Sunday, May 15, 2005

Frank Rich on the Anti-Gay Hypocrits

Frank Rich examines the incredibly hypocritical--even pathological--attacks of the right wing against gays and lesbians in his latest op-ed piece in the NYTimes.

Here's his concluding paragraphs:

What adds a peculiar dynamic to this anti-gay juggernaut is the continued emergence of gay people within its ranks. Allen Drury would have been incredulous if gay-baiters hounding his Utah senator had turned out to be gay themselves, but this has been a consistent pattern throughout the 30-year war. Terry Dolan, a closeted gay man, ran the National Conservative Political Action Committee, which as far back as 1980 was putting out fund-raising letters that said, "Our nation's moral fiber is being weakened by the growing homosexual movement and the fanatical E.R.A. pushers (many of whom publicly brag they are lesbians)." (Dolan recanted and endorsed gay rights before he died of AIDS in 1986.) The latest boldface name to marry his same-sex partner in Massachusetts is Arthur Finkelstein, the political operative behind the electoral success of Jesse Helms, a senator so homophobic he voted in the minority of the 97-to-3 reauthorization of the Ryan White act for AIDS funding and treatment in 1995.

But surely the most arresting recent case is James E. West, the powerful Republican mayor of Spokane, Wash., whose double life has just been exposed by the local paper, The Spokesman-Review. Mr. West's long, successful political career has been distinguished by his attempts to ban gay men and lesbians from schools and day care centers, to fire gay state employees, to deny City Hall benefits to domestic partners and to stifle AIDS-prevention education. The Spokesman-Review caught him trolling gay Web sites for young men and trying to lure them with gifts and favors. (He has denied accusations of abusing boys when he was a Boy Scout leader some 25 years ago.) Not unlike the Roy Cohn of "Angels in America" - who describes himself as "a heterosexual man" who has sex "with guys" - Mr. West has said he had "relations with adult men" but doesn't "characterize" himself as gay. This is more than hypocrisy - it's pathology.

ALLEN Drury might not have known what to make of Mr. West or of another odd tic in the 30-year war, the recurrent emergence of gay-baiting ideologues with openly gay children (Phyllis Schlafly, Randall Terry, Alan Keyes). According to Mr. Johnson's fresh scholarship in "The Lavender Scare," a likely inspiration for the gay plot line in Drury's "Advise and Consent" was the real-life story of a Wyoming Democrat, Lester Hunt, who shot himself in his Senate office in 1954 after the Republican Campaign Committee threatened to make an issue of his gay son's arrest in Lafayette Park on "morals charges." Those were the dark ages, but it isn't entirely progress that we now have a wider war on gay people, thinly disguised as a debate over the filibuster, cloaked in religion, and counting among its shock troops politicians as utterly bereft of moral bearings as James West. Check out the good old days in "Advise and Consent," not to mention Charles Laughton's valedictory performance as a Bible Belt senator who ultimately puts patriotism over partisanship, and weep.


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