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9.7.04

Homophobia In The Service Of Gay Rights

It's Outing Season!

As the July 12 date nears for a vote on the federal marriage amendment, an outing panic has gripped Washington's political and media circles. Some gay activists have vowed to expose those closeted members of Congress who are supporting the amendment, as well as the closeted gay staffers of any member backing it. And it's not only right-wing Republicans who should be on notice. After initially indicating that she would vote against the constitutional amendment that would make gays and lesbians into second-class citizens, Sen. Barbara Mikulski's opposition to the amendment appears to have gone into the closet: Now that a vote is near, the Maryland Democrat—who is up for reelection in November—is suddenly not returning reporters' phone calls seeking her intentions on the vote, nor is she issuing any statements on the matter.

Mikulski's position on same-sex marriage isn't the only thing in her closet: The sexual orientation of the forever-unmarried 67-year-old has been an open secret for many years. But Mikulski has apparently always worried about what her working-class Democratic base in Maryland might think of her sexual orientation, making her irrationally petrified of ever discussing it (except to make heterosexual allusions).

-- via Joe Carter


I've made no secret of my opposition to the FMA. But I can't condone this sort of strongarm tactic for bringing it down. What's being proposed is to subject someone to homophobia in order to prevent the passage of homophobic legislation. It's like burning a cross on someone's lawn because they oppose affirmative action.

And what happens once you've used up your "focrible outing" weapon (or once the other side has used it up)? Mikulski may be out of office, replaced by someone who probably won't have anything to hide. If the FMA goes down this year, it will be back. It will keep coming back as long as the kind of homophobia that keeps people like Mikulski in the closet persists. It will keep coming back until we learn to respect people's sexual choices, rather than using them as a weapon.

And I hate the charge of hypocrisy -- that a lesbian has a special duty to support gay rights. If voting against the FMA puts Mikulski in electoral danger, then it means that voting for it would be representing the wishes of her constituents. The real problem is that the people of Maryland don't support gay rights. To call Mikulski a hypocrite feeds the notion that gay rights is something selfish, like a bit of pork-barrel spending, rather than a matter of justice. People like Mikulski can make their own peace with who they are and what they should vote for, without other people telling them that some personal characteristic should dictate their vote.

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