Washington’s Hundred-Year War on Gays
, 2022-05-28 09:00:00,
Terry Dolan had two funerals. The first, a grand affair at a Catholic monastery that drew hundreds of his right-wing friends, was an elaborate lie of omission. It was true, as mourners like Pat Buchanan acknowledged, that Dolan had fought ferociously for conservative causes throughout the 1980s, raising millions through his pioneering “super PAC” to shrink government, crush unions, and back Republican candidates. Studiously ignored by his family and political friends, however, was an aspect of Dolan commemorated days later at an unauthorized memorial service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew on Rhode Island Avenue. The 50 gay men and women in attendance remembered him as one of their own, a resident of the closeted “secret city” within Washington, D.C., struck down by the same virus that had felled Rock Hudson and uncountable others.
Like so many gay Washingtonians, Dolan led a double life, one that persisted even in death. After the funerals, his brother Tony, a White House speechwriter, took over the task of guarding his secret. As The Washington Post prepared to report on Terry’s hidden sexuality and death in 1986, Tony pulled every string to stop it. Ben Bradlee, the editor of the Post, had a gay brother—one whom he accepted—and he believed the public should know that such a prominent conservative activist, an ally of the “Moral Majority,” had died of AIDS, the disease that President Ronald Reagan refused to name. When Tony’s efforts to kill the story failed, he published a 29-page essay excoriating the Post for being “disrespectful of the public’s right to know; incapable of self-examination or introspection; self-righteous; arrogant and…
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