of music. Getting to go to Nashville and sing this music that feels like home to me was a real gift, and one that I don’t take lightly.

The song “What Would Dolly Do?” reminds me a lot of Dolly herself. I co-wrote that. [Producer] Bob Ezrin asked, “Who’s had the biggest influence on you country music-wise?” I said, “Dolly, without question.” And he said, “How would she approach it? Let’s think: What would Dolly do?” I said, “Bob, why aren’t we writing that song?”

There’s something about her that I feel very attuned to. There’s only one Dolly. I’m not comparing myself, but I’m just saying her spirit and the way she looks at life is pretty similar to me. And the cover I did of hers [“Change”] is actually a very emotional thing and it reminded me — of course, how could I ever forget? — what an amazing songwriter she is. You know, I didn’t do a lot of covers. I did two covers, one of Carrie [Underwood] and one of Dolly’s, and I just love both of them. I love their music, I love their spirit — everything they stand for.

It makes total sense, because, to me, both you and Dolly epitomize happiness. Oh my god, thank you. That’s the biggest compliment you could give me.

So, being so happy… what pisses you off? Oh, gosh! I don’t really get mad that often. But I’m not going to lie: When I do, there’s a quiet that comes over me that is a little like whoa, and that happens when I don’t feel other people are prepared or doing their job or pulling their weight. I come from a family where my dad came from nothing and worked hard to get where he is, and he said, “Work hard, play hard, Kris,” and I guess that’s kind of been my motto in life. So when I see people squandering opportunities or having a sense of entitlement, that really makes me crazy. Because I don’t understand it. It’s not a world I get.

One thing that does make you upset is homophobic people. I don’t like that, you’re right.

Your letter in response to that Newsweek column said it all. Why was it important to address your feelings on that issue? To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for what was going to happen. I was on Broadway doing Promises, Promises, and I read the article and I actually thought it was pretty irresponsible. I’m not even talking about whether a person agrees with being gay or not, I’m talking about artistry and gay

actors trying to play straight. It just made me mad, because I thought, “Well, I’ve played a prostitute, does that mean I am one? No.” I just thought it was a little bit of a bullying thing, and I honestly prayed about it — no kidding, I prayed about it.

And by the way, I’m a big fan of the magazine, which is why I was so bummed. But I think that they felt bad and hopefully there’s been some discussion about it and some learning, because that’s what we’re here to do on this Earth, to learn our purpose. Well, one of my purposes in this life — since I’m a believer and a Christian — is to help people realize that not every Christian thinks that being gay is a sin.

To reinforce your point, you made out with your Promises, Promises co-star Sean Hayes at the Tonys last year. It might’ve been a little jibe. It might’ve been a little one! Ha!

What was it like to make out with a gay man? Was that your first time? Well, let’s face it, my high school boyfriend is gay, so I don’t think it’s my first time making out with gay men! I bet a lot of women don’t even know they’ve done it! And Sean Hayes is just a darn good kisser, what can I say?

Wait, so you dated a gay man in high school? Yeah, and I’m like, “Well, that’s why we were such a great couple!” He didn’t pleasure me in any way but he helped me pick out my prom dress!

Was he one of the first gay people you knew in Oklahoma? Yeah. I want to tell you something I know about myself: When I was in the second or third grade, I first heard the word “dyke,” and it was in reference to a girl in our school who was very, very tomboyish. I didn’t really understand what the word was, but I knew I didn’t like the way it was said. And for some reason I’ve always been drawn to the person that was alone, and I don’t mean to make me sound like I’m Mother Teresa, because I’m not. But I’ve always been drawn to people who felt left out or different, and maybe it’s because, I too, felt different and unique. People would not think this of me, because there’s this perception of me that, “Oh, life’s been perfect and things have come so easily.”

But let’s face it: My speaking voice is very interesting. Yes, I was a cheerleader but I also wanted to do all the plays, I was in renaissance choir, and, I too, felt a little bit like an outsider. I was always drawn to people who felt that way, too. And sure, some of them were gay and I never did understand — I guess the word is fear.

