Gabriel Arana

Gabriel Arana is a senior editor at The American Prospect. His articles on gay rights, immigration, and media have appeared in publications including The New Republic, The Nation, Salon, The Advocate, and The Daily Beast.

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Recent Articles

What's the Impact of the Matthew Shepard Act?

Today, the Senate joined the House in passing the Matthew Shepard Act, which provides for stricter sentences if a crime appears to be motivated by anti-gay bias. It's near certain that Obama will sign it, giving the Human Rights Campaign a public relations boost and likely a fundraising bump. But in reality, the lobbying crusade for this legislation doesn't amount to much more than wasted effort and lost opportunity. Hate-crimes legislation is symbolic: It sends the message that anti-gay prejudice is abhorrent. But it does little for gay victims. Stricter sentencing might send a message to bigots, but by then it is probably too late. Even the bill's proponents concede that it is unlikely to prevent violence against gays and lesbians. If that is really the goal -- and it should be -- why not prioritize education and activism instead? I don't think that all crimes are hate crimes and that this is a form of thought-policing like some, but I do question whether the movement should have...

A March Toward Irrelevance?

The National Equality March drew thousands to Washington for workshops, speeches, and "dancestravaganzas." But was anything really done to advance gay rights?

(AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)
This weekend, thousands of gay people will descend on Washington to participate in this year's National Equality March, which calls for "equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states." Organizers have planned workshops and genteel cocktail hours leading up to Sunday's march on the Capitol, but these events aren't really what most people are coming for. For many attendees, the weekend will largely be a social affair, with all the trappings of a carnival. Cobalt -- a stalwart of D.C.'s gay nightlife scene -- helped kick off the festivities with a "best package" contest Thursday. And while well-connected lobbyists and rich donors will hear Obama speak at the Human Rights Campaign dinner on Saturday, everyone else will be attending the Imperial Drag-Trans Extravaganza: ''Marching for Equality ... in Heels'' at the M Street Renaissance hotel. Visitors also have a raft of -- as one venue put it -- dancestravaganzas to choose from. Gay-rights marches have played an...

The Deification of Matthew Shepard

What the gay-rights movement has lost by making Shepard its icon.

Judy and Phillip Shepard, parents of the late Matthew Shepard, during a dedication of the Matthew Shepard Memorial Bench Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008 in Laramie, Wyo. (AP Photo)
Since Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered a decade ago, his story has achieved the status of parable, illustrating how ugly anti-gay bigotry really is. Every year, thousands of high school students across the country perform Moises Kaufman's play, The Laramie Project , which recounts the aftermath of Shepard's murder through the eyes of the local residents. Shepard's story has been the subject of three screen productions, a documentary, and countless investigative reports. That he was discovered tied to a pole on a dirt road only encouraged Christian analogy, one not-so-subtly invoked by the 2007 Phil Hall theatrical production, Matthew Passion . As Shepard's father said at the trial of the two men eventually convicted of killing Shepard, "My son has become a symbol." This familiar story -- Matthew as a pure, meek victim of anti-gay bigotry -- remains an orthodoxy unquestioned by all but the most ardent gay-rights opponents. In fact, Shepard was a deeply troubled young man. He had a...


Today, Judge Vaughn Walker denied a motion by various gay-rights organizations -- including Lambda Legal and the ACLU -- to intervene in the federal challenge to Prop. 8. He did, however, allow the city of San Francisco to join, saying its interests were not already represented by other parties. This decision leaves former Bush v. Gore foes David Boies and Ted Olson at the helm of the broadest legal case for gay rights to date. Major gay legal rights organizations, which have taken a more incremental approach to securing gay rights in court, were quick to warn Boies and Olson about the danger of bringing the case to the Supreme Court too soon, then asked to join the suit once it became clear Boies and Olson intended to continue despite their reservations. The question of whether it's the right "time" to bring gay marriage to the Supreme Court was subject of a New York Times debate forum today, but the point is really moot. The decision today locks Lambda Legal and the ACLU out of the...


Equality California, the gay-rights organization that spearheaded the failed No on 8 campaign, announced today it would shoot for 2012 instead of 2010 to try to repeal California's new constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. They reason -- correctly, in my estimation -- that waiting will give gay-rights supporters more time to win people over and allow more youth, who overwhelmingly support gay rights, time to enter the voting pool. It also makes getting donations easier, if the effort is seen as more likely to be successful. Other advocates are impatient for change and afraid the trend toward legalizing gay marriage will lose momentum. But this fear is unfounded: Over the past few decades, statistics show a consistent trend toward support for gay rights -- especially since the 1990s, when an entire generation of youth grew up seeing openly gay public figures on TV. These are future voters. I have reservations, however, about Equality California's campaign, given its relentless...