Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Political Outing-- Is It Ethical? Yes, And Aaron Schock Is VERY Gay


Last month, in writing about ex-UK Treasury Secretary David Laws and the impoverishment of the soul that is a life in the closet, I cited a perceptive article in the current Advocate by radio host and human rights activist Michelangelo Signorile, A Case for Outing On All Levels. Yesterday Signorile's two tweets (above) alerted me to the L.A. Times interview Patt Morrison did with outed Republican state Senator Roy Ashburn, a man who seems to have woken from an especially bad dream: his closeted life.

Morrison points out that as a "Kern County supervisor for a dozen years, then an Assembly member and a state senator for another 14 years" Ashburn cast "some of the most conservative votes in the Legislature." After Ashburn was pulled over, drunk, March 3 with a young male prostitute he had picked up in a bar, his carefully crafted "family values" political and personal life was forever shattered. It's an old story for hypocritical closet cases and no one told it better than former GOP Congressman (and the vitriolic homophobic founder of the American Conservative Union and Young Americans For Freedom) Bob Bauman in his post-outing book The Gentleman From Maryland: The Conscience Of A Gay Conservative. And Patt did real well with Ashburn yesterday:
For decades you worked so hard to keep your sexual orientation under wraps. This must have been a torment, but in another sense, was there an element of relief?

I'm sensing relief now. I had not consciously decided to come out, but there's no doubt looking back that I had become increasingly bold about attending gay events, like pride festivals, and going to dance clubs and bars. Last year I attended Las Vegas Pride and San Diego Pride.

Were you looking over your shoulder?

A little more in San Diego than Las Vegas.

...At some point, you must have realized a public career was incompatible with being open about your sexual preferences.

Something happened that I guess caused me to realize that. When I was in sixth grade, the police had a raid in the sand dunes [near San Luis Obispo] and a bunch of gay men were arrested, probably charged with indecent activity. That sticks in my mind-- the publicity and the shame around it. One of my teachers was one of the people. The talk among the kids, the talk among the adults, the talk in the community, the press-- at that time the choice was pretty clear: If you were gay and open, it was a life of shame, ridicule, innuendo about molesting and perversion. It was a dark life. Given that choice of whether you come out or whether you're in secret, I mean, there really wasn't a choice.

You worked for members of Congress, then were elected to public office yourself from Kern County. Were your sexual preferences in the back of your mind, or did you just go about your business?

The answer is both yes and no. I was married and had children. And I had a career and a passion. I also had a huge secret. But given my circumstances and my responsibilities, it wasn't an overwhelming issue for me. The desires were always there, but my focus was primarily on-- well, pretty selfishly-- on me and my career and my family.

Barry Goldwater had a gay grandson and didn't think government had any business in anybody's bedroom. But the recent brand of Republicanism has championed anti-gay issues.

I truly believe the conservative philosophy as embraced by Goldwater: that the government has no role in the private lives of the citizens. In the 1980s, there was a coming together of the religious right and the Goldwater right, sort of a marriage of convenience. It propelled Ronald Reagan to the presidency. Reagan never repudiated that but — this is just my view — I don't think he really embraced it either. In no way do I want to put down people of strong religious convictions; I happen to have very strong religious beliefs myself. But it was a merger of those two, and the religious [right's issues] were about same-sex rules, same-sex marriage, abortion, gun rights, these sort of core, litmus-test issues.

Did you feel uneasy with that combination? You did help to organize and speak at a rally in 2005 against a legislative bill sanctioning same-sex marriage.

How I ever got into that is beyond me. I was very uncomfortable with that, and I told one of my confidantes, "I'm never doing that again." It was not what I wanted to do, it wasn't me, but I helped to organize and lent my name.

A lot of people, gay or straight, are probably wondering why you voted even against issues like insurance coverage for same-sex partners.

The best I can do is to say that I was hiding. I was so in terror I could not allow any attention to come my way. So any measure that had to do with the subject of sexual orientation was an automatic "no" vote. I was paralyzed by this fear, and so I voted without even looking at the content. The purpose of government is to protect the rights of people under the law, regardless of our skin color, national origin, our height, our weight, our sexual orientation. This is a nation predicated on the belief that there is no discrimination on those characteristics, and so my vote denied people equal treatment, and I'm truly sorry for that.

