Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Difference - As I write this, Sen. Larry Craig is preparing a statement in regards to his recent arrest following an incident in a restroom at a Minnesota airport. As reported in Roll Call, the allegations against Sen. Craig are disturbing.

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested in June at a Minnesota airport by a plainclothes police officer investigating lewd conduct complaints in a men’s public restroom, according to an arrest report obtained by Roll Call on Monday afternoon.

Craig's arrest occurred just after noon on June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. On Aug. 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in the Hennepin County District Court. He paid more than $500 in fines and fees, and a 10-day jail sentence was stayed. He also was given one year of probation with the court that began on Aug. 8.
To be sure, both Republicans and Democrats are rightly upset about the situation. For their part, Republicans are perturbed because the case involves lewd behavior. (See the arrest report and the criminal complaint.) Democrats on the other hand seem less concerned about the behavior itself (in as much as they were unable to muster significant outrage over the late Congressman Gerry Studds' sexual misconduct or the scandal involving Congressman Barney Frank's former paramour), and focused more on the discrepancy between Craig's personal behavior and his "anti-gay" voting record while in the Senate, his support of immigration legislation notwithstanding.

Irrespective of Democratic double-standards, it is my opinion that Sen. Craig should meet the same fate as Congressman Mark Foley; he needs to resign of his own volition or otherwise be removed from office. But I admit to being less concerned about any real or imagined hypocrisy on his part, and take more umbrage with his voting record vis-a-vis civil unions. My own sense is that there is a direct link between votes against legislation providing for civil unions for same-sex couples and the behavior of closeted gays.
The bitterest irony is that every vote against civil unions on the part of Craig (and others like Florida State Rep. Bob Allen) is a nail that shuts the "closet" even tighter.

Perhaps to the dismay of my gay and lesbian readership, my enthusiasm for civil unions in no wise extends to support of gay marriage. It might certainly appear that I am guilty of my own hypocrisy, but intellectual honesty dictates that we make appropriate differentiations between civil unions and marriage. And while I'm at it, I'll go ahead and scratch another itch: namely, the idea that gay marriage is a logical extension of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Setting aside the stated aims of the present-day "civil wrongs" movement (whose goal of equality of outcomes would hardly be deemed worthy by the likes of Fredrick Douglas, W.E.B. du Bois, et al.), the objective of the true civil rights pioneers was to ensure that America followed through on promises that were already articulated and enshrined in the enabling documents of this nation. To date, no federal court - and only one state court - has been able to construe the Constitution to provide for same-sex marriage. In order to allow for such arrangements, a new "right" would need to be constructed out of whole constitutional cloth.

Just as important, there is no rational argument supporting the idea that homosexuals are disproportionately impacted by prohibitions on gay marriage. The truth is that all males - gay and straight - are equally impacted by laws prohibiting same-sex marriage; I can't marry my male best friend anymore than a gay man can marry his. However inconvenient to some, this does represent equal protection under the law.

But perhaps the most salient differentiation between the gay rights movement and the struggle for civil rights for African Americans is embedded in the fact that there is no "coming out" for blacks other than coming out of the womb. We are "out" as it were from minute one, and any negative consequences of blackness begin to accrue almost immediately. Whatever arguments can be made about homosexuality being a choice versus a biological destiny, gays and lesbians still have agency as to when and how they decide to act on their orientation, as well as when and where to announce their sexual preference to others.

Which brings us back to Sen. Craig. His choice appears to deny that he is gay, as is his right. But what he should not have the right to do is have it both ways. His refusal to acknowledge his or anyone else's right to be in a same-sex relationship while playing fast and loose in the men's room is more than hypocritical. It is a special sort of evil, an evil that desires happiness neither for himself nor for others. One can only hope that the good people of Idaho will prevail on their Senator to take his leave of the Upper Chamber sooner rather than later.

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