Kristol Ball Fail: 1993 Will Be The ‘High Water Mark’ Of The Gay Rights Movement

As I mentioned yesterday, Bill Kristol’s 1993 debate about gay rights on Larry King Live really was something to behold. Perhaps my favorite thing in it, which didn’t quite fit the focus of my last post, was a horribly bad prediction by Kristol. It’s long been good fun in the liberal blogosphere to mock the poor predictive powers of the Kristol Ball and I do believe this will add grist to that mill.

King hosted the debate between Kristol and gay rights activist Tom Stoppard to discuss the upcoming March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi-Equal Rights and Liberation (C-Span video of the march is available here). Asked by King if the march would help the gay rights movement, Kristol said “no,” adding the bold and spectacularly wrong prediction that the march would be “the high water mark of the gay rights movement in the United States”:

KING: Do you think, Bill, this march will help their cause?

Mr. KRISTOL: No, I think this is the high water mark of the gay rights movement in the United States this Sunday. This is the over-

KING: It’s downhill after this?

Mr. KRISTOL: I think so.

Mr. STODDARD: You’re in for some real surprises, I have to tell you.

Mr. KRISTOL: I may be. I’ve been surprised before. But I really do believe the fact that, I mean, people- Americans want to be tolerant, they welcome some of the increases in-

KING: Americans basically live and let live, right?

Mr. KRISTOL: Yes, and I welcome and they welcome some of the increases in tolerance over the last 20 or 30 years with regard to homosexuals. But the fact is people do not believe that homosexuality should be given the same, as Tom said- He was clear about their goal, that it should be treated exactly at the same level of dignity and with the same level of desirability as heterosexuality or the heterosexual family. [CNN 4/23/1993]

Kristol repeated his prediction as part of his closing remarks at the end of the interview:

KING: We’ve about run out of time.

Going to have a big effect?

Mr. STODDARD: Yes, I think this march will demonstrate the power and the size of this movement.

Mr. KRISTOL: I think this march will be the high water mark of the movement. And, you know, Tom is a reasonable person and makes it all seem very attractive, but what really hasn’t been discussed today is the tragedy, really, of the gay rights movement in America – the tragedy of AIDS, the tragedy of the really irresponsible behavior, unfortunately, of so many people in that community, which has really been a human tragedy for our country.

Mr. STODDARD: What you call tragedy, I call great human hope – the chance of individuals to live their lives as they see fit.  [CNN 4/23/1993]

Just a little evidence to underline the obvious fact that April 1993 was not the high water mark for gay rights in America. Today, LGBT Americans can serve openly in the military and six states legally allow gay and lesbian Americans to marry. In May 2011, Gallup’s tracking of the issue found for the first time that a majority of Americans believed that “same-sex marriage should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages.”

Let me offer a prediction. I don’t think we’ve seen the high water mark of the gay rights movement yet.

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