Robin Roberts deserves our thanks.
As 2013 came to a close, the “Good Morning America” anchor came out quite simply and subtly by thanking her longtime girlfriend via a Facebook post for helping her through her most recent health crisis.
Roberts has been suffering from a life-threatening condition called myelodysplastic syndrome, for which she underwent a bone-marrow transplant.
She has publicly and courageously fought that disease, and now she is publicly and courageously fighting the disease of homophobia.
Roberts’ 10-year lesbian relationship was not a secret to family and close friends, but like many celebrities, she had not gone public with it.
She received an outpouring of support on social media for her announcement, most notably from first lady Michelle Obama, who said she was “so happy for you,” adding, “You continue to make us all proud.”
Roberts is a role model. There are few women of color in broadcast media, and even fewer open lesbians or gay men of any race.
Some folks think that coming out is not a big deal anymore. If that were the case, then Roberts and others would have been out earlier. But at least they’re coming out now. Last year marked the notable announcements from Olympic champion figure skater Brian Boitano and actress and singer Raven-Symone, who said she was happy she could finally get married.
Despite these breakthroughs and the advance of gay marriage across the country, homophobia still abounds.
It manifested itself in the “Duck Dynasty” controversy.
Actor Alec Baldwin displayed it in a crude comment to the paparazzi.
And former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, an outspoken advocate of gay marriage, recently alleged that he was fired for this and that an assistant coach told him, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, then nuke it until it glows.”
Such virulent bigotry cannot be tolerated. It’s what has kept so many people in the closet so long.
Robin Roberts defies it, and in doing so, she points the way forward to a freer, more inclusive, kinder and more equal America.
Elizabeth Ann Thompson is a writer for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. This column was distributed by MCT Information Services.