Is it the sordid details of Roll Call's report of Sen. Larry Craig's airport layover habits or is it the hypocrisy of yet another GOP anti-gay, not to mention, married, politician being caught with his pants around his ankles in a public bathroom?
The most important question won't be asked by mainstream media: Just how much evidence does it take for people to understand that repressed sexuality leads to unusual, risky behavior? Healthy sexual behavior does not.
Rev. Debra Haffner writes at Sexuality and Religion
And no surprise, when I looked up his voting record at HRC this morning, Senator Craig has voted for anti-gay measures, most recently in 2006 for the Federal Marriage Amendment. Maybe we can count on him now for YES votes on ENDA and Hate Crimes Legislation. He did resign yesterday as chairman of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in Idaho.
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In a world where sexual difference was affirmed as part of God's blessing, maybe, just maybe, these incidents wouldn't happen.
Amen, Rev. Haffner.
Many people understand that risk provides certain thrill, that ordinary activities may have more excitement if one feels they are getting away with something no one else knows about. Add a public element, the risk of being caught, and it sends some people over the top. But there is something truly perverse about a married U.S. Senator using the power of his office to defeat civil rights for openly gay Americans while cruising airport bathrooms for blow jobs. He is bound to his social conservative base in his public life, leading to debased hypocrisy, and risk, in his personal life. His votes are nothing shy of rhetorical gay bashing and apparent self-loathing.
Its not the sex, it's the hypocrisy we should focus on.
But we all know it won't be the hypocrisy that the media and the social conservatives discuss, it will be the further stigmatization of gays, and the behavior that led to the undercover operation that ensnared Sen. Craig, and a few months ago Florida State Rep. Bob Allen, who defended his actions using the "gay black panic defense" before resigning from the McCain presidential campaign. And who can forget former Congressman Mark Foley's IM's ;-). Conservative columnist Mark Hemingway at the National Review is suggesting that Craig may be misunderstood by writing,
… it’s hard to imagine that tapping your right foot in a bathroom stall loudly enough amounts to doing the homosexual hokey-pokey.
Hemingway does his best to deflect attention from the GOP by mentioning many Democratic sex scandals. The common thread in all of them, the individuals (Pres. Clinton, Gov. McGreevy, Rep. Frank) were hiding something, lying, and not being honest with themselves or their families. The difference between the Democrats and the GOP? The Democrats support civil rights for all Americans, so their short-comings were personal, not political. We can all relate to personal challenges, but only a special few elevate those to political hypocrisy.
Sen. Craig is using the "wide-stance in the stall defense", claiming unique bathroom habits that include tapping feet and waving hands underneath the stall. As a gay man, were I sitting in the next stall, I'd want him arrested too.
Openly, honest, happy gay people don't have to hide who they are and they have better places to enjoy their sexuality than public restrooms. The problem is social conservatives don't just want to stop public lewdness, they want to tell people what they can and cannot do in the privacy of their own homes.
There is a larger question the mainstream media will miss, too busy titillating, and that is the issue of the fluidity of sexuality, as well as concerns for older Americans who may not understand the risks of sexually transmitted diseases. Here are teaching moments, presented once again, that could allow mainstream media to go beyond the straight-gay, conservative-liberal, hypocrisy-integrity dichotomies and deal with the nuances of sexuality that could lead to greater understanding.
It should be noted that Sen. Craig was the subject of a targeted outing effort as recently as 2006. Michael Rogers at BlogActive, maintained he knew of, but never proved, several affairs Craig had with men, and shares two videos from 1982 when then-Rep. Larry Craig defended his character against rumors he was involved in a drug and sex scandal involving House pages. Rogers also writes:
The recent use of gays by the Republican Party during this election makes it necessary to focus on the Party and how it facilitates keeping gay men closeted.
Craig of course denied the affairs and continued to vote anti-gay.
Will Rogers be vindicated? Will hypocrisy matter to Idaho voters? Will we ever know why this took TWO MONTHS to become public? Will we ever get beyond our puritanical understanding of sexuality and learn to work with nature, not against her, and deal with reality, not innuendo and ideology?
Speaking honestly about our values on sexuality as progressives is a winning strategy for 2008 that Democrats need not shy away from. Let Giuliani and Romney waffle, and the others continue to stigmatize, its time for progressives to claim our values around sexuality, and they start from a place of honesty, integrity, and privacy.