Political InQueery: The Voting Closet
June is LGBT pride month, commemorating the multi-day standoff at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, 1969. When I marched through the sticky heat of Washington, DC's pride festivities, and when I've gone to watch NYC's parade, I find myself wishing we were commemorating something in April, but the Stonewall riots are probably the best touchstone to choose, so June it is.
As commercialized as Pride festivals are these days—and here I note the full inclusion of a Frito-Lay truck as an actual float in this year's DC parade—it's easy to forget the moments that have been hard fought in the last 41 years. People went crazy over the first prime time lesbian kiss on LA Law. Now there are whole shows about LGBT people, though most of them are on cable or pay channels. Speaking of channels, there's Logo. I'm not sure I'd call television programming changes "progress," but they do mark an extension of sorts into the pop culture consciousness. Cam and Mitch on Modern Family haven't kissed yet, but they are raising a family and being all kinds of affectionatte on a weekly basis, in front of millions of viewers.
As far as politics goes, when I first came out in 1991, I thought gay marriage would never happen in my lifetime, and as of today, it is legal in five states and the DC. We have progressed further than I thought possible, and yet in other ways, we have barely moved an inch.
In the spirit of Stonewall's resistance and the whoop-em-up liveliness of a pride parade, my focus today is on looking at closeted politicians who actively worked against LGBT rights from their location behind the out-of-season trousers and under a pile of sweaters. Outed by various means—and this is not a discussion about the politics of outing, because that's been covered elsewhere—some of them went on to attempt to legislate more progressive laws for the community, but I haven't listed those. Here are a few of the still-denying to ponder:
Larry Craig—we all know by now that the former Senator from Idaho tried to play footsie with a police officer in the Minneapolis Airport. But how many folks remember that Craig was at the forefront of criticizing Barney Frank when his own sex scandal came to light in the late 1980s? Well, he was, and well, he ate some crow a few years ago, I suppose. I do also want to note that Craig used to be in a barbershop quartet that sounds like it came straight out of Ishtar or some other god-forsaken movie: It was Craig, Trent Lott, John Ashcroft, and James Jeffords. They sing you "Mr. Sandman" and it's all over. Craig still denies the gay rumors, acting as if his foot repeatedly and seductively slipped. Craig's voting record includes support for the federal amendment banning same-sex marriage, against extending hate crimes legislation to include LGBT people, and said he would vote yes on Idaho's constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Ed Schrock—in Congress for only two terms, Schrock is said to have aggressively campaigned against gay interests, including taking hard stands against gays in the military and same-sex marriage. Schrock declined to seek a third term in the House after it came to light that he'd solicited sex from a gay male prostitute. Oops. Schrock denies the rumors.
George Rekers—recently discovered with a male prostitute while on vacation, he also denies that he's Family. Rekers, not a politician, was the lead lobbyist for Florida's ban on same-sex adoption. He also uses his professional training as a psychologist to conduct "conversion therapy" for LGBT people—no word on what he does to transsexuals. In the greater context of marriage rights and the right to serve in the military, Reker's projects seem much more sinister and awful to me. He's been trying to erase LGBT people from existence. It almost goes without saying, but he has resigned as the head of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality. One wonders who they'll find to replace him.
Ted Haggard—okay, he's not a politician, either, but he was screaming anti-gay invective from his pulpit in Colorado Springs, when it was discovered that he'd not had one little sinful encounter with a gay prostitute, but a three-year relationship, and oh, a small methamphetamine addiction. Haggard was removed from his post. His lover, Mike Jones, summed up his sentiment:
"I had to expose the hypocrisy. He is in the position of influence of millions of followers, and he's preaching against gay marriage. But behind everybody's back [he's] doing what he's preached against."
While Haggard admitted the meth use and that he'd gotten a massage from Jones, he denied all of the other allegations about gay sex and relationships. Still, he claims that he's been preyed on by other evangelists (hmm, I wonder what that entailed) and he's now 100% heterosexual. So he can go back to his anti-gay preaching ways in Colorado. By the way, with Haggard's help, in 2006, Colorado's Amendment 43 to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman passed with 56 percent of the vote.
Now that I've been a real downer, let me just end on one last mini-bio, that of Tammy Baldwin.
Baldwin was first elected to the House in 1999 as an openly gay candidate, the first woman congressperson from the state of Wisconsin. She is one of three openly gay members of the House, along with Barney Frank and Jared Polis. Baldwin supports the Equal Pay Act and voted for the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, criminalizing and outlining prosecution guidelines and punishments for wage discrimination based on sex. She is a supporter of the Violence Against Women Act, which allowed victims of sexual violence and other sexual crimes to take their cases to federal courts. She also sponsored of the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, which helped low-income, underinsured and uninsured women pay for cervical and breast cancer related medical services. She also signed on to cosponsor H. Res. 333, a bill proposing articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney and H Res. 589, a bill proposing the impeachment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Don't mess with Ms. Baldwin, people.
Happy Pride, everyone. Remember the work of other people who have fought for your interests, and make sure you know about the people who work against you in this representative government.
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