What may be most remarkable about this incident is how typical it is: there's been no shortage of Republican gay sex scandals in the last decade. Even if you narrow the list down to just elected officials (sorry Ted Haggard, no one voted for you) you've still got a buttload of homosexual hypocrites. I'm taking guys who have repeatedly voted against equal civil rights for gays (Ashburn even voted against a no-cost-to-taxpayer Harvey Milk day) and have then been discovered soliciting gay sex. For example:
- Florida Congressman Mark Foley,
- Florida State Congressman Bob Allen,
- Idaho Senator Larry "Wide Stance" Craig,
- Washington State Congressman Richard Curtis,
- Spokane, Washington Mayor Jim West (desperado, rough rider, no you don't want nada...)
- Virginia Congressman Ed Schrock
blogACTIVE.com's whole mission is to out gays. They solicit and investigate tips about closeted Washington insiders and publish their allegations. The 2009 documentary Outrage praised blogACTIVE founder Michael Rogers and other "closet-openers" for "holding public officials accountable for hiding their truths."
That site (and let's be honest, common perception) suggests that many gay rights supporters advocate forcing conservatives out of the closet. Their rationale might simply be that politicians shouldn’t lie; and if a politician lies about something as basic as his sexuality to people as close as his family, who’s to say he isn't lying about his legislating? We (moral America) disparage even heterosexual adulterers on these grounds.
But outing homosexuals seems to bring a juicer, more satisfying triumph, a glorious “I told you so” moment. I think the gratification stems from two sources: one, it proves that “there are more of us than you think.” Sanctimonious Republican churchgoers who claim they've never met a gay? Guess again! And, the train of thought goes, if they associate with gays, the bible-beaters might find ways to relate to them and start wanting to protect their interests. (Law dorks: could Justice Powell's gay law clerk haved changed the outcome of Bowers v. Hardwick if he’d just told Powell he was a big 'mo?)
The other (bigger, better) reason is because outing hypocrites proves that homophobes doth protest too much. If a politician's anti-gay votes stemmed from shame and fear, not legitimate policy concerns, his votes are less valid. (This is the "he who smelt it, dealt it" approach to social politics.) So, one could argue that outing gay politicians has a positive effect on the gay community because it undermines the legitimacy of anti-gay votes and forces homophobes to confront their gay neighbors (gaybors).
While that may be a valid contention, I still think these scandals do more harm to the gay community than good. First, the sex is almost always associated with crime, such as prostitution (Craig, Schrock), soliciting someone underage (Foley), or even drunk driving (our friend Roy Ashburn). "Out" homosexuals are portrayed as sex-crazed men waiting bathrooms to perform fellatio for the right foot-tap. One blogger complained the Ashburn scandal "underscores the already false concept floating around that gay men are pedophiles, preying on our young, out cruising for drug-fueled sex with anything that moves..."
Second, the subsequent sheepish, self-loathing apologies that these politicians deliver continue to treat homosexuality as deviate and shameful. They are "deeply sorry" for their actions; they are "praying on it" with their families; and more often than not, they are resigning from their position. Good riddance! We'd ride 'em out of town on a rail if we didn't think those dirty homos would enjoy it!
Now sure, these phonies owe apologies to their constituents and their families for lying and sneaking around and giving illegal underage bathroom blow-js. But their apologies don't clearly delineate between being sorry that they're liars or sorry that they're gay. Inevitably and deliberately, these politicians still use language that condemns homosexuality. They still make religiously-charged, family values statements that suggest that while they've sinned, "when they take the time to pray on it, [they can] turn themselves into good, hetero boys all over again."
Now, we could say a lot about how American society isn't ready to elect an openly gay Republican, or, as Mark Foley complained, if you're "out," being gay becomes your whole identity. Thus, these politicians argue, they have to conceal and repress and deny their sexuality if they want the political job of their dreams. But my point is just that these lying, cheating, arrogant, deviant dirtbags are a poor proxy for the majority of normal, loving gay relationships. And when we read more articles about guys like Roy Ashburn than the gay next door, America's opinion of homosexuals can't help but be skewed. And the more we're skewed, the more gay rights are screwed.