This holiday season, people can wish each other well while supporting a worthy cause. Udi Behr, the jeweler behind the Love and Pride line that includes commitment rings and other pieces, has teamed up with actor/talk-show host/former The Amazing Race co-winner Reichen Lehmkuhl and spokesmodel Tanya Parker to put out electronic greeting cards ( www.sendlovegreeting.com ) . Each time someone sends a holiday greeting, the company contributes money to Marriage Equality, a non-profit organization that advocates same-sex unions.
When visiting the site, users will be able to choose a greeting with Reichen, Tanya or an alternate image. ( The spokesmodels are like Ken and Barbie in the sense that people can even choose what they want Reichen and Tanya to wear. ) People can then opt for a particular greeting—or choose to record their own. Users can then send the e-cards to others, free of charge.
Windy City Times recently chatted with Reichen and Udi ( in separate interviews ) about the cards, equality, heterosexual gay-rights activism, and other issues. Below are excerpts from those talks:
— Reichen on heterosexual activism: 'Udi's passion surprised me. He's the first heterosexual activist I've met who's so passionate about gay marriage. I just heard about [ actors ] Charlize Theron and Stuart Townsend, who said that they'll get married only after gays and lesbians have the right to [ do the same ] , which is pretty cool of them. That's the kind of activism we need. I love it when the two communities help each other out.'
— Udi on being a heterosexual who's involved in gay rights: 'If it is estimated that there are 20 to 25 million gays living in the United States, there must be 35 to 40 million parents of gays and ... millions of other [ relatives ] . I have friends and family members who are gay; it's part of my being, you know? For me, [ same-sex marriage ] is a human-rights issue. [ Gays and lesbians ] deserve everything that I deserve. For me, it's a no-brainer. It's amazing that we're in Iraq to install democracy and, in America, we want to take freedom away.'
— Reichen on his journey from the military to gay activism: 'I feel like I've come a long way. I got out of [ the Air Force ] in 2001 and that's when I really came out of the closet. It's been a wonderful thing to be where I am now. I never dreamed that my life would take the turn that it has. I feel like I have more power now than I would have as a lawyer, which is what I was originally going to be.'
— Udi on how the events of Sept. 11 affected him: 'Everything in my life was influenced by Sept. 11. I mean, my daughter went to school underneath the tower; it was a very difficult time. I think Sept. 11 taught me a couple of things, like that [ some ] of the best weapons against hate [ are ] love and humanity. I wish that, for every million we spend on bombs, we would spend a million on a school in Afghanistan or Iraq. ... Things are [ amazing ] ; we have 40 million people around the world dying of AIDS and we are talking about gay marriage? How fucked up is that? If you care about humanity, you have to care about all human beings. ... Haven't we learned that discrimination doesn't work?'
— Reichen on his involvement in the project: 'They went through different photos of me to decide which one they wanted to make a cartoon out of. I then did voiceovers for the holiday greeting cards you see online. I enjoyed working with Love and Pride and I believe in what they do so much.'
— Udi on how he came to work with Reichen: 'I was introduced to Reichen through my PR company. It turns out that he's [ beautiful ] inside and out ... this issue is important to him and he's very charismatic.'
— Reichen on why gay marriage is so divisive in America: 'I think America is so divided because of a widespread belief in false spirituality that are made up by men and not by God. That kind of teaching is an abomination and it needs to be stopped.'
— Udi on why gay marriage is so divisive in America: 'I believe it's the result of propaganda from a certain segment of the government with collaboration from the church. ... I think the church has a very [ major ] interest in this. The church lost the battle over divorce and the battle over abortion so [ one issue ] left for them is gay marriage. Once they lose that battle, their influence on regular life will be minimized—and that's very scary to them.'
— Reichen on law and morality: 'If law is steeped in morality, historically it's always been more immoral to deny rights than to offer them.'
— Udi on the importance of finances: 'Let's raise the money because I think the gay community needs the money to educate America about what's really going on. I hear incredible things from Marriage Equality—like gay couples are [ denied ] about 1,100 rights that straight ones have. If I don't know it, America doesn't know it. ... We are fighting against well-financed churchgoers and others. People need to know what the gay community is fighting for.'
— Reichen on the United States approving same-sex marriage: 'I really believe that it'll happen within our lifetime. I feel that straight and gay people are going to get angry—because, as a country, we've always stood for freedom. People are going to get angry that the United States isn't recognizing something that's so obvious and that's so fundamentally necessary.
'Who is anybody to tell anyone else who they're allowed to love and choose? The fact that the people next door to me can get married and I can't is outrageous. We make about the same amount of money and [ have many other things in common ] , yet I'm not afforded the same rights they are. It's outrageous and stupid.'
Go to www.sendlovegreeting.com or www.loveandpride.com .