2013 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism | Hillman Foundation

Hillman Prizes

2013 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism

Andrew SullivanAndrew Sullivan

Founding Editor, The Dish

Andrew was born in August 1963 and grew up in East Grinstead, West Sussex, England. He attended Reigate Grammar School, and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he took a First in Modern History and Modern Languages. He was also President of the Oxford Union, and spent his summer vacations as an actor in the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain.

In 1984, he won a Harkness Fellowship to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and earned a Masters degree in Public Administration in 1986. In his summers, he interned as an editorial writer at The Daily Telegraph in London, and at the Centre For Policy Studies, Margaret Thatcher’s informal think-tank, where he wrote a policy paper on the environment, called ‘Greening The Tories.’ In the summer of 1985, he travelled through thirty of the United States. He then went on to get a PhD from Harvard’s Government Department with a doctorate called ‘Intimations Pursued: The Voice of Practice in the Conversation of Michael Oakeshott.’ It won the Government Department Prize for a dissertation in political science, and was published in 2008.

From 1991–1996, he was the editor of The New Republic, bringing its circulation to a record 103,000 and, alongside predecessor Rick Hertzberg, winning three National Magazine Awards in his tenure. He was named editor of the year by Adweek in 1996. From 1996–2000 he devoted his time to writing for the New York Times Magazine, a weekly column for The Sunday Times in London, and to the campaign for marriage equality for gay couples.

In 1989, Sullivan wrote the first national cover-story in favor of marriage equality, and subsequently an essay, “The Politics of Homosexuality” in The New Republic in 1993, an article the Nation called the most influential of the decade in the gay rights movement. In 1995, he published his first book, Virtually Normal, a case for marriage equality, which was translated into five languages. He testified against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, edited an anthology, Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con, and toured the country campaigning on the issue. His second book, Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival, was published in 1998 in the United States and Britain. Sullivan tested positive for HIV in 1993, and remains in good health. In 2006, he published The Conservative Soul, a critique of the direction of the American right in the new millennium. In 2007, he was one of the first political writers to champion the presidential campaign of Barack Obama and his cover story for the Atlantic, “Why Obama Matters,” was regarded as a milestone in that campaign’s messaging.

Sullivan calls himself a conservative still, is a practicing Catholic, but has been an enthusiastic supporter (and occasional critic) of Obama since 2007. Sullivan appears regularly on the Colbert Report and Real Time with Bill Maher on television and continues his weekly column for the Sunday Times. He lives with his husband and two hound dogs in New York City and Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Twenty-four years ago, when Andrew Sullivan first broached the subject of marriage equality in a groundbreaking essay in The New Republic, the very idea that the institution of marriage ought to be open to loving couples regardless of gender was widely dismissed as—to borrow a phrase from an unusually disgraceful Supreme Court decision in a different but related case—“at best, facetious.”

Well, no one is laughing now, except from joy, and thousands of people are crying—also from joy, at weddings. We are witnessing an unprecedentedly rapid, profound, and peaceful advance in America’s long, still incomplete journey toward the goal of a fully open society.

A decade ago, 55 per cent of Americans believed it should not be legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry; only 37 per cent believed it should. Now, according to the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, the numbers are almost exactly reversed: 58 per cent support gay marriage and 36 percent oppose it. Among adults under 30, support has reached an astounding 81 per cent.

The skyrocketing acceptance of marriage equality is one of those successes that has a thousand fathers (and mothers). But at the beginning—and for years after the beginning—it had only a tiny handful. Andrew Sullivan was—and is—one of them. In his magazine journalism, in his 1995 book Virtually Normal, and then, starting at the dawn of the new century and continuing right up to five minutes ago and beyond, in the pioneering blog he calls The Dish, Sullivan has honed the moral and ethical case for gay marriage, told the human stories behind it, and chronicled the political and legal struggle to make it a reality.

In the early years of that struggle, which coincided with the cresting of the plague of AIDS that cost so many their lives and might have cost him his own, Sullivan faced not only the predictable anger of his fellow conservatives but also criticism from sections of the gay left. Some feared that marriage was a bridge too far, a distraction that risked alienating moderate allies. Others saw it as a surrender to oppressive conformity, an attack on the distinctiveness of gay culture. But, as Dudley Reed wrote in a profile for The Economist, “Sullivan was trying to alter the underlying argument of the gay-rights movement, from a radical assertion of difference to a radical assertion of sameness.” In the gay community and beyond, that is an argument he has won. And today he is a happily married man.

The Sidney Hillman Foundation, which is deeply rooted in the labor movement and in the liberal and progressive values of the American political tradition, is not exactly a bastion of conservatism. And, as mentioned, Andrew Sullivan is a conservative—albeit, in recent years, the sort of conservative who manages to rank as No. 19 on Forbes magazine’s list of “The 25 Most Influential liberals in the U.S. Media,” who has endorsed the Democratic nominee in the last three Presidential elections, and who is a passionate, if sometimes critical, admirer of Barack Obama. Sullivan’s leadership in the fight for marriage equality is the principal reason he has earned a Hillman Prize. But this is not a single-issue award. Though there are many areas of disagreement between Sullivan and the Hillman judges, we commend, among numerous other things, his fierce condemnations of torture and the impunity granted to its perpetrators, his critique of the cruelties of the failed drug war and the policy of marijuana prohibition, his opposition to all forms of intolerant religious fundamentalism (including the American variety he correctly calls Christianism), and his campaign for reform and accountability in the hierarchy of his own beloved Catholic Church. We commend him, too, for the creation and nurturing of a sturdy and consistently innovative journalistic institution—one that has recently embarked on a brave experiment: seeking to sustain itself purely on subscriptions from its devoted readers, without advertising or corporate backing. For those readers, The Dish is a source of almost addictive pleasure as well as a forum for stimulating discussion and a uniquely energetic and intelligent collator of news and opinion.

For courage and constancy in the struggle for marriage equality, for the defense and advocacy of humane values, and for imagination and creativity at the digital cutting edge, we honor Andrew Sullivan and The Dish with the Hillman Prize for Opinion & Analysis Journalism.