Exclusive: Thomas Roberts Speaks to EDGE at Equality Forum
Gay MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts spoke about his coverage of LGBT issues, his career and his upcoming wedding during an exclusive interview in Philadelphia on Saturday.
Roberts, who has been a full-time anchor with the network since late 2010, sat down with EDGE shortly before he emceed Equality Forum's annual dinner at the National American Museum of Jewish History.
"Equality is a big part of the conversation that's happening right now," he said, referring to LGBT rights as one of the myriad of issues on which his program often focuses. Others include abortion and reproductive rights for women, equality in the workplace voters' rights. "We love that we get to be able to talk about that at least during the 60 minutes that I get to be on MSNBC every day."
Roberts on Monday interviewed Oral Roberts Potts, the gay grandson of evangelist Oral Roberts, during a segment on the proposed constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman in North Carolina that state voters will consider tomorrow. He also reported on Vice President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan's endorsement of nuptials for gays and lesbians and their potential impact on the President Barack Obama's re-election campaign.
"We like to talk about those stories," said Roberts. "They are part of the national conversation right now. There's never been more conversation about it, and so we're really privileged to be part of it."
The suburban Baltimore native's profile has certainly increased since he publicly came out during the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association's annual conference in Miami in 2006. He released an "It Gets Better" video in Nov. 2010, and emceed the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's annual dinner in Washington, D.C., in March. Roberts also attended the opening of country singer Chely Wright's center for LGBT youth in Kansas City, Mo., a week later.
"Chely is fantastic and I thought this was a wonderful endeavor that she and her family all created," he said. "I wanted to go and be there to support her."
Marriage Equality USA will honor Roberts in New York City later this month, but his reporting on nuptials for gays and lesbians and other issues has sometimes raised a few eyebrows. He suggested to National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown during a March segment on a bill that would have repealed New Hampshire's marriage equality law that he should watch the documentary "Bully."
Roberts told EDGE that he had just seen the film. He said he did not receive any accusations after his exchange with Brown that he is an activist journalist.
"People know me, and people have a certain expectation from knowing me," said Roberts. "I don't think they want people to come on our air and get away with a certain thing that some people in a common sense frame of mind could consider to be hate speech. Like I said, there are expectations that people have of me because of the role that I'm in to stand up for parts of the conversation and for people that aren't being represented in that conversation properly."
Roberts to Marry Long-Time Partner in the Fall
Roberts announced his engagement to his partner of nearly 12 years, Patrick D. Abner, the day after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed his state’s marriage equality bill into law. They plan to exchange vows in the fall.
"We want to go ahead and seal the deal and make this thing official," said Roberts. "It’s very exciting. It’s also just a lot of work to think about things. Neither one of us come with a big dowry; we’re trying to put the wedding together on our own. We want it to be a nice, great time but also we’re both cheap so we’re trying to find the nice middle road."
Roberts spoke with EDGE hours after he babysat a close friend’s newborn son. He used that as a metaphor upon which to discuss the possibility of parenthood once he and Abner officially tie the knot.
"That’s something for us down the line to re-evaluate and consider, but you know we’re traditionalists," said Roberts. "We have to be married before we have children."
He stressed several times during the interview that he takes his position as a role model very seriously. Roberts also reiterated that he has no plans to leave MSNBC anytime soon.
"I love the people I get to work with," he said. "I love the brand that I get to work for, so I hope I’m not going anywhere for a long time."