When it comes to marriage, I'm getting the feeling that you're mulling over whether government ought to be in the marriage license business at all.

It's a very complicated issue, marriage, but it seems to me that the government's role is to protect a civil contract, whether it's to purchase a home together, enter into whatever financial or legal arrangement, including marriage. The whole issue of marriage as a 5,000-year-old tradition, a religious context, a historical context-- what government's role is, is the sanctification of the legal bond. Then it seems to me a matter for a church or some other societal organization but not for government.

What have you been talking about with the gay groups you've been meeting with?

The same things we're talking about. I don't have an agenda. I don't have a plan. I don't have an expectation. I just want people to know who I am and what's in my heart. I kept that from people. I concealed it from everyone for almost all my life, so I'm [now] privileged to work with people from all aspects of life, including organizations devoted to advancing the rights of gay and lesbian and transgendered individuals.

Recently in the Senate you spoke in favor of a resolution calling on Congress to repeal "don't ask, don't tell.''

For that day I knew I had to say something. I already had prepared what I was going to say about serving in the military, and I actually had it written out because I wanted to be precise. But I had to preface it with something else, to give context to why all this time in elective office and being so deeply hidden, why was I now standing and speaking on this subject matter, and so I did.

...You're divorced, with four daughters and grandchildren. So here's where I ask about your family, and you can tell me to buzz off.

The things we're talking about were my choices. It was my choice to keep it secret; it was my choice to be a gay man and be married and have children. It was my choice to build a life on lies in order to conceal myself. That obviously had a big effect on my marriage and my children in ways that I don't fully comprehend, but it's my responsibility and not something to be talked about in interviews.

As time goes by Ashburn will come even more to grips with himself. But Signorile's tweets point to the more important issue for society at large. And they bring us right to the notoriously homophobic closet cases currently in the House of Representatives: Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Adrian Smith (R-NE), Trent Franks (R-AZ), David Dreier (R-CA), Aaron Schock (R-IL- that's him with the outfit on the right-- and his queeny tweet below that), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Yes, there are some names missing from the list... but for a reason. Every one of the above gay men has a zero score on their lifetime votes regarding gay people. Like Ashburn, they're all in terror and voting on automatic pilot when anything comes up regarding gay people, even something as assisting local law enforcement to protect gay men and lesbians from hate crimes. As Signorile put it, these hypocrites are "too traumatized to make critical decisions" with clear minds. They belong on therapy, not Congress.

One guy, much in the news since being outed a week or so ago, Mark Kirk (R-IL), actually tried a little-- until the demands of conservative political calculus "forced" him to oppose repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell. His overall lifetime score on gay issues is 26.67, higher than all but 7 House Republicans (none of whom are gay but most of whom have large gay constituencies). Kirk, who wants to be a U.S. Senator, refuses to publicly admit he's gay and his voting record, though headed in a more homophobic direction, is around that of the worst of the anti-gay Blue Dogs. His 26.67, in fact, beats several hysterical southern bigots-- Gene Taylor (Blue Dog-MS- 13.33), Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS- 14.29), Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog-NC- 21.43)-- and is in the range of several other exceptionally abhorrent "Democrats"-- Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL-28.57), Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK- 30.77), and Chris Carney (Blue Dog-PA- 37.50).

Are there other conservative closet cases in the House? Absolutely. So why aren't they on the list? They're not so traumatized by their own homosexuality to vote against gay people. So even though all of them vote badly on other matters the ones that I know of at least voted in favorite of human decency when it comes to gay equality.

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At 2:18 AM, Anonymous Dean Edwardsen said...

Trent Franks is my congressman and I would like to ask him if he is gay. I agree that hiding the truth makes a politician afraid to do his job. Is there any information I can use when I ask him that will confirm your suspicion of him being gay? Thank you

At 5:36 PM, Anonymous Jacqrat said...

@Dean is he wearing an aqua belt with white pants?


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