Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Outing Debate Heats Up As Julia Carson Weighs In

A dialogue among bloggers within the GLBT community openned up last week after GayIndy.Org webmaster, Jeff Newman, penned a story entitled "Two Strikes Your Out," which was published on his own website, jeffnewman.net, and Bilerico. Advance Indiana followed up on Newman's story with its own, entitled, "When Is A Public Offical's Private Life a Public Matter?" But none other than U.S. Congresswoman Julia Carson has decided to weigh in on the matter.

It happened at Indiana's first Black Pride, a successful three-day event held in Indianapolis last weekend which was attended by several state lawmakers, councilors and, of course, U.S. Representative Julia Carson. While speaking at the event Friday night, Representative Carson had a few choice words for the five Democratic members of the Indianapolis City-County Council who voted against Proposal 68, the human rights ordinance (HRO) which would have prohibited discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of a person's sexual orientation or identity. But she had a more pointed message for a particular Democratic council member. Though Carson never mentioned him by name, people in the audience seem to have no trouble discerning the identity of the offending council member.

Carson's little talk at Black Pride set off quite a buzz over the weekend in the GLBT community. By Monday the news sprung on to the pages of Indy area blog sites when one attendee, Tracy Elliott, who heard Carson speak, penned a story entitled, "Outing Little Miss Ron", which Bilerico published. [NOTE: Elliott says the reference in his story's title to "Ron" is to Ron Reagan, Jr.] Elliott, who is the CEO of the Damien Center, in reference to Carson's remarks said, "Outing hypocritical legislators at every level might just get the message across. . . At Friday's opening event of Black Pride, Rep. Carson said as much." As Elliott described, "It was amazing, shocking, remarkable, unprecedented, but she said it was time for those on the City-County Council who voted against Prop. 68 and are living closeted gay lives to change their votes or risk the consequences. I wish someone had recorded the speech so her exact words could be relayed to you, but I have to say that in 30 years of political activity at every level, I've never heard anything like it from an elected official. Nearly everyone in the room knew exactly to whom she was referring. I was happy to tell the two people who asked me."

The council member in question has been thought of as a rising star in the Marion County Democratic Party, even mentioned as a possible replacement for Rep. Carson upon her retirement. Since the council member's vote against the HRO, the rising star has been consumed by a giant black hole from which there may be no escape. Democratic council members who co-sponsored the HRO, Jackie Nytes and Joanne Sanders, felt betrayed by a colleague they had counted as a solid vote in favor of the HRO. Those close to the council member were perplexed because they felt that the sexual orientation of the member was no secret, and that the member's support for the HRO would be a given. As Elliott put it more bluntly in his story, "This sucker . . . has not only risked his sorry political ass by lying to his colleagues about how he would vote -- he assured the sponsors he would support Prop. 68 as far back as when Karen Horseman was on the council -- and by angering the GLBT community who knows his little secret, but he's also pissed off Mrs. Carson, with whom he has a long history."

Elliott's story on Bilerico openned up a lively discussion on the topic among Indianapolis area bloggers. One commenter offerred up the name of another closeted politician, while at least one blogger on Bilerico felt that outing was not a Hoosier value. While Advance Indiana agrees that outing is appropriate when a public official's public positions are at odds with the official's private life, particularly when the his/her public positions work to deny others fundamental rights, it will not name the council member in question without more evidence. Advance Indiana does, however, believe it is appropriate to comment on the matter without naming the council member since a sitting member of the United States Congress has decided it is worthy of public comment.

While the mainstream media has thus far ignored Carson's comments, the Christian right is not ignoring the debate. As reported on Bilerico, Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana weighed in on the latest discussion on outing in a newsletter to his members in which he accused gay activists of "threaten[ing] to invoke gutter politics" by outing hypocritical politicians. Clark told his members, "In what only can be described as a threat of desperation, several homosexual activists in Indiana who head up various web sites and blogs, are now threatening to 'out' or smear various Hoosier politicians. Apparently, by their logic, it is wrong for any legislator to mirror the opinion of a majority of Hoosiers who define marriage as between only one man and one woman."

Clark continued, "Under these homosexual activists' rules, legislators must meet a certain moral standard in order for the legislator to simply believe that both mothers and fathers matter to children and to society. . . something that was once universally seen as common sense.Without seeing their own moral flaws, or by definition their own rejection of traditional sexual morality, these activists are promising to expose skeletons in the closets of state legislators whom they claim are 'hypocrites.' This type of sleazy, gutter politics did not work when pornographer Larry Flynt tried it on congressional Republicans and I doubt if it will change any votes in the State House. "

Clark's claim that Flynt's efforts to expose the hypocrisy of Republican members of Congress who were working to impeach President Clinton did not work are simply not true. In fact, revelations of sexual indiscretions about to be brought to light by Flynt resulted in the abrupt resignations of House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Majority Leader Bob Livingstone, who both championed "family values." Also, allegations of Congressman Henry Hyde's infidelity many years earlier while a state legislator also undermined his credibility as the lead House prosecutor against Clinton during his Senate trial.

As to Clark's reference to "sleazy, gutter politics", that is more fitting of the campaign he, Eric Miller and now Curt Smith are waging against Governor Daniels' EEO Policy of non-discrimination against gays and lesbians, the very thought of which seems to cause all of these men so much heartburn. Their malicious lies and distortions about Governors Daniels' EEO Policy in no way represents the Christian values the threesome claim to espouse. People who live in glass houses as they do should be the last to cast stones. Advance Indiana will wear Clark's criticism as a badge of honor.

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Kevin said...

I say its time to out them! They declared war and if they want to make our private lives a political issue then we need to exploit their hypocracy at every level.

Bil Browning said...

I had an interesting conversation tonight about my blog and yours. Give me a call, and we'll chat about it.

Jerame Davis said...

What's fascinating is how this debate has changed over the last few years. I can remember when the idea of outing ANYONE was taboo. PERIOD. But, I agree, we are at war. The right-wing has declared all out war on our families and we must adjust to that frame of mind.

Besides, it's not really outing them as gay that is the important part. It's the outing of their hypocrital ways that is the heart of it all. I feel the same of adulterous politicians who claim they are "saving marriages" by promoting a ban on marriage equality. They should be outed too.

They are using bedroom politics against us. Turnabout is fair play.

Thanks for great analysis on this. Keep up the good work.