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Ken Mehlman’s Other Closet

nolaclutterbusters closet door

Ken's Other Closet (photo: nolaclutterbusters)

In his coming out interview, Ken Mehlman says he spent 43 years “getting comfortable with this part of his life.” That’s something that everyone does — gay, straight, or anywhere in between — and for most people, it’s full of confusion, delight, doubt, bewilderment, fear and joy. On a personal level, Mehlman will no doubt live with less fear and more joy now that he’s come out — but the sexuality closet should probably be the least of Mehlman’s concerns.

Right after the quote above from Mehlman’s coming out interview, Marc Ambinder also noted that Mehlman has another big closet that he’s been living in:

Privately, in off-the-record conversations with this reporter over the years, Mehlman voiced support for civil unions and told of how, in private discussions with senior Republican officials, he beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage.

Ah, yes. The DC Off-The-Record Closet. It’s much larger than the DC GLBT closet. Much larger.

*waving to Rahm*

(But I digress . . .)

If Ken Mehlman wants the GLBT community to “offer support, or at least offer understanding,” perhaps he might demonstrate that support and understanding can be mutual, because in Ambinder’s story it is clear Mehlman doesn’t understand the gay community very much at all.

He often wondered why gay voters never formed common cause with Republican opponents of Islamic jihad, which he called “the greatest anti-gay force in the world right now.”

Let me give Mehlman a hint. In 2001 and 2002, the Republican White House in which Mehlman operated felt it more important to kick gay Arabic and Farsi translators out of the military, rather than let them use their skills to fight against that “greatest anti-gay force in the world.” By 2006, the Bush DOD had removed upwards of 300 linguists.

Maybe, just maybe, that had something to do with it.

In 2007, Marine General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace called homosexuality immoral, and declared it had no place in the US military. (Don’t get me started on the oxymoron that is Pace talking about morality. Been there, done that.)

Maybe, just maybe, that had something to do with it too.

If Mehlman thought coming to grips with his sexuality was tough, he hasn’t seen anything yet. Coming to grips with the costs his political positions took on GLBTs, their families, and their friends will make his struggles with his own sexuality look like a piece of cake.

If Mehlman wants understanding, he might try doing a little visiting. You know, just to reach out in the spirit of friendship.

He might visit with Rich Mitchell, a school superintendent whose contract was extended in 2008 and who was fired in 2009 because of his sexual orientation.

He might visit with David Hill, a hotel human resources director who was fired from his job with a Nashville hotel.

He might visit with Steven, who as a 16 year old wrote this disturbingly graphic and pain-filled note shortly before he tried (and failed, thankfully) to commit suicide.

He might visit with Katherine Miller, a lesbian who resigned from West Point this month.

Sure, visiting with the upscale gay Veal Pen folks might be easier, but if Mehlman wants understanding, he needs to talk with less lofty folks.

Mehlman might also want to show a little understanding by visiting with some of his old pals from the Bush years, and publicly — not from his Off-The-Record closet — call them out on their anti-gay bigotry. Call out those with whom he tangled to “beat back attacks on same sex marriage.”

Let me repeat: Call them out publicly. By Name.

You see, until Mehlman is willing to leave the Off-The-Record closet, the willingness of the GLBT community to see him as anything other than self-serving is going to be awfully hard to overcome. The On The Record record of Mehlman and his political allies is a mighty tough hill to climb, no matter how much happened in the Off-The-Record Closet.

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I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

And Preview is my friend.