Former President Ronald Reagan Dies

Sat. June 5, 2004 12:00 AM by

Reagan's relationship with America's gay community was complex

Washington, D.C. - Former President Ronald Reagan died Saturday after a decade-long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 93.

Reagan forged a coalition of conservatives and moderates to win the White House. His eight years in office marked a shift in the way America saw itself.

His supporters say he restored America's confidence in the wake of the disaster of the Vietnam War and the economic uncertainty triggered by the OPEC oil crisis of the 1970's. His controversial supply-side economics set the stage for the strongest economic growth America has experienced in the 20th century. And many say he was the driving force behind the end of the Cold War and the West's "victory" over communism.

Reagan's relationship with America's gay community was complex. He had personal gay friends, and brought gays into the White House to work in the administration.

"President Reagan will be remembered in part for his leadership [as governor of California] in defeating the Briggs Amendment in the 1960s that would have discriminated against hard working hard working teachers," Steven Fisher, Communications Director for the Human Rights Campaign told

But, as president he was accused failing to grasp the extent of AIDS.

In October 1, 1987 after the US Senate voted 75-23 to allow the former hospital at Presidio Army base to be used for a regional AIDS treatment facility in order to meet the projected needs of San Francisco Reagan said if the bill was passed by the House of Representatives, he would veto it.

His presidency was severely criticized in the play and later the film Angeles in America for doing little to help AIDS patients. A television biography went even further.

The Reagans featured a scene in which Ronald and Nancy are having breakfast when the subject of AIDS comes up. Regan, in the script, says "They that live in sin shall die in sin" and refuses to discuss the issue further.

Elizabeth Egloff, a playwright who wrote the final version of the script, acknowledged there was no evidence such a conversation took place. But, she said, "we know he ducked the issue over and over again, and we know [Nancy] was the one who got him to deal with it." She added that other biographies noted that Reagan had trouble squaring homosexuality with the Bible.

CBS, which ordered the film refused to air it after receiving pressure from conservative Republicans.

Nevertheless, his opposition to AIDS funding is well documented in "Dutch," Reagan's authorized biography. Author, Edmund Morris, writes that Reagan once said of AIDS, "Maybe the Lord brought down this plague," because "illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments."

After leaving office, Reagan disclosed he was suffering from Alzheimer's.

"Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him," she said. "Because of this I'm determined to do whatever I can to save other families from this pain."

©® 2004

This article originally appeared on Republished with permission.