Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

Keeping a close eye on developments in the 2008 U.S. Senate races

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"Values," Hypocrisy, and the Republican Closet

It's guys like Larry Craig, the Senator, who forces guys like Larry Craig, the man, into the airport toilet. -Bill Maher, 8/31/07

We all know the sordid details of the Larry Craig scandal. We also know that Larry Craig's isn't the first incident of a "family values" conservative coming face-to-face with his own sexual-legislative hypocrisy. Former Congressman Mark Foley sent sexually explicit messages to teenaged male Congressional pages. Former Congressman Ed Schrock, an ardent gay rights opponent in Congress, solicited gay sex on gay phone-sex chatlines. Evangelical preacher Ted Haggard was outed by his gay male prostitute-slash-drug-dealer Mike Jones. Conservative pseudo-journalist Jeff Gannon/James Guckert was exposed as a former gay escort who worked under the alias "Bulldog." Matt Sanchez, recipient of an Academic Freedom Award at the 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference, was subsequently outed as a gay porn star under the name "Rod Majors."

And this is just the last few years. Why an individual creates such a conflict for himself, espousing and promoting social and political views that obviously do not mesh with the individual's personal feelings, is beyond me. Self-loathing and overcompensation are the easy answers. In any person's case, there indeed must be more layers to it. But, regardless of the rationale, it happens repeatedly, particularly in conservative Republican circles. As Jon Stewart glibly but apparently accurately put it, "If you wanna meet gay dudes, start cruising the anti-gay buffet because it’s out there, baby."

I bring this up because, this week, the Charleston City Paper is running an article entitled, "Is Lindsey Graham gay?" There will no doubt be debates over whether or not a public official's private life is fair game for journalists and whether or not it is fair to "out" someone who, for whatever reasons, prefers to remain in the closet about their sexuality. A more appropriate way to frame the debate is whether or not it is fair to discuss the private life of a public official, like Lindsey Graham, who works in his public capacity to legislate other people's private lives.

Members of Congress have had several opportunities in recent years to vote on issues pertaining to gay rights (which, in a fairer world, would simply be referred to as "civil rights"). The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act are three high-profile examples. (Graham himself voted for the Defense of Marriage Act while in the House.) When a legislator votes on these pieces of legislation, they are voting to regulate the private lives of countless Americans. Voting a certain way on each bill is a declaration that a given legislator does not think two people should be allowed equal marriage rights because of their gender, or that an individual cannot honorably serve in the military because of who he or she spends time with outside of the military, or that certain individuals are not provided the same civil protections under the law because of their sexual orientation.

If a legislator votes to allow all Americans, including gay Americans, the same rights, they are voting in favor of privacy. As such, one could argue that they should be afforded privacy. However, if a legislator votes to allow others (be it the government, a commanding officer, or a potential boss) to restrict a person's rights or opportunities based on that person's private life, then the legislator is voting against privacy. One could argue, then, that the legislator has ceded his own privacy, or that it would be hypocritical for that legislator to then expect their own privacy to be respected.

This is the case of Lindsey Graham. He has voted to restrict the rights of gay Americans. He has, in my opinion, used the law to invade the privacy of countless Americans. It is doubly noteworthy that Lindsey Graham still currently serves in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and is therefore subject to the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy that has led to the discharge from the military of numerous Americans who wanted nothing more than to serve their country.

Because Lindsey Graham is content to use his public role to legislate and regulate the private lives of so many others based on their sexual orientation, I don't lose sleep over others questioning Graham's. I don't care that if he's gay. Nobody should. I do care that he is may be a hypocrite. And I very much care that he is legislating discrimination.


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