This post first appeared on Campus Progress.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich officially announced his 2012 run for president on Twitter last Wednesday, and he probably assumed his campaign would hit the ground running.
Gingrich seemed to hit a rough patch this week, though. There was the apology he had to make to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) after he criticized Ryan’s budget proposal. Then there was the Iowa man who called him an “embarrassment” to the Republican Party and asked him “Why don’t you get out before you make a bigger fool of yourself?” in front of rolling television cameras. And there were reports that he and his wife owed up to $500,000 to high-end jeweler Tiffany’s.
But the lowest—or brightest?—point of Newt’s week probably came at the sparkly hands of Nick Espinosa, a progressive activist in Minneapolis.
At a book signing after an event put on by the anti-gay Minnesota Family Council, Espinosa dumped a box of glitter on Gingrich and his wife Callista, yelling “Feel the Rainbow! Stop the hate! Stop anti-gay politics! It’s dividing our country and its not fixing our economy!” before he was escorted out of the event.
Campus Progress caught up with Espinosa via phone to discuss the action, tactics in the movement for gay rights, and “feeling the rainbow.”
What exactly does it mean to “feel the rainbow?” Do you think Gingrich is feeling it now?
“Feel the rainbow” means to feel the backlash from the GLBT community and their advocates for anti-gay policies. He is definitely feeling the rainbow right now—there’s no doubt about that.
Do you think a glitter dump is the best way to get someone on-board for LGBT rights?
There’s a variety of tactics that go into the gay rights movement in general. Right now, there are people all over the U.S. working on campaigns to legalize gay marriage or end the bans on gay marriage. There are many tactics, and I’m not sure one is any one more important than the other. But when they’re all combined, they create a movement for change that pushes for equality for all people regardless of their sexual orientation.
The majority of conservatives have opposed gay rights for years. Why did you target Gingrich specifically?
Newt was attending an event with the Minnesota Family Council, who are pushing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Minnesota. He also has a long history of funding extreme anti-gay groups, like the ones in Iowa who are working to unseat the judges there that ruled that anti-gay discrimination is unconstitutional. He funneled $350,000 to anti-gay hate groups to remove them. Gingrich focuses on divisive social issues while pandering to an extreme right base while failing to address the economic problems facing our country. I hope he serves as an example that hate won’t help you get elected.
Recent polls show that a majority of Americans support gay marriage. Why do you think so many politicians continue to oppose it?
That’s a good question—Newt and his Republican counterparts need to start asking themselves that question. Folks in my generation, young people, are much more open to the idea of gay marriage, and it outrages us that these arcane laws are still on the books and people like Newt Gingrich continue to try to take us backwards. We’re trying to look ahead for equality and full rights for LGBT people.
What has the response to your glitter bomb been? Have LGBT activists or other progressives criticized you, or have they been supportive?
The response I’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive. I accept criticism of my tactics, and I think everybody has a role to play in the movement for equal rights. Some people will focus on door-knocking, petitions, direct action and civil disobedience, media work. I respect all those tactics—and take part in all of them. But sometimes, when people aren’t paying attention, it might take something sparkly and shiny in their face before they take notice.
Should anti-gay politicians expect glitterbombs to come with the homophobic territory in the future?
I’d be happy to see more people let these sort of politicians feel the rainbow. I only used two out of the three bags of glitter for this action, so who knows. It’s funny, but what it comes to is that these are serious issues. I hope people get involved in whatever form they feel comfortable doing. It takes all kinds to get the job done.
Micah Uetricht is a staff writer with Campus Progress. You can follow him on Twitter @micahuetricht.