Patti Davis, the daughter of former President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan, made headlines two weeks ago when she said her father would have backed same-sex marriage. Now, in a new interview, she says that her mother, who rarely speaks on public policy issues, supports marriage equality.
“She does,” Davis said when asked if the former first lady supports gay marriage, adding that her mother “is not comfortable going out in the public eye and getting in the firing line of anything,” and also noting with a chuckle that “if she had disagreed with what I said publicly about my father, she would have said something publicly.” (Scroll down to listen to the full interview)
Davis also addressed comments by her adopted half-brother, radio talk talk show host Michael Reagan, who’d written an op-ed piece a day before her comments about President Reagan and gay marriage in which he attacked same-sex marriage and said it could lead to acceptance of bestiality, polygamy and even murder. Michael Reagan later also sharply disagreed with Davis’ contention that their father would have supported gay marriage.
“In his rant, in that op-ed, he didn’t talk about our father once, and I thought that was very telling, because he always talks about our father,” Davis said in an interview on my SiriusXM OutQ radio program, which she appeared on to discuss her novel, which is centered around a lesbian romance, Till Human Voices Wake Us. “That op-ed, that written thing equating gay people with murderers and people who engage in bestiality or whatever, it’s all such ugly stuff and if Michael were the only person saying that, you can say, ‘OK, whatever.’ But there are other people who feel this way and who lump gay people in with people who have sex with donkeys and farm animals. This is just horrific. Our father would in no way tolerate that kind of ugly talk and that kind of hateful speech.”
Davis noted that Michael Reagan lived with her and her parents while gay friends and family members were present and were accepted by the former president and first lady, and thus she believes her brother knows that her father privately supported gay people.
“Michael came to live with us for a while when he was a young teenager and he knew the same people that I knew,” she explained. “And he knew the tolerance. And he knew the two aunts that babysat us. He knew they were around. They were around at holidays and it was completely accepted that they were a couple.”
Nonetheless, Ronald Reagan has been sharply criticized by LGBT and AIDS activists for bowing to religious conservatives in the Republican Party, holding back gay rights, and catastrophically failing in responding to the AIDS epidemic early on, not mentioning the word AIDS until the late 80s, well after thousands had been infected with HIV and died.
“Part of the reason I thought it was important to say that about my father,” Davis said regarding her belief that he would support gay marriage, “is that he was late in addressing the AIDS issue. I wished I’d asked him that before the Alzheimer’s, if he’d regretted that he was late in addressing the epidemic. I’m quite certain he would have said that yes he was. You know, my father’s flaw was not that he was intolerant. His flaw was that he trusted the people around him. And I’m not excusing him. I’m just saying this as a fact. He trusted people around him to tell him what was going on in the country that he needed to address. There were people around him that did not want him to deal with any issue that had to deal with gay people.”
Regarding her mother’s position on gay marriage, Davis, who was estranged from her mother for many years but reconciled with her shortly after President Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 1994, said Nancy Reagan supports marriage equality but is reluctant to say so publicly.
“She does,” Davis said in response to the question. “I’m hesitant to speak for anyone else, and she’s not comfortable going out in the public eye and getting in the firing line of anything. So, you know, I want to be cautious about speaking on someone else’s behalf. But let me put it this way: I think if she had disagreed with what I said publicly about my father she would have said something publicly.” Davis chuckled and added, “Let’s just put it that way. That’s the most sort of politically correct way I can answer that question.”
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