Mike Rogers is proud of himself. But he’s not proud in the gay-pride kind way. He’s proud in the self-important kind of way. By playing into America’s fears of homosexuals, and exploiting homophobia, Rogers has managed to get himself labeled the “most-feared” man on Capitol Hill by none other than the Washington Post.
So here’s a question that the pioneer of “outing” cannot quite answer. And one The Post didn’t seem to ask: When has outing a politician ever done gay rights any good?
A week ago, America learned about the cost homophobia takes on families and homes when we learned how Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig was arrested and convicted for allegedly soliciting sex in a Minneapolis airport men’s room. For whatever reasons – societal mores, usually top this list – Craig could not live his life honestly and chose, instead, to live in the shadows to fulfill his natural desires. Had he been born some forty years later perhaps somewhere other than Idaho, Craig may well have lived openly and honestly as a bisexual male (if you take him at his word that he’s “not gay.”) Alas, Craig is a product of his times – one of many and hopefully among the last – a man who seems to engage in homosexual behavior but who steadfastly denies it.
In recent years, the Republican Party has been consistently rocked by “gay” scandals. Florida Congressman Ed Schrock was caught soliciting phone sex and resigned. Rep. Mark Foley, another Florida Republican, sent suggestive instant messages to Congressional pages. Now we have Larry Craig.
Mike Rogers has played a role – behind the scenes, often publicly – in all these affairs. His stated motivation in outing elected officials is to expose hypocrisy. When someone lives a closeted gay life but supports policies he deems anti-gay, he believes their sexual orientation should be exposed. But what do gays gain from these outings? Not much. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that Rogers is doing little more than grandstanding.
None of his elected targets have survived their scandal to become a gay-friendly Congressman who might do the community some good. Shrock, Foley and Craig resigned and in the case of the first two, were replaced by politicians who were at least as bad if not worse when it came to voting on gay issues. No doubt the next Senator from Idaho will not be receiving high marks from the Human Rights Campaign any time soon. Another Rogers target, California Republican David Dreier, remains in office in a safe district that’s supported him for years. He’ll only be ousted if an ultra-conservative uses the Internet attacks against him to gin up a homophobic primary campaign, a pretty good case of leaping from the frying pan into the fire.
When it comes to staffers, Roger’s record is far worse. Dan Gurley, used to work at the Republican National Committee and had vocally spoken out against anti-gay campaign tactics. He was fired after Rogers exposed his not-so-closeted gay long term relationship. Needless to say he does not sing the praises of outings by Rogers.
Jonathan Tolman lost his job working for on the Environmental and Public Works Committee for Sen. James Inhofe after being “outed” by Rogers. Tolman’s photo had graced the cover of local gay rag Metro Weekly. If he was in the closet, it was a double-sized walk-in with glass French doors swung wide open. It’s not hard to see what’s going on here. Roger’s was trying to associate Inhofe, a conservative Republican, with gays, stirring up homophobia in his home state of Oklahoma. The result? Tolman lost his Capitol Hill job.
Neither Gurley nor Tolman are working for their Republican bosses. But Inhofe remains in power and the RNC continues its work but without an outspoken voice for reason or tolerance from within.
Rogers’ main objective is promoting good politics, not good policy. No good policy has come from outing Republican elected officials or their staffs. But if you are a Democrat, it’s good politics to see the GOP get a black eye.
And that’s the goal here. It’s what you’d expect from the man behind “Gays for Giuliani” – a website hoping “educating” bigoted voters on Rudy Giuliani’s pro-gay record. Like the rest of Rogers’ work, it’s nothing more than an attempt to undermine the campaign of the most gay friendly GOP candidate in the Republican Presidential primary and give Democrats another bit of mud to sling at Republicans–putting politics ahead of policy yet again.