God made us all equal. He made me short, he made someone gay, he made someone tall — whatever it is, it’s not a sin; it’s how we’re made. And that’s the way I feel about it. It flies in the face of a lot of what Christians believe, but as I’m finding out there’s a lot of Christian people who think the same as me. So that’s my deal, and I think we should not be careful of the unknown but rather accepting and loving of it.

As someone who’s Christian and supports the gay community, how do you feel about the pray-away-the-gay program that Michele Bachmann supports? [Long pause] You know what, you can have your opinion. One of the great things about being in this country is we get to freely say what we believe. I just don’t happen to agree with that. Though I like the “pray” part!

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

GOP frontrunner Rick Perry tries to assure social conservatives that the gay rumors aren’t true

Gov. Rick Perry

In an apparent reference to longstanding rumors that he’s gay, Texas Gov. Rick Perry assured a group of influential social conservatives over the weekend that “there is nothing in my life that will embarrass you if you decide to support me for president,” according to this report from the Texas Tribune.

Perry spoke during a private gathering in Texas’ Hill Country attended by hundreds of social conservatives including several prominent anti-gay bigots, such as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. The gathering was organized by David Barton, the WallBuilders founder and so-called “Christian historian” who recently suggested that four Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of same-sex marriage in New York should be scalped.

According to the Tribune, those in attendance asked Perry about a range of hot-button social issues, including abortion, immigration, gay marriage and hate crimes. Perry’s wife, Anita, was even asked whether she shares her husband’s views on abortion and same-sex marriage, to which she replied that she does. From The Tribune:

While job creation is the chief campaign message, winning evangelical voters is a major part of Perry’s nomination strategy. Polls show they make up some 40 percent of the electorate in some states, and social conservatives are expected to play a huge role in the outcome of the race in first-test Iowa, where Perry is giving native daughter Michele Bachmann a run for her money. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an ordained minister, won the Iowa caucuses in 2008.

Research published last weekend by the Palm Beach Post shows that “white, born again evangelicals” also make up more than a third of the vote in the GOP electorate in Florida, a key state that is expected to draw a lot of attention from Perry.

Perkins, the Family Research Council president, said religious conservatives will increasingly become comfortable with the Texas governor once they get to know him and examine his record in detail.

“I think he has the answers that are satisfactory when those issues are brought up,” Perkins said. “I think he is addressing them with the leaders in that community and as that information disseminates, I think he will be fine.”

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Perry signs anti-gay marriage pledge; NOM responds by calling him ‘marriage champion’

Gov. Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a GOP presidential candidate, has signed an anti-gay marriage pledge from the National Organization for Marriage, the Associated Press reports. By signing the pledge, Perry has vowed to support a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage throughout the country; defend the Defense of Marriage of Act in court; appoint judges and a U.S. attorney general who “will respect the original meaning” of the U.S. Constitution; support legislation allowing D.C. residents to vote on whether to overturn the district’s same-sex marriage law; and appoint a presidential commission to “investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters.”

Although Perry’s decision to sign the NOM pledge comes as no surprise whatsoever to us, the AP writes that it “repudiat[es] his earlier comments that marriage rights should be left up to individual states.” For a recap of all that, go here.

Other Republican presidential candidates who’ve signed the NOM pledge include Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Check out Bachmann’s signed copy below:

UPDATE: Brian Brown, president of NOM, issued the following statement about Perry’s decision to sign the pledge:

“Kudos to Gov. Rick Perry for making it clear: he’s a marriage champion. The purpose of NOM’s Marriage Pledge is to move from vague values statements to concrete actions to protect marriage. Gov. Perry joins Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum as a signer of NOM Marriage Pledge. By doing so, Perry makes crystal clear that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, gay marriage is going to be a bigger issue in 2012 than it was in 2008, because the difference between the GOP nominee and Pres. Obama is going to be large and clear. We look forward to demonstrating that being for marriage is a winning position for a presidential candidate.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gov. Perry silent so far on LGBT issues; Pink Noise moves to Rational Radio

