CBS' Good Wife’s Alan Cumming Out There for Gay Rights and AIDS Research

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Actor Alan Cumming, who plays Eli Gold in CBS drama The Good Wife, was recently in Toronto hosting a fundraiser for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and is also an honorary board member of New York’s Ali Forney Center for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) youth.

“I do a lot for amfAR and also with the Ali Forney Center,” Cumming tells Samaritanmag. “Obviously, I have an area of interest, which is a personal thing for me, which is gay equality and young gay people, trying to help them, if they are homeless or uneducated about certain things [HIV protection]. But I feel like we’re all on the Titanic and we’re all changing deck chairs so we might as well all do as much as we can.”

The 48-year-old Scotsman, who lives in New York with his husband Grant Shaffer, was previously married to actress Hilary Lyon. Since coming out as bisexual in 1998, he has been a strong advocate for LGBT rights. In addition to his work with amfAR and AFC, Cumming has emceed or attended fundraisers for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

In 2005, he received two notable awards, the Vito Russo Award at the 16th Annual GLAAD Media Awards for outstanding contributions toward eliminating homophobia and the Human Rights Campaign’s Humanitarian Award.

Cumming — who has appeared nearly 50 films, including X-MenSpy KidsFlintstones and Smurfs franchises  — was appointed Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2009 Queen's Birthday Honours List for services to film, theatre and the arts and activism for LGBT rights.

This past summer, he could be seen in the Equality Network video campaign for same-sex marriage in his native Scotland. The Marriage & Civil Partnerships bill is being fast-tracked through Parliament. He also designed a T-shirt for the Ali Forney Center's Shred of Hope fundraising auction this summer.

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According to an amfAR report, “Through 2011, the Global Fund has spent more than $8.3 billion for HIV/AIDS grants and PEPFAR [the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] has approved $31.9 billion toward programs addressing HIV prevention and treatment in countries most affected by HIV/AIDS.”

On its web site, it states that “Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $366 million in its mission and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.”

How does Cumming feel about the progress he’s seen in the fight against AIDS since he first became an advocate?

“There’s not cure, which is a bit of a disappointment, although there have been people in the world that have been cured of AIDS. That guy in Berlin,” Cumming says, referring to the unique case of Seattle native Timothy Ray Brown, a leukemia and HIV-positive patient who underwent Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in Berlin and shows no signs of HIV/AIDS anymore.

“So it’s kind of heartening that some things are going forward in terms of that, but for me, the biggest thing is the education. People are not educated about HIV and AIDS like the way there were from when I was a young man coming of sexual age. And that means the infection rates among young people are really rising dramatically and that is terrible. It’s sad that we have to get money from private organizations like this and the government’s not doing it, in America certainly.”

On Oct. 19, Cumming will perform a one-man show at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA, to benefit another organization he supports, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.  He won a Tony Award for his 1998 Broadway debut in Cabaret and will sing Broadway show tunes and popular songs at this event. 

Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.