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Gay rights activist comes to campus

Danny Roberts, a gay rights activist and former cast member on MTV’s Real World, will be speaking at USF tonight as part of a nationwide college campus tour promoting gay rights awareness.

The tour, which began on Feb. 3, is titled “Real World, Real Life, Real Issues,” and addresses problems that Roberts has faced in life, including dealing with stereotypes and overcoming discrimination.

“Having Danny Roberts speak here helps give students access to another point of view in today’s culture,” said Hollie Miller, chairwoman of the University Lecture Series.

Roberts was chosen to appear on the Real World shortly after graduating from the University of Georgia in 1999. The show, which took place in New Orleans, featured Roberts and six other young adults living together for five months with cameras recording their every move.

It was during this time that Roberts met Paul Dill, a military officer who Roberts is still dating. However, because of the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which allows gays in the military provided they do not reveal their sexuality, Dill and Roberts were forced to keep their relationship secret for almost 18 months before Dill resigned to move with Roberts to Seattle, where they live today.

While Roberts was on the Real World, Dill’s face was blurred anytime he visited Roberts to protect his identity from military officials. After the stint on TV, the two were afraid to be seen in public together, fearing that someone would identify Dill as the man behind the blurry mask. The couple, in an interview on MTV in December, finally spoke out on the fear and difficulty that comes with living such a secret lifestyle.

Kim Colley, a member of the PRIDE Alliance, an organization providing support to homosexual, bisexual and transgender students, said the relationship playing out on television offered insight into the adversity many gays encounter.

“Their relationship opened peoples’ eyes to gays in the military and how it affected them,” Colley said.

Roberts has started two Web sites to offer advice and encouragement to gays. He tries to remain active in his community through the sites and lecture tours.

Colley said she expects the lecture, which will be tonight at 7 in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Ballroom, to address gay marriages in America, a heated issue that could play a significant role in this year’s presidential election. Roberts has publicly endorsed Democratic candidate Howard Dean in his bid for the presidency because of Dean’s open support of gays and gay marriages.