From a June 30, 1987, memo to President Ronald Reagan from Gary L. Bauer, Reagan’s chief domestic policy adviser. In July of 1987, Reagan appointed Frank Lilly, an openly gay geneticist, to the thirteen-member Presidential Commission on the HIV Epidemic. The previously unreleased document was acquired this September after a Freedom of Information Act request was made by the law firm McDermott, Will & Emery, and the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., an organization that performs archival research related to gay and lesbian history.
Memorandum for the President:
As you know, I have opposed the notion that we should seek out a homosexual to be on your AIDS commission, for the
1. Those pushing the hardest to name a homosexual are generally not our friends. They will not be satisfied with one gay, but will sense that if enough pressure is exerted we will cave on other issues.
2. The gay member of the commission will be an automatic media star. His opinions will be given more weight by the media, and he will be in great demand for the talk shows. The pressure on him to attack you and the commission’s work will be overwhelming.
3. Millions of Americans raise their children to believe that homosexuality is immoral. To appoint a known homosexual to a presidential commission will give homosexuality a stamp of acceptability.
4. While it is true that homosexuals have been major victims of AIDS, they are also responsible for its spread. Recent studies show that the average gay man with AIDS has had over 150 different sexual partners in the previous twelve months.
5. I know you realize AIDS is not just a health issue; it is also a heated political issue. We must be careful not to create a situation where certain members of your own commission end up booing Administration policy.
I believe we can handle the critics short of appointing an avowed homosexual. If you feel we must, I would recommend a “reformed” homosexual — that is, someone not currently living a gay lifestyle. We have identified several individuals that meet that criteria.