He worked from 1993 to 1999 for the president with the worst legislative gay rights record in history – if you count Clinton's signature on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, DOMA, and the HIV travel and immigration ban. Yet now he preens in the New Yorker as if he is a longtime gay activist who always spoke truth to power. A comparable figure, Bob Hattoy, quit in disgust as he observed Socarides' serial betrayals of gay rights on the inside.
We also have the following memo from Socarides providing talking points for the Clinton administration's war on gay marriage and gay servicemembers – who were fired at rates far higher under Clinton than before. Here are some choice passages from a September 3, 1996 memo, co-written by Socarides and the other member of the Clinton administration whose job it was to screw over the gays and then ask us for more money, George Stephanopoulos:
The President has long opposed gay marriage based on his belief that the institution of marriage should be reserved for unions between one man and one woman. The President strongly believes that gay and lesbian individuals should not be subject to unfair discrimination, which is why he has endorsed legislation outlawing discrimination against gays and lesbians in the workplace. But he does not believe that the federal government should promote gay marriages.
It was the HRC and Gay Establishment's line at the time: "marriage" is a nightmare issue; let's aim for protecting workplaces instead. Two decades later, we have marriage in several states, a critical court ruling looming, and … no employment non-discrimination act. But the point was purely to protect Clinton and the Democrats.
And the fall of 1996 was when Clinton actually ran radio ads in the South (see here for the text) bragging of his opposition to gay marriage as part of a defense of "American values". Initially, Joe Lockhart insisted that the ads would keep running, only to pull them after major protest from gay activists. If I were the gay liaison to a president running ads attacking gay people, I'd quit, wouldn't you? The memo even explicitly threatened that Clinton would sign a bill banning marriage equality – which became DOMA.
While Socarides was the gay liaison, the Clinton administration also stabbed us marriage activists in the front as we walked into Congressional hearings by announcing that morning that they had no qualms at all about the constitutionality of DOMA. And here's what Socarides wrote about the core civil rights issue of our time:
The president believes that raising this issue now is divisive and unnecessary and is calculated only to score political points at the expense of this community. The president believes it is an attempt to divert the American people from the urgent need to confront our challenges together… the President does not believe that the federal government should recognize gay marriage [and] he does not believe it is appropriate for scarce federal resources to be devoted to providing spousal benefits for partners in gay and lesbian relationships.
Now, look: I'm glad that Richard Socarides has evolved from his channeling this contempt for gay relationships. I would just ask of him what he has asked of Chuck Hagel: a public apology for the damage he helped do to gay people and people with HIV as he defended Democratic party power against the lives of gay people and their spouses.