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On the hit list of the fundies, the gay GOP continues to protect its closet

Saturday, October 07, 2006

You're seeing a lot of tepid -- but still interesting -- MSM stories about the gay Republican subculture of DC running now, including this one in the NYT, that is politely skirting what we all know is a depth of knowledge about who is and isn't gay in this scandal that the media is withholding.

I'm not arguing that they should or shouldn't out anyone, but that if it turns out to be relevant that a lot of lies about the Foley scandal are being told because some powerful closet doors are going to get blown open, the GOP has a big problem here because we're talking about elected officials preying on children and abusing their positions of power in order to do so.

This may be more about protecting GOP closets than it is about gay Republicans in top positions of power trying to save their jobs (though with one, probably comes the other at this rate in the scandal).

The MSM stories are going right up to the line and you can almost tell they are straining not to reveal what they know.
The presence of homosexuals, particularly gay men, in key staff positions has been an enduring if largely hidden staple of Republican life for decades, and particularly in recent years. They have played decisive roles in passing legislation, running campaigns and advancing careers.

Known in some insider slang as “the Velvet Mafia” or “the Pink Elephants,” gay Republicans tend to be less open about their sexual orientation than their Democratic counterparts.

..."You learn to compartmentalize really well," said one Republican strategist who, like many gay Republicans interviewed for this article, would talk only anonymously for fear of adversely affecting his career.

...Mr. Fordham's history illustrates the potential tensions between private life and professional rhetoric. After leaving Mr. Foley's office in 2004, he worked as finance director for the campaign of Senator Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida. In that race, a Martinez campaign flier accused a political rival of favoring the "radical homosexual lobby" by supporting hate crimes legislation that included protections for gay men and lesbians.

One of the inevitable facts, said Mr. [Brian] Bennett, the former aide to Mr. Dornan, is that "there are just going to be some days when it's hard to be a gay Republican."

When asked why he remains in the party, Mr. Bennett gave an answer common to gay Republicans: he said he remained fundamentally in sync with the small government principles of the party and was committed to changing what he considers its antigay attitudes.
***

It sure sounds like the wingers are ready to toss these gay Republicans under the bus, based on a couple of other recent articles.

ABC: Conservative Activists Considering Role of Gay Lawmakers

and

National Journal: A Calamity For Gay Republicans

Hmmm...is it time for an "I told you so" yet? And I'm not opposed to a stronger gay voice in the Republican party. However, until the moderates have tired of the party being run by amoral moralists beating on a bible for political gain, gay folks aren't welcome (unless they are self-loathing enough to continue to support efforts to legislate their rights away). That's the current GOP -- and they are tossing you under the big wheels. Will the moderate remnants of the party come to your defense?

First, ABC's piece:
Conservative activists are beginning to discuss the Mark Foley scandal as indicative of a GOP that has become too tolerant of gays in their midst.

Regardless of the party's efforts against gay marriage, the argument goes, the fact that Republican officials accept gay congressmen, such as Foley, and staffers will mean the party will have problems.

...Richard Isay, a Weisll Cornell Medical College professor of psychiatry and author who has studied gay men and women, says his psychiatric studies show that closeted gays who work for organizations that are inhospitable to them may be more prone to "doing things that are going to get themselves into trouble."
Again, it's not about homosexuality = pedophilia, no matter what these right wing nutcases are bleating on the MSM.

The closet is really a short-hand term to describe a coping mechanism many gay people have developed because of our heterosupremacist society and the homophobic religious upbringing that too many of us have been immersed in. Anyone who tells you that either of these factors has no impact on the mental health of an individual would be lying. That's like Tony Snow saying racism doesn't exist or have any impact on the life, health or self-perception of a person of color in this society.

What one can and should point out -- and what seems to have been lost in much of the debate -- is it matters how one chooses to deal with the factors that create the need for the closet.

You can seek help to develop self-awareness and acceptance over time, or you can be forced into a dark place.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who publicly acknowledged his gay orientation in 1987, has said that a sex scandal in which he was embroiled in the 1980s was at least partly a result of his secret life.

"Two and a half years after I voluntarily acknowledged being gay, a hustler with whom I had been involved tried to become rich, not only by publicizing our relationship but by luridly fictionalizing it," Frank wrote in the gay magazine The Advocate in 2002. "I was able to deal with the fictional parts by refuting them in front of the House Ethics Committee. As to what I had done wrong " paying him for sex " I noted that trying to live a closeted life while being publicly prominent proved to be emotionally, physically, and in every other way more difficult than I had anticipated, resulting in extreme emotional stupidity."
And he's a Democrat, in a party that at least acknowleges its gay base, not demonizes it (even as it still has to be dragged kicking and screaming to advocate for our full equality).

