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Sunday, October 08, 2006

The closet is opening

David Dreier

Foley Case Upsets Tough Balance by Capitol Hill’s Gay Republicans

Published: October 8, 2006

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 — Every month or so, 10 top staff members from Capitol Hill meet over dinner to commiserate about their uneasy experience as gay Republicans. In a wry reference to the K Street Project, the party’s campaign to build influence along the city’s lobbying corridor, they privately call themselves the P Street Project, a reference to a street cutting through a local gay enclave.

For many of those men and other gay Republicans in political Washington, reconciling their private lives and public roles has required a discreet existence. But in the last week, the Mark Foley scandal has upset that careful balance.

Since Representative Foley, Republican of Florida, resigned after it was revealed he had sent sexually explicit electronic messages to male pages, gay Republicans in Washington have been under what one describes as “siege and suspicion.”

Some conservative groups blamed the “gay lifestyle” and the gathering force of the “gay agenda” for the scandal. Others equated homosexuality with pedophilia, a link that has long outraged gay men and lesbians.

Conservative blogs and Web sites pointed out that gay staff members played principal roles in investigating the Foley case, suggesting that the party was betrayed by gay men trying to hide misconduct by one of their own. In the meantime, a group of gay activists, angered by what they see as hypocrisy by gay Republicans, have begun circulating a document known as The List, a roster of gay Congressional staff members and their Republican bosses.

“You can see where it would be easy for some people to blame gays for something that might bring down the party in Congress,” said Brian Bennett, a gay Republican political consultant. He was a longtime chief of staff to former Representative Robert K. Dornan, Republican of California, who regularly referred to gays as Sodomites.

“I’m just waiting for someone in a position of authority to make this a gay issue,” Mr. Bennett said of the Foley case.

The presence of homosexuals, particularly gay men, in crucial staff positions has been an enduring if largely hidden staple of Republican life for decades, and particularly in recent years. They have played decisive roles in passing legislation, running campaigns and advancing careers.

Known in some insider slang as the Velvet Mafia or the Pink Elephants, gay Republicans tend to be less open about their sexual orientation than their Democratic counterparts. Even though the G.O.P. fashions itself as “the party of Lincoln” and a promoter of tolerance, it is perceived as hostile by many gay men and lesbians. Republicans have promoted a “traditional values” agenda, while some conservatives have turned the “radical gay subculture” into a reliable campaign villain. And there are few visible role models in the party; Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona is the only openly gay Republican in Congress.

As the blame from the Foley case has been parceled out in recent days, some people in Washington suggested that the Republican leadership’s inadequate response to alarms about Mr. Foley was borne of squeamishness in dealing with a so-called gay issue. Meanwhile, some Republican staff members worried that several gay men caught up in the scandal would be treated unfairly.

If I was a fundie and found out I was being played like this, I'd be fucking pissed. Because they were using me and my beliefs to get and keep power

Advise and Consent was 40 years ago. No one is going to off themselves for being gay. It's time to stop protecting them. We're not talking about private citizens, but policy makers. They have benefitted from a gentleman's agreement to not drag their sexual identity out in the public.

But that time is past. They played homophobia like Dave Davies on the guitar. Now, they're shocked that it might be turned on them. And yet, people kept their mouths shut, out, gay men and women helped keep the closet closed.

And where are we now? The closet about to be blown open anyway. Foley betrayed everybody, especially his gay friends on the hill.

posted by Steve @ 1:46:00 AM

1:46:00 AM

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