When First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to Democratic donors in New York next week, the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Leadership Gala, hosted by Bravo’s Andy Cohen, will itself be a sign of the changed times.
Two years ago, the same event was the scene of some high-dollar heckling of the first lady’s husband, who had not at that point announced his support for marriage equality. The room, full of New Yorkers in the midst of their own legislative fight for marriage equality, was at times tense, and President Obama faced fallout from the event.
At this year’s gala, to be held at the posh 583 Park Avenue venue on May 29, the night likely will be less controversial and more celebratory. New Yorkers have marriage equality, Obama supports marriage equality, and the momentum is on supporters’ side.
And with the host of Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live at the helm, the night could go anywhere. Although best known for his pop-culture sensibilities — he wrote the book Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture — he’s also up for pushing politics.
“When you go to a gay wedding, there won’t be a question in your mind about whether this should be legal or not,” Cohen told BuzzFeed — adding that he’d be open to meeting his future husband at the gala.
In addition to the first lady and Cohen, the event is also slated to feature Jason Collins, the newly out, and first out, NBA player — another cause for celebration among the event’s attendees.
Talking with BuzzFeed about his hosting duties, Cohen discussed the marriage momentum — and how he hopes to get the first lady on his show someday.
Why are you doing this event?
Andy Cohen: I’m just a great fan of the first lady, as well as the president. I just think the first lady is great, and I’m happy to be involved with this event that she is headlining. I think the president has been a strong advocate for LGBT Americans, and so I’m happy to put my hat into the ring here.
What do you say to people who might not know of your political interests?
Cohen: I think, as a gay American, this is an event for the LGBT community. As a gay American, I care about gay issues. I like this first lady, she’s a Housewives fan, and she supports our community, so it’s like a perfect storm.
Do you plan on putting her on the spot about her favorite Housewife?
Cohen: I would like to get into it a little bit. I think she’s a lot of fun. I would love for the first lady to come on my show. I think there’s a side to her that we don’t get to see very much. I get the sense that she has a wicked sense of humor. And she seems a lot of fun to me. I can just tell that there’s a lot going on in her head.
Obviously the event took on another dimension when Jason Collins came out and got added to the program.
Cohen: I think it’s great. I love that he came out. I think the first is always the toughest, and hopefully there will be more to follow behind him. And, I loved it, that the president called him and the first lady was tweeting about him. I think little acknowledgments like that along the way go a long way.
With the Supreme Court decisions coming up, what do you see as things that need to be focused on going forward?
Cohen: I think it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with this immigration bill and whether gay couples are included. That seems like a big issue. To me, marriage is it. I think the Defense of Marriage Act has to go and gay marriage needs to be legalized. I think just the headway that’s occurred, the momentum in the last year since the president has come out and said he supports it, to all of these Republican lawmakers publicly standing up and voicing their support, it seems like that’s where we’re headed.
All of these high-dollar donors coming to this event, what is it that you hope to surprise them with?
Cohen: What do I hope to surprise them with?
Well, they’ve got Andy Cohen coming to the event, something’s gotta happen.
Cohen: You know, you’re making me realize, I need to play a game with the first lady and I haven’t given it any thought. I think, since I played “Plead the Fifth” with the president, I’m hoping that I could maybe get the first lady to play. You just inspired me.
We’re coming up on the second summer since New York had marriage; now Minnesota has marriage. What is your experience with these changes?
Cohen: It’s phenomenal. I have now, in the last year, attended three gay weddings. It’s something that I never — you know, frankly, it’s something that I didn’t realize how important it was to me until I attended a gay wedding. And then, when I did, I saw it play out in front of me amongst people I love. I just thought, How could this not be? How could this not be legal everywhere? When you go to a gay wedding, there won’t be a question in your mind about whether this should be legal or not.
For me, it’s just having gone and seen it myself — now I want to get married. I never thought about getting married. It just never seemed like a possibility at all, and now it’s real and it’s something that I aspire to as well.
Is there a Mr. Cohen on the deck right now?
Cohen: There’s not, but there needs to be. Maybe I’ll meet someone on the 29th.
What is the perfect Mr. Cohen like?
Cohen: Oh my god. That’s a good question. Someone, I think someone kind of strong and independent, who’s got something going on for himself. I don’t know. I think it’s all about the connection when you meet someone. Right?
I hope so.
Cohen: Yes, yes.
Speaking of couples, can we expect to see a gay housewife any time soon?
Cohen: I do not know. There almost was, there almost was a couple seasons ago. And then, at the last minute, it didn’t happen. You never know. It could happen.
Anything else you need to let the world know before the event?
Cohen: No, just that I’m really excited, and now you’ve inspired me. I need to call the DNC and get a game of “Plead the Fifth” on the [agenda for the event]. The president submitted last year, so I think it’s time now for his wife to join the fun.