Look at former NJ governor James McGreevey, for crying out loud. Now openly gay, he discussed how the paranoia of the political closet made him oppose marriage equality in order to keep his homosexuality under wraps.
"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."
Imagine, then, the pain and pathology of the GOP closet, where your alleged political allies are fire-breathing bible beaters who capitalize on your internalized homophobia to fundraise and legislate to make you the second-class citizen you believe yourself to be.

Nothing above excuses or mitigates anything Foley did, or, for that matter, any bizarre, criminal behavior we've seen by politicians or religious leaders (gay or straight) involved in scandals -- it seems people in positions of power and influence are capable of some of the most incredible, arrogant misjudgment and deviance imaginable. They have so much to lose -- in the public eye, no less -- and they do it anyway.

Actually, for most of us out there, we can't even imagine some of these things sick people are capable of until we read about them.

From the National Journal piece, a tale of lost gay GOP souls, surprised and angry at their predicament, yet still protective of their professional padlocked closets:
Less than 24 hours after Rep. Mark Foley resigned in disgrace, some 50 gay Republicans gathered at a friend's house in Virginia. They were in a brittle mood. Foley -- one of their own, in terms of sexual orientation and party ID -- had, by his misconduct, exposed them to personal and even professional recrimination. And they feared a backlash. A close friend of Foley's summed up the situation this way: "It is a disgrace. It's a disgrace for the party, and it's a disgrace and a disaster for all of us."

...Many choose not to publicly disclose their sexual orientation because they're afraid that they would face retaliation from their employers. Others believe that their employers might face retaliation from their constituents. Still others try to strike a balance, confiding in a select group but maintaining a safer, though ambiguous, public identity.

Contacted by National Journal, many declined to comment, and those who did speak asked that their names not be used. A few expressed the fear that any article about powerful gay Republicans could trigger a witch hunt. Indeed, in the wake of Foley's resignation, an e-mail purporting to identify gay Republican staff members circulated on Capitol Hill. Some presumably heterosexual Republicans whispered to reporters that a "gay subculture" had penetrated the highest ranks of the party and had protected Foley at the expense of their majority.

One well-known association lobbyist, speaking of his own situation, lamented, "It's really poisonous to be a gay Republican right now." Most Republican leaders took pains, in their initial public comments, to avoid the topic of Foley's sexual orientation. But others, particularly those identified with the party's culturally conservative wing, including Rep. Chris Cannon of Utah, breezily conflated Foley's conduct with his sexual identity.

"You don't need 'gaydar' to understand he has certain dispositions," Cannon remarked to the Deseret News.
Yes, this is the party of ignorance and head in the sand. But we still have LCRs chugging effort into the denial machine:
Patrick Sammon, the executive vice president of the gay Log Cabin Republicans, said he doesn't anticipate any sort of purge of gay Republicans from Hill offices. "The fact is, the anti-gay groups are losing momentum," Sammon said. "And momentum is on our side, so they're going to use any desperate tactic to turn the tide. Most people are intelligent enough," he added, to know that Foley's behavior isn't typical of gay men.
Uh, no. Jesus. First, any positive momentum on the gay rights front is, sadly, not occurring in your party, Sammon. The bible-beaters you've bedded down with for years have your party in a death grip, as they see themselves losing control of the society at large.

The progress for tax-paying gay and lesbian citizens has not come from a party run by wild-eyed, flat-earth society bigots, it has come from Corporate America recognizing and valuing gay employees and customers, and by the teachers, doctors, clerks, neighbors and friends who have come out of the closet.

The LCR's motto is "inclusion wins." Get back to me when you see real progress on that front in today's GOP.

Second, perhaps you need to speak with the religious wing of your party about the intelligence level and general beliefs out there about gays. The fact that the religious homobigots are ready to toss you out of the party pretty much says it all. Your former friends on the Hill are now trying to figure out how to save and explain themselves, because they allowed a sexual predator to continue having he e-way with House pages from within God's Own Party. They were in charge and they tried to keep a lid on it by not even telling the Dem on the page committee -- that is something they are now going to have to live with.

There aren't easy ways to undo the damage the House leadership did by letting Foley run amok -- and now the AmTaliban is looking to the gay GOP as the fall guy. See ya, wouldn't want to be ya.

***

I like what Eugene Robinson said in his column in the WaPo. It cuts to the heart of why the gay GOP is tied up in knots by the reaction of their straight partymates. The realization that the party faithful is full of rabid homophobes seems to shock them for some reason, because too many straight folks (in both parties, actually), particularly religious conservatives are woefully undereducated about average LGBT lives because gays around them continue to protect their closets instead of coming out. Who would come out if you faced demonization by family, friends and colleagues? It's why many gays and lesbians don't come out until they move away from the bible belt.

