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MW: From the perspective of somebody who has been out publicly now for nearly six years, how do you see the changes that are happening from the military to marriage and so on?
ROBERTS: I think they’re fantastic. I was actually in Maryland yesterday for a speech for the United Way Emerging Leaders Conference and it just so happens that last night marriage equality passed the Senate in Maryland. I’m from Maryland, I couldn’t be more proud of Gov. [Martin] O’Malley and my home state. But I still think that people, in being honest about who they are, it’s still a ring of fire for people to walk through, whether you’re giving committed service to our country in one of our branches of service or just in everyday life.
But now I think we see a world that is opening its arms to a loving and understanding embrace. We still have a lot of work to do. We just need to keep shining a really bright light on where any inequality exists and what can be done to change it. And I couldn’t be more pleased to be invited, to be a part of this.
MW: And that’s part of how you talk about what you do on TV.
ROBERTS: Yes, I couldn’t be happier that I get 60 minutes a day on MSNBC to add voice to the voiceless in this country. As a proud member of the LGBT community, I devote a lot of time and so does my executive producer. We agree on a lot of these social justice issues – that they need to be discussed and debated and talked about – and we try to bring as many as we can in the 60 minutes that we’re granted a day to try to make that difference.
When you think about the fact that we can lead a show with a string of youth bullying – where kids are jumping off bridges or stringing themselves up in their own closets – and then end the show with the fact that in a state like Maryland marriage equality passed. When you’re showing that big of a chasm between what you can lead a show with and how you can end a show, it’s hard to not make a connection [about] the big disconnect that exists right now in this country.
So, we take great pride in the fact that we have this 60 minutes a day, and we try to use it in the best and brightest way that we can to educate, inform and inspire.
MW: One of the questions that people in the LGBT movement have been faced with recently is whether or not marriage equality is getting too much coverage and other issues like the fact that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is still sitting in Congress and the fact that for a lot of people those issues, you already referenced, with bullying, those issues – ”Are you physically safe? Do you have a job?” – are still out there.
ROBERTS: I think they’re all part of the conversation. When we have states like in Maryland or like we have in Washington state where we can see the movement of positivity going, it’s good to be able to report on forward motion.
You do make a great point, though. There is still so much to be discussed, still so much to be debated. When a group like One Million Moms – that’s not even a million moms – can launch an attack against Ellen DeGeneres, for her to be challenged and try to get her fired being a spokesperson for an American brand like J.C. Penney, just shows you how much more conversation needs to be happening in this country about those states where you still can be fired for being LGBT. It’s a huge conversation that still needs to be had in this country.
Not to discount anything else with marriage equality or what’s happening with the full repeal of ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and how that moves the conversation along to what the federal benefits should be for our married service members. However, all these conversations deserve equal footing in the national conversation.
MW: What times, when you are on the air, do you feel that who you are is an important part of the story?
ROBERTS: I’m lucky enough to be invited into the viewers’ homes on a daily basis. Do I want to be a stranger in that person’s home? No. Am I proud of who I am when I leave this building, as well as who I am when I’m in this building? Absolutely. And should the two match up? Absolutely. I don’t come in here and try to be one thing and leave and go be someone else. And I don’t mind having people at home know that. I think that’s important and people respect knowing who they’re inviting into their home. And just by doing so, just by allowing me in their homes, someone that may not believe in marriage equality or may not think that they know a gay person or have gay friends, you know, lo and behold, they do.
I think by me just being who I am and showing up, I think that that lends honesty to the conversation and I try not to shy away from that.