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Why Minnesota GOP State Senator Paul Koering came out


Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, teared up when he recalled breaking the news that he was gay to his mother years ago. His mother, whom he described as his “best friend,” died two years ago this month. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls

[UPDATE: I consolidated elements of last night’s post with new information that’s been released today]

You must read the Raw Story behind-the-scenes piece on how Minnesota Republican State Senator Paul Koering decided to publicly come out, first to Mike Rogers of BlogActive, then to his colleagues, and bravely the rest of the world yesterday. He’s already heard squawking from party leaders about it. Rogers confronted Koering about the rumors that he was gay, and he knew he had to make a choice.

“I thought about hanging up,” the Minnesotan says. “And so I put him on hold because I didn’t know what to do, and so I went over to our chief of staff’s office a couple of doors down from me, and he was not there. It gave me a minute and a half to cool off, so I got back on my phone, and I said, ‘Mike, yeah, I’m gay, ask me whatever you want to ask me. If that’s what you want to do, it’s fine with me.’”

After admitting he was gay, the senator says he and Rogers had an amicable conversation.

“We actually had at that point I think a very civil conversation,” Koering recalls. “I actually could see that once I opened up my heart like I normally do I could see that I felt that he thought” similar things.

An important thing to mention is that Rogers did not out Koering at that time. Rogers:

I was speaking with goes to gay bars, knows a lot of gay people, and — after thirty minutes chat with me – told me he was gay, despite his evasiveness earlier in the call. This individual is certainly not what anyone would describe as “out.” This politician’s colleagues are not aware of the private life and not every vote this legislator has taken has been in the best interest of the gay and lesbian community.

Like every other story, I review the totality of the matter and decide with my advisors if the story is worth reporting. In this case, like so many others, the file is closed and a no story is written. Why? Because blogACTIVE.com does not report on every closeted politician from one party or the other.

There is also an excellent profile of Koering, who plans to run for re-election, in the local paper, The Brainerd Dispatch. The man’s politics are conservative, but you can tell he knows that his electability may hinge completely on his decision to try to serve his district as an out gay man.

“The Republican Party I know is a big tent,” he said, but then posed a rhetorical question. “Is the Republican big tent in Senate District 12 big enough to have them endorse me?

“I’m going to put up a vigorous campaign,” he said.

Koering said he hoped voters would look at his performance during the last two years and conclude that he was a good guy with a good heart. Although he was the only Republican senator to cast a vote against the unsuccessful measure to force a floor vote on the Defense of Marriage Act, he said he continues to staunchly support other core issues he has emphasized in the past.

Koering endorses Rogers’ campaign to “out” the homo hypocrites.

Koering, unlike many in his party—and those at gay and lesbian rights lobby groups in Washington—told RAW STORY he supports Rogers’ efforts to report on gay politicians who use their positions of power to thwart gay rights.

“I do believe it is appropriate when you have a politician who is a hypocrite,” the senator says. “Somebody who is possibly in the closet and uses their bully pulpit or their position to bash gay people or to make gay people’s lives difficult in their position and are in essence leading a double life—people like that need to be exposed for the hypocrite that they are.

“Those people need to be exposed for who they are because they are a very poor excuse for a public official, as far as I’m concerned,” he adds. “We don’t need hypocrites in government. Government is too screwed up as it is.”

Another issue addressed in the Raw Story article is the sad, gawdawful position of the Human Rights Campaign (“HRC continues to maintain a policy that politicians who maintain gay private lives should not forced out of the closet based on their public positions on gay issues”) and the Log Cabin Repugs (“We oppose outing, period.”).

We can’t look to these organizations to really fight the fight (well, anyone that thinks the LCRs are effective at anything are smoking something anyway — LCR is back, begging to be Bush’s butt boy again). These organizations are too concerned about mainstreaming that they are selling gay folks out. Period.

HRC’s effectiveness is pretty much summed up by the decision to roll a billboard truck around NYC during the GOP convention with “George W. Bush: ‘You’re Fired” emblazoned on it.

***

The word “outing” when referring to the these hypocrites needs to be in quotes. These losers are people that are otherwise publicly out among friends and co-workers — cruising and socializing as a homo at night. By day, they re-closet themselves to right-wing constituents and organizations that you know would hate their guts (or your Repug candidate that you work for) — it’s bullsh*t.

Look at Mike Rogers’ “outing” of ex-Congressman Ed Schrock. What a head case that man is. A >90% Christian Coalition rating, homophobe supreme, exposed by Mike on tape, soliciting sex from men on a dating service. This sick f*cker had no business in Congress. He needed a shrink.

These are people that actively work for and support anti-gay legislation, court the Christian Coalition’s hate agenda — you have to wonder how they can sleep at night. Most do very well thank you. They only get restless when sites like BlogActive are willing to point out the hypocrisy.

I hope the LCR crowd, at least, can look to Koering as a model of what gay Republicans need to do. I certainly cannot agree with most Republican positions, but coming out is the single most important thing any gay person can do of any political stripe.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding