Closeted in the capital: they're powerful, Republican, and gay. Will the marriage battle finally get them to come out to their bosses?
David Catania David A. Catania is a politician from Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. He is currently a member of the Council of the District of Columbia, where he serves as an independent, elected at-large (i.e., not from any specific ward or district of the city). , the first openly gay man to serve on the Washington, D.C., city council, remembers one of his first jobs in town about 16 years ago. He was staffer for a conservative Republican senator, who has since retired. His boyfriend worked for another Republican lawmaker, who is still a player in national politics. Needless to say, neither Catania nor his boyfriend could be out on Capitol Hill. Over the years, Catania, a Republican, has known numerous gay men in somewhat similar situations--those who work in Congress, federal agencies, or lobbying groups and hide their sexual orientation sexual orientation
The direction of one's sexual interest toward members of the same, opposite, or both sexes, especially a direction seen to be dictated by physiologic rather than sociologic forces. , petrified pet·ri·fy
v. pet·ri·fied, pet·ri·fy·ing, pet·ri·fies
1. To convert (wood or other organic matter) into a stony replica by petrifaction.
2. that it will damage their careers.
"This is nothing new. This city has historically been somewhat conservative in terms of interconnecting personal and professional lives," Catania says, adding that he believes most gay men and lesbians in such situations eventually the of living in the closet and find another job.
That breaking point may arrive soon for some as Washington becomes the center of the storm in the debate over gay marriage. The Senate and the House trove already held several hearings on the Federal Marriage Amendment The Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) (also known as the Marriage Protection Amendment) is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution which would define marriage in the United States as a union of one man and one woman. , which would change the U.S. Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage Noun 1. same-sex marriage - two people of the same sex who live together as a family; "the legal status of same-sex marriages has been hotly debated"
couple, twosome, duet, duo - a pair who associate with one another; "the engaged couple"; "an inseparable and could prevent states from passing their own laws to establish domestic partnerships, civil unions, or marriage-like rights for gay couples.
Discussion of the amendment has exposed a painful personal and professional catch-22 for the closeted clos·et·ed
Being In a state of secrecy or cautious privacy. gay men and lesbians who live and work in and around D.C.--especially those in powerful positions as chiefs of staff for conservative lawmakers or as rising stars in think tanks with conservative cultures. Their bosses may not harass them and may welcome their same-sex "special friends" in private but oppose gay rights in public. And yet these gay or lesbian staffers cannot work to convince their bosses to change their opinions--unless they come out first.
It is a peculiar spot to be in. But Washington is a peculiar town for its gay and lesbian residents. It has a sizable number of households occupied by same-sex couples, a diverse nightlife, and some of the most comprehensive local civil rights laws anywhere. Yet it remains entrenched en·trench also in·trench
v. en·trenched, en·trench·ing, en·trench·es
1. To provide with a trench, especially for the purpose of fortifying or defending.
2. in power, strategy, rules, and tradition. Cultural shifts in D.C. don't happen quickly. In the 1950s bureaucrats prided themselves on purging government agencies of gay and lesbian employees. As recently as March, a Bush administration appointee APPOINTEE. A person who is appointed or selected for a particular purpose; as the appointee under a power, is the person who is to receive the benefit of the trust or power. removed references to sexual orientation discrimination from the Office of Special Counsel's Web site. The move angered many gay rights groups. Washington continues to be a place where closeted gay men may prepare antigay briefings for their bosses in the House or Senate during the day but hit Dupont Circle's gay bars at night--never mixing the political and personal.
Getting a firsthand look at closeted gay men and lesbians is a daunting daunt
tr.v. daunt·ed, daunt·ing, daunts
To abate the courage of; discourage. See Synonyms at dismay.
[Middle English daunten, from Old French danter, from Latin task. Their doors aren't just closed; they are bolted shut and double-locked, with tiny cracks allowing only for notes to be slipped through. Those who were contacted for this article had plenty to say about leading a double life, but they talked only on the condition that their names or positions not be published. Some even required that their e-mail interviews be first cut and pasted to a new message and then forwarded by colleagues to The Advocate.
"Most people can leave their work at the office," says "John." "Mine follows me home. How would you like to turn on your television and see your boss, or your boss's cohorts, telling you what a horrible person you are every other day? Happens to me all the time ... and there's not a damn thing I can do about it." Adds another communicant, "Matt," who works for a major right-wing lobbying group: "I think it'd be valuable for people to know that there are gay conservatives working for change from the inside. But if the people I work for knew I was gay, I'd be on the other side of that door--and double-quick."
Some have long-term partners who are equally closeted at work--a particularly painful and awkward position as the gay-marriage debate ratchets up: "We're the D.C. 'power couple' that no one knows about," jokes "Steve," interviewed via a Gay.com chat room for men living in the D.C. area. Others are single and equally dismayed about the current political climate and the song their movement's leaders are singing about marriage rights for same-sex couples. "Let's just say the way this [gay] marriage debate is playing out on the Fox News Channel isn't exactly music to my ears," writes "Mark," who works on Capitol Hill for a conservative congressman from the South.
Steve Gunderson Steven Craig (Steve) Gunderson (born May 10, 1951, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin), is the President and CEO of the Council on Foundations and a former Republican congressman from Wisconsin.
Gunderson grew up in Whitehall, Wisconsin. , the former eight-term congressman from Wisconsin and first openly gay Republican in the House, understands why some gay men and lesbians in Washington keep their sexuality and politics separate. He was outed on the House floor in 1996 by former California representative Bob Dornan during the debate over the federal Defense of Marriage Act. "I can't name the number of times during this process when folks asked if I 'was married and trod kids,'" he says. "Not knowing them, and engaged in a totally professional situation, I would simply say, 'I'm not roamed.' While not a lie, it was not the whole truth." Gunderson remembers asking his partner to stay home while he attended events for members of Congress and their spouses. He knows the creeping discomfort that comes with living two lives: "[It] became increasingly unacceptable both to me personally and to my integrity."
Still, "in 2004 there is simply no acceptable reason for conservatives to remain in the closet," Gunderson says. "They need to deal with the comfort--or lack thereof--of working in an environment where they are unwilling to be honest with themselves and their colleagues."
Carl Schmid, an openly gay Washington consultant who was a key player in drumming up support among gay voters for George W. Bush in the 2000 election, says that some upwardly mobile gay conservatives may want to change attitudes about gays, but revealing the truth about their sexuality or same-sex relationships isn't a fast-track method for career advancement. "They believe in the cause, the president, and the ideals of the Republican Party," says Schmid. For conservatives, coming out might mean they won't be considered "part of the team" or they'll be "labeled a liberal."
It might be tempting for groups on the other side of the political aisle to dismiss closeted gays and lesbians in Washington. But "we believe that coming out is an intensely personal process, and rather than judging people, we try to meet them where they are on their path," says Mark Shields Mark Shields (born May 25, 1937 in Weymouth, Massachusetts) is an American political pundit who appears frequently on CNN and PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer as a liberal commentator.
Shields graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1959. , a spokesman for the gay advocacy group Human Rights Campaign. With a constitutional amendment against gay marriage being discussed, Shields says any gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered transgendered adjective Relating to a person who has undergone genital/sexual reassignment surgery Transgender health issues Hormonal therapy, cosmetic surgery, fertility options–eg, egg and sperm banking. See Sexual reassignment. Cf Transsexual. individual who comes out helps "put a human face on this issue, and that is what changes hearts and minds."
Ironically, until the end of World War II End of World War II can refer to:
• • [ and author of The Lavender Scare The Lavender Scare refers to the fear and persecution of homosexuals in the fifties that paralleled the anti-communist Red Scare. Because the psychiatric community regarded homosexuality as a mental illness, gay men and lesbians were considered susceptible to blackmail, thus : The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government. The city had several gay bars, and federal agencies largely ignored employees' private lives.
