Rogers Outs Republican Senator

You’re outta there:

Mike Rogers, who calls himself "the nation’s leading gay activist blogger" has just finished a nationally-broadcast interview on the Ed Schultz Radio Show in which he alleges that Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig has engaged in same-sex sexual activity.

Senator Craig’s office flatly rejected the claims. "The Senator says this story is absolutely ridiculous – almost laughable," said press secretary Sid Smith. “It has no basis in fact.”

Rogers said he has talked to three men unknown to each other who all reported in detail their sexual encounters with Craig over the last four years. The men were of legal age, Rogers said.
Craig has been denying rumors that he’s gay for at least 24 years. That’s a long time for a rumor to be hanging around.

The conservative blogosphere is up in arms (hilariously, considering their willingness to use sex and sexuality as political issus) over Rogers’ latest outing, and some lefty bloggers are reporting the news with the caveat that they’re not going to get into a discussion about the ethics of outing. Well, fuck that. You know I will.

(Frankly, I would consider it just a wee bit disingenuous were I to report an outing if I wasn’t willing to stand by the strategy. And I am.)

I would absolutely not support the public outing of a private citizen whose sexuality had no bearing on his/her ability to do his/her job, and whose job had no association with perpetuating public discrimination against the LGBT community. That covers just about every private citizen in the country. Public officials, however, are actively involved in making decisions that affect the LGBT community, and if there’s a public official who consistently votes to limit their rights, but is only afforded his/her position to do so by virtue of the protection of a closet, that’s a real problem.

And it’s not just, or even mostly, a problem with the individual official, but a problem with what his/her party can accomplish as a whole by trading on the secrecy of the closet. It is only because the GOP can point to the Democrats as the party of queers that they can repeatedly use LGBT policy as a wedge issue. As Andrew Sullivan recently said in a Salon interview, “I think the time now is fully over when the closet can operate in Republican politics… We now have Mark Dyble being sworn in by Condi Rice as the new global AIDS coordinator, with his partner right there, with the families of both men there, and Condi Rice referring to Dyble's partner's mother as his ‘mother-in-law,’ and Laura Bush standing between them. Now, at what point can a party that does that also send out fliers in the Bible Belt saying that gay people are trying to ban the Bible and force heterosexuals into gay marriage? There's such a discrepancy between the closeted tolerance of the elite and the naked bigotry of the base.” As long as the GOP can depend on the closet, they can continue to appeal to that bigotry.

It’s not that Craig voted for banning of same-sex marriage (twice) and voted against prohibiting job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, because there were lots of straight Republicans who did that, too. It’s that Craig—and every other Republican hiding in a closet—gives the GOP the space to introduce such legislation in the first place. (And I genuinely don’t believe that even the GOP could withstand a public purging of gays from the party at this point; there would be much horror, far and wide.)

I understand the squeamishness among some people with this tactic, rooted in a belief that no one’s private life should be made public against their wishes. And I totally agree with that. But here’s the thing: one’s sexuality is only considered “private” if one is gay. There’s a reason no one’s ever “outed” as straight. If we truly believe there’s nothing shameful about being gay, then there should be no discomfort with identifying someone thusly. Ah, but Shakespeare’s Sister, you might say, it’s not dangerous to be straight. Being straight never cost anyone his or her job. Being straight never got anyone beat up or killed. Indeed not. But is anyone really againt outing primilary because they worry for Craig’s safety? If they’re honest, aren’t most people against outing because there’s a sense he will be humiliated, because we still attach some stigma to being gay, because of the undeserved preference which will never be eradicated so long as we have people making public policy predicated on it?

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t even be debating the ethics of outing, because the LGBT community would be seen as equal and no one, in either party, would feel compelled to hide in a closet in the first place. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where a few closeted gays make possible legislative attempts to marginalize all gays. Do I feel compelled to protect a man like Craig while I watch people I love served up as a wedge issue every two years? Nope. It’s not pretty, but there it is.

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