It is a question worth pondering – should gay politicians remain in the closet? The problem I have with that is that some voters, generally Republicans, are anti-gay. That is their choice and it is a choice often steeped in religious values. I don’t share that view – but I respect that some people feel that way.
The problem as I see it is one of blatant dishonesty. What is a Democrat, for example, runs for a local office, say a City Council, and he runs a campaign with a conservative theme? Orange County Democrats do that quite often when they run for local offices, thereby fooling Republican voters. Now what if that Democrat is also a closeted homosexual? Isn’t he lying to these (Republican) voters by remaining in the closet? Is that ethical?
Nationally we have seen closeted politicians who are anti-gay outed time and again. U.S. New York state Senator Carl Kruger changed his vote from anti-gay marriage to pro after being outed by the NYT, according to Andrew Sullivan. Closer to home, former Republican State Senator Roy Ashburn, a conservative from Bakersfield admitted that he had been at a gay nightclub in Sacramento before being arrested on drunk driving charges while behind the wheel of his state car, according to the L.A., Times. Ashburn flipped over night from opposing gay marriage to supporting it – after he fell out of the closet.
Why politicians even feel the need to be closeted is a good question in these times. With the coming out of a mayor in Mississippi, 48 US states now have openly lesbian or gay public officials, according to an online source.
But does this happen in Orange County? You bet. The OC Weekly has outed quite a few Republican politicians and their employees, not for being closeted gays per se but because they are often big time hypocrites – they bash gays and gay marriage publicly while they are themselves gay.
Here in Orange County we even have a Republican Presidential candidate, Fred Karger, who was in the closet for years while he was advising Republican politicians. Karger is out now and having a great time, according to the OC Weekly.
There have been gay leaders in Central Orange County politics for years – but they have stayed in the closet for the most part. Brian O’Leary Bennett, was former Congressman Bob Dornan’s trusted aide for 12 years. He eventually announced that he was gay – but only after Dornan asked him to run his presidential campaign and Bennett had to admit he was in love with another man, according to Gay Today. Bennett stopped working for Dornan.
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher handpicked a fellow named Jeff Nielsen to relocate from Orange County to Virginia and serve as his congressional aide in D.C. While working for Rohrabacher for more than half a year, Nielsen allegedly spent his spare time molesting a 7th-grade boy, according to the OC Weekly.
A website called “Big Gay Closet” argues that Rohrabacher is himself gay. But his voting record has been consistently anti-gay, as was Dornan’s.
Former DPOC Chairman Jim Toledano came out – but only when he was finished in politics. My friend Joe Shaw won a Council seat in Huntington Beach last year. That was incredible but he is deeply embedded in the community. He had great name ID and was able to raise money. And Shaw ran as part of a successful slate.
John Santoianni ran for the Anaheim City Council last year as an openly gay candidate. While the Democratic Party of Orange County endorsed him, organized labor got behind a Republican, John Leos. The result? Both Santoianni and Leos lost. So did Bill Dalati, the other Democrat in the race. The Anaheim City Council is now firmly in the hands of machine Republicans allied with former Mayor Curt Pringle. Santoianni lacked name ID and money. Perhaps he will do better in 2012.
Liberal OC blogger Chris Prevatt ran for the Garden Grove City Council in 2002. He came in dead last according to Smart Voter, out of four candidates. The winners each got over 13,000 votes. Prevatt got 3,100 votes. His platform did not mention anything about the gay community. He focused on gangs and crime. He later moved to Long Beach.
Anaheim Union High School District Trustee Jordan Brandman voted against adding gay history to school textbooks. There have been rumors for years that he is himself gay – rumors I cannot quantify. He is now running for the Anaheim City Council and he works in External Affairs for Orange County Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly.
If Brandman is gay, don’t his Republican constituents deserve to know this? He was endorsed in his last school board race by many prominent supporters of Prop. 8, according to the Orange Juice blog – would they do so again if he was gay? And if he is gay, wouldn’t coming out be a huge boon to gay students looking for role models? Of course he may not be gay at all. But that is the problem in Orange County. Very few politicians are willing to come out. Should we tolerate that?
You can argue about privacy all you want but politicians already have to come clean about their finances. You see, there is already an expectation that as public servants they have to be transparent. So why should closeted politicians be allowed to essentially lie to voters who just might have a problem with their sexuality, right or wrong? It just doesn’t seem right – and it seems to be well behind the times.