When Sen. Joseph McCarthy Noun 1. Joseph McCarthy - United States politician who unscrupulously accused many citizens of being Communists (1908-1957)
Joseph Raymond McCarthy, McCarthy rose to power, he charged that "homosexuals and communists had infiltrated the federal government, which would weaken national security," says Johnson. The U.S. Park Police began a "pervert elimination campaign" for D.C. parks that were popular cruising spots for gay men--including Lafayette Park Lafayette Park may refer to:
Having a coat of short hair. Used of animals. women--social scientists and other experts--who were imposing their ideas on the country. They felt this smothering smothering
death by asphyxiation. Occurs where poultry are carelessly herded into a corner where they cannot escape and where they are piled four or five birds deep; they will die of asphyxia very quickly. See also crowding. bureaucracy threatened American traditions of individualism and serf-reliance." Gay men and lesbians were grouped in with that crowd.
Gay rights pioneer and longtime Washington resident Frank Kameny received his Ph.D. from Harvard University Harvard University, mainly at Cambridge, Mass., including Harvard College, the oldest American college. Harvard College
Harvard College, originally for men, was founded in 1636 with a grant from the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. in 1956 and moved to Washington to take jobs at Georgetown University Georgetown University, in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C.; Jesuit; coeducational; founded 1789 by John Carroll, chartered 1815, inc. 1844. Its law and medical schools are noteworthy, and its archives are especially rich in letters and manuscripts by and and later at the U.S. Army Map Service. He was heading home one night when he stopped to watch two officers--working as part of the city's "morals division"--arrest a man suspected of "homosexual conduct." The officers spotted Kameny and also arrested him. A year or so passed, and Kameny's name and sexual orientation became known to his superiors. He was fired from his job and could not get another one with the government.
Kameny refused to remain silent. In a well-known case--that the U.S. Supreme Court eventually refused to hear--he sued the government to get his job back. Realizing that might never happen, he and a friend essentially founded D.C.'s gay rights movement in 1961 when they formed a chapter of the Mattachine Society The Mattachine Society was the earliest homophile organization in the United States. Founding
The organization was founded by Harry Hay along with a small group of friends. . They staged the first gay picket on the White House four years later, and in the following decades, gay and lesbian federal employees began to gain greater rights in the workplace. In 1995, President Bill Clinton issued an executive order prohibiting the government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in the granting of security clearances. In 1998 he signed an executive order banning antigay discrimination against any federal civilian employee. Both executive orders still stand. Johnson notes that "at least on paper," gay men and lesbians in federal civilian jobs have equality on the job.
What may ultimately empower the current group of closeted gays and lesbians in Washington is the fact that debate over the Federal Marriage Amendment has exposed a rift among Republican lawmakers. Senate majority leader Bill Frist has warned that same-sex marriage is likely to spread across America like "wildfire." But moderate Republicans say they are hesitant to alter the U.S. Constitution to deny rights to a certain group of people. The conservative gay group Log Cabin Republicans The Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) is a federated gay and lesbian political organization in the United States with state chapters and a national office in Washington, D.C. The group consists of gays and lesbians who are supporters of the Republican Party. has declared war on the amendment. In the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush's running mate, Dick Cheney, father of out lesbian Mary Cheney, said same-sex marriage should be an issue left to the states. Now, as vice president, he supports Bush's call for the Federal Marriage Amendment and has said his daughter's sexuality is a private matter.
Schmid says that even if closeted gay men and lesbians remain silent, they'll speak loudly through the ballot box in November by voting Democratic or independent. "I remain a Republican ... it is who I am," he says. "But I can't tell you the strong reaction I am getting from many gay Republicans these days ... they say 'I can't vote for Bush; I will work for his defeat.' Or 'I won't vote at all' (because they won't vote for a Democrat) or 'I will never vote Republican again.' I have heard stories of people taking down Bush's picture in their homes."
Kameny remains shocked that any gay man or lesbian would remain in the closet in 2004. "This is not 1954, when things were truly dreadful," he says. "So I suppose, for these people, it's a closet of their own making."
Bergling is a TV news producer in Washington D.C., and the author of Reeling in the Years Reeling In The Years is a historical documentary series broadcast in Ireland by Radio Telefís Éireann. Each episode, approximately 25 minutes long, looks back at the news and events of a particular year, from 1962 to 1999. : Gay Men's Perspectives on Age and Ageism ageism Geriatrics A bias or belief that may be held by a health care provider that depression, forgetfulness, and other disorders are a normal part of aging and that older individuals will not benefit from treatment of mental disorders. Cf elderly. .