Gov. Rick Perry strikes an, umm, rather unfortunate pose on the campaign trail this week.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has already jumped into first place in the Republican presidential race, according to the latest Rasmussen Results poll.  Of course, the poll was conducted before it was widely reported that Perry had accused Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke of being a traitor. Meanwhile, it’s worth nothing that, as far as we can tell, the rabidly anti-gay Perry hasn’t said a word about LGBT issues since entering the presidential race four days ago. And even fellow bigot Michele Bachmann is toning down her anti-gay rhetoric. That’s because it’s no longer terribly effective as a wedge issue, even in a Republican primary. Still, these candidates can’t hide from their records, and we fully expect Perry to sign that anti-gay marriage pledge from the National Organization for Marriage any day now.

2. Pink Noise: The Dallas Voice Radio Show, which was previously a podcast done from our offices, is moving to Rational Radio beginning this week. The show will air from 4 to 5 p.m. each Friday. Follow Pink Noise on Facebook and Twitter, and tune in to RationalRadio.org to watch our first episode live. We’ll also post recordings of Pink Noise right here on Instant Tea.

3.Lady Gaga released the video for “You and I” — the latest single from Born This Way — on Tuesday. Watch it below.

—  John Wright

CHART: Rick Perry 1 of 5 presidential candidates who oppose LGBT community on every issue

The above chart from Ned Flaherty at Marriage Equality USA (click to enlarge) provides a snapshot of where each of the presidential candidates stands on LGBT issues. As you can see, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is one of five with No’s across the board. Openly gay Republican Fred Karger is the gay-friendliest of the bunch, followed by Barack Obama, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Unfortunately, it’s looking more and more like it will be a choice between Obama and either Bachmann, Perry or Romney (and likely some combination of the three).

—  John Wright

PIC OF THE DAY: Gov. Rick Perry deep-throats corn dog at the Iowa State Fair

Photo via IowaPolitics.com on Flickr

According to The Dallas Morning News, Perry’s corn dog turned out to be vegetarian, and he ate only half of it. But it sure looks like he’s had some practice, and as you can see below, the governor’s form is certainly better than Marcus or Michele Bachmann’s.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Rick Perry’s first big flip-flop; Michele Bachmann says she doesn’t judge gays

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Hours after plunging into the Republican presidential primary, Texas Gov. Rick Perry made his first big flip-flop. The Texas Tribune reports that Perry is backtracking from one of the few socially progressive moves he’s made as governor — an executive order in 2007 mandating the HPV vaccine for girls entering sixth grade. Until now, Perry has consistently defended the controversial executive order, which was overturned by the Legislature. But now that he’s running for president, his position has changed. “I signed an executive order that allowed for an opt-out, but the fact of the matter is that I didn’t do my research well enough to understand that we needed to have a substantial conversation with our citizenry,” Perry told a gathering in New Hampshire on Saturday. “But here’s what I learned: When you get too far out in front of the parade, they will let you know, and that’s exactly what our Legislature did, and I saluted it and I said, ‘Roger that, I hear you loud and clear.’ And they didn’t want to do it and we don’t, so enough said.”

2. Perry’s chief rival for tea party and evangelical support, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, told CNN on Sunday that she would reinstate “don’t ask don’t tell.” But Bachmann mostly dodged questions about her virulently anti-gay record during NBC’s Meet the Press, declaring that, “I don’t judge [gays].” Watch the clip from Meet the Press below.

