At the Human Rights Campaign's Carolinas Gala in Raleigh, N.C., on Saturday, singer Clay Aiken acknowledged what many were thinking when he publicly came out in 2008, five years after his second-place finish on "American Idol" brought him hordes of female fans and endless speculation about his sexuality: "It's about damn time!" But then, as actor Meredith Baxter -- who's twice Aiken's age and just announced that she's a lesbian on the "Today" show three months ago -- said at the same event, "It's a very strange thing to do this official coming out to the world ... To tell you the truth, I have never heard a straight person do that. They just make you guess."
Despite being fairly new at speaking out for gay rights, both Aiken and Baxter were witty, passionate and cautiously optimistic -- and the audience went nuts for them. After affirming, as blogger Pam Spaulding put it, that it is "never too late to come out and be who we are," Baxter focused on how discriminatory laws reinforce baseless prejudices -- and the right wing knows it. "When our government discriminates against gay soldiers, then our citizens, our everyday folks, are given a federal validation to harass their gay neighbors," she said. "Whatever P.R. could be better for the anti-gay movement than 'don't ask, don't tell' and the Defense of Marriage Act?" Aiken cited equality milestones like the 19th amendment, Brown v. Board of Education, and the Civil Rights Act before concluding, "Like those civil rights movements that came before, our message is the message of fairness, of righteousness, of decency. It's the message of the future. Our time is now -- and it's about damn time." Hear, hear.