The Mark Foley scandal threatens to make life hard for gay men in general and gay Republicans in particular. The former congressman's salacious instant messages with teenaged boys have unleashed stereotype of gay men as sexual predators ready to feast on innocents.
But it also paints a very distorted picture of gay Republicans as self-loathing, closeted individuals who knowingly support anti-gay politicians. Recently, David Corn, a writer for the Nation, questioned why gay Republicans, well why we exist:
Let's be clear about one thing: the Mark Foley scandal is not about homosexuality. Some family value conservatives are suggesting it is. But anytime a gay Republican is outed by events, a dicey issue is raised: what about those GOPers who are gay and who serve a party that is anti-gay? Are they hypocrites, opportunists, or just confused individuals? Is it possible to support a party because you adhere to most of its tenets--even if that party refuses to recognize you as a full citizen?
Of course , Mr. Corn was talking about gay staffers on the Hill, but he might has well been talking about gay Republicans in general since I've heard that argument before.
Well, let me tell you MY story.
I am an out gay Republican man who lives with his partner in a house in North Minneapolis. (My partner is an ardent Democrat, and somehow we maintained a truce. He's too cute to argue with.) I'm a pastor and I don't hide my sexuality. I'm not putting it anybody's face, but I'm not hiding. For nearly five years, I've been part of Log Cabin Republicans. As a part of Log Cabin, I've worked on campaigns of those candidates who are "fair-minded" and support gay rights. Along with others, I've spoken out against Republican politicians who support policies that hurt gay Americans.
The question always comes, how can you support a party that doesn't like you? This again brings up the image of someone who just blindly support anyone with an "R" behind their name. Since this question usually comes from Democrats, let's turn that question around: do you support the Democrats because they like you? I would think most gay Democrats support their party for many reasons ranging from social programs to the environment to national security. Neither I nor any of my gay Republican friends support Republicans who are anti-gay. We believe in many of the values of the GOP: limited government, low taxes and a strong national defense (though the argument can be made that these days, the current leadership doesn't reflect these values anymore). However, gay Republicans, at least most Log Cabiners, won't support someone who wants to limit our rights as Americans.
Log Cabin Republicans want to change the party's stance on gays. It does us no good to simply leave the party and allow the far right to control the party. We want to send the bigots packing the same way that Democrats did to Southern segregationists four decades ago.
It is not easy to be a gay Republican. You are attacked by the Religious Right and by other gays. Try having a booth at Gay Pride. Every year for several years, our local chapter has had a booth at Twin Cities Pride. Many times you will recieve dirty looks and even sometimes slurs from people. We are constantly characterized as the equivalent to "Jews for Hitler." While I do agree that gay Republicans should be out, because that helps the cause of gay rights, I can understand why some chose to keep a low profile; no one wants to face the verbal assault from fellow gays.
Mark Foley is a sad individual. For years, he denied being gay. He finally did only when he was caught red handed. Foley might be a gay Republican, but he sure as hell doesn't represent the many gay Republicans that I know who are out and proud and are NOT trolling the internet to have virtual sex with people who weren't around during the Reagan Administration. He should not be viewed as the template for all gay Republicans. He chose to live in the closet and it is now the closet that has destroyed him.
I would ask those who lean more to the left to actually get to know some gay Republicans. Listen to them. We are not apologists for the far right. We live out in the open and work hard for equality. Don't allow one pathetic lawmaker from Florida be the only example of gay Republicans.