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When outing works.

Almost 40 years ago, The New York Times got a tip that Daniel Burrows, a former number 2 at the American Nazi Party, was Jewish. Abe Rosenthal and Arthur Gelb were running the Metropolitan desk back then, and they assigned McCandlish Phillips to the story. Rosenthal and Gelb both happened to be Jewish, while Phillips was a deeply religious Christian and one of the Times's most meticulous reporters ever. When the story was published revealing that the 28-year-old Nazi was a Jew, Burrows killed himself.

Hypocrisy--which in this case had morphed into extreme self-hatred--has traditionally been viewed by serious journalists as a good reason to do a story. In our own time, some activists have argued that gay Republicans who actively work against gay causes are also guilty of a kind of hypocrisy that deserves public exposure.

I don't think there is any good argument for outing a closeted politician who supports gay rights. But any secretly gay person who uses his bully pulpit to vilify his own people deserves the treatment gay blogger Michael Rogers is now meting out in the nation's capital. Rogers has caused consternation everywhere, from the Log Cabin Republicans to the Human Rights Campaign, by announcing that he will out any closeted Republican who espouses antigay positions or works for a congressman or senator who does.

Rogers's latest victim is Ed Schrock, a two-term Republican con gressman from Virginia who was running for reelection this fall--until Rogers identified him as a closeted gay man (with a wife and an adult son). Schrock declined all comment for 11 days, then bowed out of the race. He never did say whether he was gay or not; he just acknowledged the existence of allegations that "will not allow my campaign to focus on the real issues facing our nation and region." Rogers's smoking gun was a tape he said captured Schrock placing a voice-mail ad for gay sex. The man on the tape is looking for "nothing real heavy-duty, but just a fun time."

One good reason for outing people like Schrock is that closet cases are so frequently among our most virulent enemies. People secure in their own heterosexuality are rarely threatened by us; it's all those talking heads from the religious right on the Sunday talk shows that we really have to worry about.

Schrock appears to be an excellent example of the self-hating gay man. Not only did he support the move to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage; in his first run for Congress in 2000 he called for the repeal of Bill Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy--because it was too pro-gay. "You're in the showers with them, you're in the bank room with them, you're in the staterooms with them," the candidate told The Virginian-Pilot. And Schrock knows what he's talking about. Before he turned to politics, he spent 24 years in the Navy--so apparently he was one of those shower lurkers himself.

"Why should my community protect him?" Rogers asked The Washington Post. "He's the enemy."

Some people are more squeamish when it comes to outing gay staffers of homophobic legislators, which Rogers also started doing during the antigay marriage amendment debate in the Senate last summer. "It's not going to help the cause at all," Lynden Armstrong told another Washington reporter. Armstrong works for Republican senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico and is a founder of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Senate Staffers. Domenici, of course, is another supporter of the anti-gay-marriage amendment. "It is not fair that they are doing this," Armstrong said.

Perhaps Armstrong is right that the tactic won't change the minds of any senators. But it should certainly make closeted lesbians and gay men think twice before contributing their talents to legislators who want to take away our basic civil rights. No one is forcing these staffers to take these jobs. If gay people working for antigay legislators aren't losing any sleep over these career choices, what's wrong with the rest of us exposing their hypocrisy to the world?
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:broadside
Author:Kaiser, Charles
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 12, 2004
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