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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Homosexuality + GOP = hypocrisy

    Matt Stonecolumnist
    Matt Stone
    columnist

    As the Mark Foley scandal continues to unfold, it would seem that this might be a step back for the gay rights movement in America. Not so fast. The Foley scandal – as gross and disturbing as it is – may in fact be a paradoxical step forward for the status of gays, especially within Republican ranks.

    Of course, it does not seem like it at first blush. Eight states are considering anti-gay marriage measures in the upcoming election, including Arizona’s notorious Proposition 107. Republican leaders continue to pander to a closed-minded base by bashing gays in advertisements.

    Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the house, even conflated homosexuality with pedophilia on national television, as if all gays are also pedophiles. According to Gingrich, the GOP failed to address Foley’s misconduct years ago because they didn’t want to be “”accused of gay bashing.””

    Needless to say, some straight people are pedophiles too, which must mean that all straight people find gratification in sex with children, right, Newt?

    In Arizona, the Department of Justice recently opened an investigation into a camping trip that Rep. Jim Kolbe, the only openly gay congressional Republican, took in 1996 with his sister, some staffers and two former pages – both 17 years old at the time. Never mind the fact that the camping trip took place a decade ago and that the investigation was conveniently opened only after the Foley scandal hit the headlines.

    Three words: Cover. Your. Ass.

    So it would seem gays’ image is tanking: Not only are they gratuitously defecating on the institution of marriage, they touch little boys as well.

    But something else is afoot here. The Foley scandal may engender a witch-hunt within the Republican ranks – the Kolbe investigation being an all-too-powerful example – but behind the scenes, gay Republicans are finding new levels of acceptance.

    Take Andrew Sullivan. The well-known conservative columnist is openly gay. He recently wrote that the Republican leadership is “”tolerant of gay people but they have to keep quiet about it because their base would go crazy if they ever express it.””

    He continues: “”They have this acute cognitive dissonance, which is a polite way of saying hypocrisy.””

    Hypocrisy indeed. Rick Santorum, the Republican senator from Pennsylvania, defended his chief spokesman as a “”trusted friend”” when that spokesman, Robert Traynham, confirmed he is indeed gay. Nevertheless, Santorum continues to liken homosexuality to bestiality.

    A striking dichotomy is evident within the Republican Party. While certain Republican politicians have friends who are gay, support those friends, and indeed, are even comfortable with them (gasp!), to turn out the conservative vote – the so-called “”values voters”” – those same politicians must pander to a doltish stereotype about gays. This is not leadership; this is cowardice.

    Sullivan describes it as a GOP riding two horses by counting on gays “”to staff and support”” Republican candidates “”while relying on gay-baiting”” to turn out the conservative vote. The two horses won’t ride in tandem forever, and the Republicans will have to pick which one is a better long-term strategy. Needless to say, Sullivan urges his fellow conservatives to get off the gay-baiting horse – quickly.

    But there are other fissures developing in the Republican ranks as well. While some Republicans privately have no qualms with homosexuality – evidently this includes Sen. Rick “”Family Values”” Santorum – other Republican politicians are still openly hostile towards gays.

    Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas is currently holding up one of President Bush’s judicial nominees, Janet Neff, because Neff once attended a commitment ceremony for two lesbian partners. Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma will not hire gays onto his staff, although some of his staffers have anonymously admitted to being gay in the press.

    Bashing gays was an effective get-out-the-vote strategy in 2004, but it appears that such a strategy is now dividing the Republican Party in novel ways.

    The backlash against gay Republicans following the Foley scandal may be short-lived, but it is forcing Republicans to deal very publicly with a profound absurdity. Some GOP soul-searching is in order. The “”closet-tolerant”” Republican leadership (Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter is a die-hard conservative lesbian, after all) needs to voice a message of hope and openness to its family-values base and persuade the moralists on the right that gays are people too – and should be treated as such.

    Leadership is about doing things that may be unpopular but are right. A very public Republican acceptance of gays would be a laudable first step. If the Foley scandal could engender that kind of change, an otherwise depressing affair might become the catalyst for real progress.

    One step back, two steps forward.

    Matt Stone is a senior majoring in international studies and economics. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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