Political consultant, famed friend of Bill, pursues his passions on the page
Called “the most powerful gay man in America” by Newsweek magazine following his successful efforts to marshal gay money and resources for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, Mixner helped start the nation’s first gay political action committee, the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles, and was a co-founder of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, the Washington-based national organization that identifies and supports highly-qualified LGBT candidates for public office. He has been a leading advisor on several other presidential bids, including those of Richard Gephardt, Gary Hart, and George McGovern.
A recent transplant to New York City’s East Side, Mixner now spends most of his time as a writer and a global consultant on HIV/AIDS issues. He was the executive producer of the award-winning 1999 documentary, “House on Fire” about the African-American community’s response to AIDS. In January, Mixner co-authored a series of articles about poverty in America with former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey published online on The Huffington Post.
CHRISTOPHER MURRAY: What are you excited about right now?
DAVID MIXNER: I think we’re making enormous progress on the marriage issue. I’m also excited about candidacies like Sean Patrick Maloney’s for New York State attorney general. I think he’s running the kind of campaign that I never thought I’d live long enough to see where an openly gay person runs for statewide office and conducts himself with a great deal of dignity and power and garners praise from others for it. And I’m excited about Wisconsin Senator Russell Feingold recently expressing support for marriage equality as he’s likely to run for president and that will help redefine that debate nationally.
CM: What do you think is the next big threshold issue for LGBT people?
DM: I continue to believe that the only issue we have to care about is justice and equality. We have a tendency to focus on one issue at a time as if that’s all we have the capacity to do. But the fact remains that there are millions of members of the LGBT community who are not free, who are being persecuted, who are being denied jobs, who are being beaten. Or who most importantly live in the horror of self-hatred. Who believe they come out of nothing and who believe they amount to nothing and whom society has told are nothing. All over the country today are young people struggling to find their identity and our big issue is giving them hope, creating legislation that will make that hope a reality, and protecting them in any way we can.
CM: What does the community specifically need to meet those goals?
DM: We need guts! We need to be unapologetic. Often when I speak out on marriage or demand that politicians take a stand on these issues, I’m told to behave and not to be bad, to calm down. I still have yet to figure out when being for justice and equality is bad or that it’s something we should tamp down for the political convenience of others. I can’t figure out which right I’d like to give up, my Social Security rights, my right to marriage, my right to be by my lover’s bedside. The fact of the matter is my constitutional rights are non-negotiable. They were given to me by the Constitution. They are not up for debate.
CM: Do you wish to comment on the recent encouragement by Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle to withhold donations from Senator Hillary Clinton until she supports marriage equality?
DM: I deeply believe that we must support our leaders who push decision-makers in this country to do the right thing, to be for justice, to take that extra step; that we should support them and honor them and hail them. It’s amazing to me that Alan Van Capelle should simply say that Hillary Clinton should be for marriage and that he should get so much grief about it. I think deeply that we can be practical and that we can also be very political, but we should never be the ones to give non-gay politicians, or gay politicians for that matter, permission to take a ride on our freedom. I would hope that all our leaders would be like Alan and demand that elected officials and our party should do the right thing like Senator Feingold and support equality and justice for the LGBT community.
CM: As a relatively new transplant to New York City, what’s your sense of the political engagement of the LGBT community here?
DM: I think it’s wonderful. Being new to the city, I may see things with fresh eyes and I look at the fact that Christine Quinn is City Council speaker and is doing a remarkable job in that arena. I see remarkable young leaders like Alan Van Capelle, I see candidates like Sean Patrick Maloney and I think New York has a very dynamic, diverse, exciting community. There are many strong opinions here about the direction the community should take and that’s a great sign that at least people care.
CM: What’s one of your favorite things about New York that you’ve discovered since you’ve been here?
DM: I don’t know whether to give the G-rated or the X-rated answer here! I think what I most love about New York is its creative life. I’m a writer and I have found people who have stimulated me and challenged me to be better in my writing. There is such a great creative energy in this city, a love of theater and of the arts that is just infectious.
CM: What are your current writing projects?
DM: Writing is my passion. I just finished a play called “Jacob’s Ladder” that we’ll do a reading of in June. I have two screenplays close to the production stage that look like they will be made, “Fire in the Soul” and “Suddenly a Soldier.”
CM: What are some of your personal challenges at this stage in your life?
DM: This is always difficult for me to talk about. I’m a survivor of the horrendous, devastating AIDS epidemic of the ‘80s. Although AIDS continues to be a major problem in the world that none of us should forget, I lost 280 friends to AIDS, did 90 eulogies in two years, and I feel like I’m growing old without peers, without people to reminisce with about our history and who become storytellers to the younger generations about the heroic and noble struggles back then. I think the other daily battle that all of us who are part of this community face is our own homophobia. We need to confront our demons head on.
CM: What’s a secret pleasure that energizes you?
DM: Besides “American Idol?” I’m hopelessly addicted to it and I’m almost ashamed of it! But my one great love is Africa. I’m in love with that continent, I’m in love with its people. It’s my spiritual center and my soul and it gives me strength, a sense of continuing history, and a sense of beauty. I’m a huge environmentalist and love animals and Africa embodies all those passions.
CM: Anything else?
DM: I’m single and available!