3. Indiana State Rep. Phillip Hinkle, the anti-gay Republican accused of hiring an 18-year-old male prostitute on Craigslist, faces growing pressure to resign.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: San Antonio to offer DP benefits; Indiana Republican in gay Craigslist scandal

Indiana State Rep. Phillip Hinkle

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Frontrunners Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann were among the candidates who came out strongly against same-sex marriage during a televised GOP presidential debate Thursday night in Ames, Iowa. Meanwhile, Jon Huntsman defended his support for civil unions, and the virulently anti-gay Rick Santorum actually appeared to express concern for gay people in Iran. Watch a video compilation of the candidates’ remarks on same-sex marriage from ThinkProgress below.

2. The city of San Antonio plans to begin offering benefits to the unmarried domestic partners of employees, both gay and straight, according to the Express-News. San Antonio, the second-most-populous city in the state, would become the fifth to offer DP benefits, joining Austin, Dallas, El Paso and Fort Worth. “For the city as an employer, it means we can be more competitive for great talent,” Mayor Julian Castro said. “For the San Antonio community, it means there are no second-class citizens. We’re a cosmopolitan city and we value everyone in our community.”

3. An anti-gay Republican state representative from Indiana is accused of hiring a male prostitute from Craigslist’s M4M section.The Indianapolis Star reports that State Rep. Phillip Hinkle offered the 18-year-old $80 for sex, plus tips. Hinkle picked up the teen and drove him to his hotel room. But when the teen found out Hinkle was a lawmaker, he got cold feet and called his sister to come get him. Joe.My.God. reports that Hinkle is a right-winger who opposes same-sex marriage and once forced the state to offer an “In God We Trust” license plate.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Santorum compares marriage to a napkin; Bachmann likes pro-slavery books

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Rick Santorum

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Anti-gay GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Monday compared marriage to a napkin to explain his opposition to same-sex marriage. And no, we’re not kidding. It’s perhaps the most ridiculous anti-marriage analogy since Texas Sen. John Cornyn hatched his box turtle. Watch video of Santorum’s remarks below.

2. Meanwhile, ThinkProgress revealed that a book saying blacks were better off under slavery once appeared on GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s “must-read” list. Is it any wonder that Texas Gov. Rick Perry will be considered a frontrunner if and when he enters the race? Who wouldn’t be? Too bad my puppy is a Democrat.

3. A gay couple is suing a California amusement park for allegedly displaying a photo, taken of them riding a roller coaster, with “Were [sic] Fags!” written on it.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: With Perry about to enter race, Bachmann steps up her anti-gay game

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. With Texas Gov. Rick Perry about to enter the GOP presidential race, Michele Bachmann is stepping up her anti-gay game. Polls show that Perry and Bachmann are likely to compete for the critical evangelical vote. So, with Perry’s day of prayer happening Saturday in Houston, Bachmann released a list of 100 pastors who’ve endorsed her on Friday and set out to attend two evangelical church services on Sunday. And one of those services just so happened to be virulently anti-gay, with the pastor denouncing homosexuality as “immoral” and “unnatural” and playing a video featuring a man who claims to have prayed away the gay. Watch the hilarious video featuring the “ex-gay” man, Adam Hood, below.

2. The polls say Perry and Bachmann will compete for the evangelical vote, but Rick “frothy mix” Santorum isn’t about to throw in the towel, so to speak. CNN reports that on Monday, Santorum’s campaign launched a pre-emptive strike against Perry based on the news that the Texas governor will confirm his plans to run for president on Saturday in South Carolina. “If reports are true, then I want to be the first to welcome Governor Perry to the race — but it’s too bad he chose to ignore Iowa,” Santorum said in a statement. “I guess we’ll all see each other soon on the trail. I wonder which version of marriage he’ll be ‘fine’ with in South Carolina – obviously, not the same version he was ‘fine’ with in New York.”

3. Here’s something both Perry and Bachmann — but not Santorum — can include on their list of anti-gay credentials: Their home states, Texas and Minnesota, are both among the 18 where where sodomy laws remain on the books despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 2003 declaring them unconstitutional. Equality Matters posted a detailed report about the sodomy laws on Monday saying that not only do they remain on the books, but in some cases they continue to be enforced. Scary.

—  John Wright