In the absence of information, disinformation from the likes of batsh*t insane people like Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition (who also has the White House's ear) fills the void. He sees predatory gays (men, of course) around every corner trying convert youth to the Homosexual Agenda. Mark Foley represented the embodiment, the "proof" to them that this is the face of "gay." Deviant sexual activity for the Right, yet again, is conflated with orientation -- and, quite frankly, most of these so-called leaders know exactly what they are doing.
The basic story line -- powerful man exploits children -- would be the same if Foley were straight and underage girls had been the subject of his lurid attentions. But would the intensity of the scandal be the same? Would there be all this unseemly finger-pointing and hand-washing among the House leadership? Would Dennis Hastert be fighting to keep his job; would Christian conservatives be so apoplectic; would the whole Republican Party look as if it were on the verge of a nervous breakdown?

I doubt it. There would still be a scandal, but I think Foley's now-acknowledged homosexuality was crucial in turning a crisis for the party into a potential catastrophe.

...I don't think hypocrisy alone is enough to explain why the Foley mess is such a big deal. I think it goes deeper.

One of the central tenets of anti-homosexual doctrine is the notion of "recruitment" -- that adult gay people lure young people into homosexuality as a way of increasing their numbers. The most extreme anti-gay activists perceive a full-fledged conspiracy. The Traditional Values Coalition, a group whose homophobia can only be called rabid, goes so far as to claim that, after being enticed into sexual acts, the "young 'initiates' into the strange world of homosexuality are to be trained to reject the moral beliefs of their parents."

This is complete bunk, of course -- most new research has tended to support the idea that homosexuality is more a matter of nature than nurture, and in any event the notion of an organized "recruitment" drive is far beyond ridiculous.

...In any event, the recruitment myth helps explain why social conservatives, who make up perhaps the most loyal and energetic segment of the Republican Party's base, are so up in arms. And that outrage, in turn, helps explain why the party has been so frantic all week, so uncharacteristically slow to come up with a game plan for responding to the scandal. Social conservatives were already grumbling that the Republicans talk a good game but never get around to addressing their core issues. Now comes this.
What the fundies want is a return to the good old days when the lines of tolerance were clearly drawn and homos knew their place -- and were punished severely when their "secret" was out. Honest, law-abiding gays and lesbians were officially terrorized by our own government not that long ago. This is what folks want:
From the U.S. Senate Naval Affairs Committee's "Report on Alleged Immoral Conditions and Practices at the Naval Training Station, Newport, RI" in 1921, to the Senate Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Department's report "The Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government" in 1951, bureaucrats have long been studying and grappling with whether homosexuals should work in government at all.

Largely the justification for such discrimination came in the argument that gays were more likely to become spies because they were susceptible to blackmail.

In 1953, President Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450, resulting in the termination of more than 600 federal employees for "sexual perversion."

However unjust gay and lesbian rights groups might consider the America of 2006, it is nothing less than astounding to realize how much matters have changed not just since Ike, but in just the last few decades.
And that's what they are mourning.

To close, I have to go to the brilliant Glenn Greenwald, who summed up why the GOP's endless obsession with placing themselves on the morality pedestal has now come back to haunt them. In the end, these folks are now wringing their hands raw, going into complete shock and denial (my emphasis):
The Wall St. Journal's Henninger yesterday asked: "Is this Mark Foley thing really happening?" Hennginger can't believe that with so many Important Things going in the world, our country would really be focused on what he dismissively refers to as "Congressman Foley's 1995 email traffic." Henninger is the Deputy Editor of the WSJ Editorial Page -- the same Editorial Page that spent much of the 1990s focusing on the spots on Bill Clinton's penis, Hillary's affair with Vince Foster, and semen stains on a blue dress.

The same people who impeached a popular, twice-elected President of the U.S. over a sex scandal involving consenting adults, who caused our country's political dialogue for several years to be composed of the filthiest and most scurrilous speculation peddled by some of the lowest bottom-feeders and dirt-mongers, and who constructed a political movement based in large part on sermonizing about private sexual morality and demonizing those who deviate, are now protesting -- without any irony -- the fact that a sex scandal is distracting from the Truly Important Issues our country faces and that Mark Foley's sexual pursuit over many years of 16 and 17-year-old Congressional pages is nothing that really matters.

It is as though Republicans are being punished for all of their serious political sins at once, in one perfectly constructed, humiliating scandal designed to highlight their crimes and exact just retribution for them. The Foley scandal is shining a very bright light on their conduct, not just in this one incident but with regard to how they have been governing the country generally over the last five years.
It's really hard to pull Jeebus out of the back pocket for the Foley scandal. They have no cards to play except desperate ones that attempt to shift the focus from the issue at hand, turn on one another, to say what happened was a prank gone awry (Drudge), or, in this case, let the religious nut cases blame the gay Republicans in their midst and call for a purge.

Feel the love.