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Why the political closet costs us our rights

McGreevey opposed gay marriage to hide own homosexuality. He’s just one of many closet cases, Dem and Republican, that we all know are out there, casting votes against marriage (or any gay civil rights measures) for fear of drawing attention to their own tortuous battle within.

“I did not want to be identified as being gay, and it was the safe place to be,” McGreevey said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. “I wanted to embrace the antagonist. I wanted to be against it. That’s the absurdity.”

It’s not absurd, really — it’s dangerous. People who cannot think clearly about their own sexuality in this vein have no business deciding for those of us who have reconciled that truth what our rights should be.

That’s the price we have been paying for the political closet, where politicians and lobbyists have personal demons that manifest themselves in virulently anti-gay voting records and advocacy and off-hours cruising. Look at former Virginia Congressman Ed Schrock from an earlier post.

This tortured closet case had no business being in Congress, given his 92% Christian Coalition rating, his co-sponsorship of the Federal Marriage Amendment and the fact that he was cruising for sex with men via the MegaMates/ MegaPhone Line, leaving recordings like this:


“Uh, hi, I weigh 200 pounds, I’m 6’4″ (inaudible) blond hair….very muscular, very buffed up, uh, very tanned, uh, I just like to get together a guy from time to time, just to, just to play. I’d like him to be in very good shape, flat stomach, good chest, good arms, well hung, cut, uh, just get naked, play, and see what happens, nothing real heavy duty, but just, fun time, go down on him, he can go down on me, and just take it from there… hope to hear from you. Bye.”

After Mike Rogers outed this bastard, was it any surprise that the Schrocking news resulted in Ed canceling his re-election bid without commenting why. After all, the man served the Virginia 2nd district, home to the headquarters of televangelist Pat Robertson, and said ridiculous statements like this about homos:

From the Virginian-Pilot, October 22, 2000: Schrock favors ending the Clinton administration’s ”don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military. He supports asking enlistees whether they have had homosexual experiences in an effort to to try to keep gays from serving. ”You’re in the showers with them, you’re in the bunk room with them, you’re in staterooms with them,” Schrock said.

This is precisely the kind of behavior McGreevey is describing, only once out of the closet, the former NJ governor came out in favor of marriage equality because he has made peace with his orientation (after making a mess in his personal and professional life trying to hide it). We haven’t heard any such public declarations from Schrock, who, as a socially conservative Republican is probably still sitting in his lonely, tortured closet.

That’s where the social conservatives of the AmTaliban-focused GOP want gays to be. Hidden, full of shame. Back to the good old days.

On the one hand, I laud the Log Cabin Republicans for attempting to bring sanity to their party in terms of respect for LGBT citizens who believe in the principles of traditional conservatism. I may not agree with some of their political positions as Republicans, but it’s healthy for both political parties to have to court a group for its votes. On the other hand, I question the sanity of the LCRs operating in an environment where they are constantly sh*t on by people in their own party who simply don’t want them to exist. All of that work hasn’t resulted in any open arms in the party welcoming openly gay pols, staffers, and lobbyists — who are also politically out to the public. Take a look at this state platform:

We believe homosexual behavior is not normal and should not be established as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle either in public education or in public policy. We do not believe public schools should be used to teach children that homosexual behavior is normal. We do not believe that taxpayers should fund benefit plans for unmarried partners. We oppose special treatment by law based on nothing other than homosexual behavior or identity. We support federal and state constitutional amendments to ensure that marriage is limited to the union of one man and one woman. We oppose attempts to legitimize homosexual relationships by placing such relationships on an equal footing with marriage. We oppose the adoption of children by same sex couples. (NCGOP Party Platform Article I, Section 3)

That’s the difference between the Dems and Republicans. The latter has allowed fundamentalists to hijack the social agenda, and they know that they outnumber gay Republicans. They can write party platforms like the above and not bat an eye — that’s not bigotry to them. What I can’t understand is how any LCRs can give money to that party under these circumstances — they are contributing to people that work day and night to erode gay citizens’ rights. A tax deduction is more valuable than their basic civil rights. That’s pathological.

I will, however, say that for gay Dems to continue to give time, money and effort to their party is almost as pathological. This is a party that has taken this constituency for granted for some time now, always asking for patience to wait until they return to power for legislative change to occur. We’ve been down that road before (DOMA, DADT).

We’re simply in a political closet of a different kind. The courage in the party to actually take a stand of any kind at the federal level regarding gay rights is sorely lacking, as the Dems in leadership court the religious zealot vote (like, say, appearing on Crazy Pat’s 700 Club), or cozy up to the squawking fundie media darling of the day to prove that the party is in the mainstream. That’s insanity. The religious vote does not equal religious fundamentalist social conservative whackjobs. If that is the mainstream, everyone is in deep sh*t.

Until the party gets its house in order and finds the ability to talk about gay rights without acting like they are choking on a bone, gay Dems should not be an automatic ATM, our votes cannot be taken for granted, we have to be willing to say the wallet is shut and we are willing to sit it out. Support should only be given to specific candidates and organizations actually working for positive change at the grassroots level, and to candidates who are up against strident, vocally anti-gay opponents. We also have a responsibility to hold purported advocacy groups (which have their own agendas for self-preservation and power acquisition), in check when they see them endorsing candidates who are not supportive of equality.

To be asked over and over to do all the heavy lifting to win over the public re: civil equ
ality — and wait for the polls sufficiently shift for politicians to “feel comfortable” coming out of the closet to support us is simply tiring. Not taking a position or avoiding the discussion is, by default, taking a position — it allows the other side to define you.

***

You must read Mike Tidmus’s take on McGreevey, or as he calls him, ex-Governor JimBenet McGreevey. LaBarbera takes a swipe at McGreevey’s treatment of his wife and adultery, but he seems to have a selective memory when it comes to other celebrated “values” politicos. Mike:

Porno Pete, however, fails to note the overwhelming prevalence of celebrated Christian, Republican wife dumpers like former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. Newt paid a visit to his wife while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. With his two daughters in tow, and one Callista Bisek, a blonde, congressional aide 23 years his junior hiding out in the wings, Newt presented his bed-ridden wife with divorce papers. Married three times and typical of the sanctity of marriage set, Newt wasn’t what you’d call cooperative with his alimony payments.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding