The GOP and the compartmentalization of dignity

There are historians (and I know some personally) who will argue that the “cause” of the U.S. Civil War was not slavery: It was economics.

“Oh, yes, there were some abolitionists who sincerely were opposed to slavery,” the line goes. “But they were the tools of the industrial North, which wanted to destroy cheap labor in the South.” The proof? After the war, the Northern carpetbaggers came and forever changed the face of the nation, especially in the South.

Some others will argue it wasn’t about slavery or economics — it was about states’ rights.

Let’s concede for a moment that true abolitionists were a small minority and were manipulated by Northern robber-barons for their own purposes. Even so, you know who the Civil War remained “about slavery” to? The slaves. Economy, states’ rights… Pfftt! Fact is, when the war ended, the Constitution was amended to give an entire class of Americans rights guaranteed to them that they had never been given, despite being human beings. Before the Civil War, one man could own another in this country; after, they could not. That’s a big deal.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

What’s Brewing: Craigslist congressman sought trans women; Maryland marriage bill in jeopardy

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Republican Congressman Chris Lee, who abruptly resigned Feb. 9 after Gawker published his shirtless Craigslist photos, wasn’t only looking for cisgender women with whom to have adulterous sex. Gawker now reports that Lee had also posted an ad (above) seeking “passable” transsexual or cross-dressing women, which could explain why he resigned so quickly. It could also seriously complicate Lee’s efforts to smooth things over with his wife.

2. A marriage equality bill that passed the Maryland Senate last week is suddenly in jeopardy in the House, where it was once thought to be assured of passage. The Washington Blade reports that the bill is short of the 71 votes it needs, with at least one former co-sponsor having caved under enormous pressure from the religious right.

3. The King’s Speech was the big winner Sunday night at the Oscars, taking home five awards including best picture, best director and best actor. For a complete list of results from the 83rd annual Academy Awards, go here.

—  John Wright

Watching the hypocrites self-destruct

As the dirty little secrets of ‘family values’ politicians and religious leaders come to light, the scandals help the cause of LGBT equality

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

The new year is well under way, but it’s like Christmas just keeps coming for the LGBT community in terms of our enemies destroying their credibility by performing what amounts to high dives into empty swimming pools.

Just a few weeks ago we saw New York Republican Congressman Christopher Lee hastily resign after the website Gawker.com published an expose about the congressman’s attempts to hook up via Craigslist.

The website revealed Lee had e-mailed a shirtless picture of himself to a woman, along with the lie that he was a single lobbyist, rather than declaring his true identity as a married father and elected public official.

Now, the National Enquirer is treating us to an expose alleging that married Republican Speaker of the House John “Cry Me a River” Boehner engaged in at least two affairs with mistresses. It would seem that Boehner, who created a sensation tearing up on a 60 Minutes broadcast while discussing his rise to political fame, really has something to cry about now.

I would say that these fellows who portrayed themselves as champions of family values had exhibited a level of stupidity in their behavior that defies reason and distinguishes them as clowns without comparison — but I can’t. Because this is a story that we have seen play out time and time again.

For naysayers who criticize the sources of these exposures: Remember, when it comes to really distasteful news, it usually surfaces in alternative publications before the mainstream media dares to pick it up. A case in point would be the exposure of former presidential candidate John Edward’s infidelity that was revealed by the National Enquirer.

While Edwards wasn’t an enemy of the LGBT community, he was a champion of family values. So it’s only fair to point out that stupidity and compulsively destructive behavior obviously know no political boundaries.

It’s hard to figure out why a prominent public official would secretly engage in an activity that they publicly condemn. But they just keep on keeping on — to our enormous benefit. There’s nothing that turns off people and awakens them to the truth more than a good dose of reality via the exposure of false prophets’ hypocrisy.

My first recollection of this type of hypocrisy dates back to 1981 when I read The Gentleman from Maryland, The Conscience of a Gay Conservative by former Congressman Richard Bauman. Bauman, who by day railed against gay rights and by night cruised Washington, D.C., gay bars, lost re-election in 1980 over a scandal involving a gay prostitute.

Since then it has been one revelation after another involving foes of the gay rights movement. Who could ever forget the 2007 scandal involving former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig when it was revealed that several months earlier he was arrested in a vice squad sex sting in a Minneapolis airport men’s restroom? The married politician’s denials of guilt and attempts to explain away his behavior made him the laughing stock of the country for awhile.

Over the years, straight Americans’ acceptance of gay and lesbian people has steadily grown, and I suspect at least part of the reason for that has been the exposure of the secret lives of political and religious celebrities who denounce homosexuality and bisexuality as aberrant behavior.

It’s sort of like a housewife who is leading a fight against an ordinance that would allow liquor sales in a community getting busted for drunken driving while ferrying the neighborhood’s kids home from school. Her motives suddenly become suspect.

Of course, we can’t thank our foes for all of our good fortune. The relentless fight by gay activists during the past 40 years has had a tremendous impact on public perception about who we are and what we want.

The battles for parental and marriage rights, along with other nondiscrimination goals, have led many people to realize that many members of our community are in fact champions of family values. Our families just happen to look a little different sometimes, but they are essentially the same as the one next door.

It’s been a wildly successful formula for achieving gay rights since the birth of the movement in 1969, and I’m sure the success is going to continue. And for that we can thank ourselves and our foes who just can’t seem to help being true to their real natures.

David Webb is a freelance reporter and former staff writer for the Dallas Voice. He has reported on LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for more than two decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25.

—  John Wright

Dallas’ Pete Sessions violates Constitution on same day it’s read from House podium

Pete Sessions

Anti-gay Dallas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions reportedly violated the Constitution on the same day it was read from the House podium.

The Huffington Post reports that Sessions, along with freshman Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., missed Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony because they were at a private fundraiser. They watched the ceremony on TV with their hands raised, but there’s no provision in the Constitution for a remote swearing-in. The Rules Committee was forced to adjourn Thursday because Sessions made a motion to take up a repeal of health care reform without having been sworn in as a member of Congress:

Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for Sessions, said that Sessions rectified the situation Thursday afternoon, after it came to his attention that he had not been properly sworn in. “During the swearing in of the 112th Congress, Congressman Sessions stated the oath publicly in the Capitol but was not on the House floor. To ensure that all constitutional and House requirements are fulfilled, Congressman Sessions officially took the oath of office this afternoon from the House floor. Public records and votes will be adjusted accordingly,” she said.

UPDATE: To make matters worse, Sessions reports on Twitter that he’s on the radio this afternoon with bigot Chris Krok, who famously mocked Joel Burns’ “Its Gets Better” speech:


—  John Wright

WATCH: Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert isn’t finished getting aroused about ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Perhaps we jumped the gun when we awarded our coveted Bigot of the Day honor to Republican Congressman Mike Conaway of Midland. In the below video, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, makes a strong case for why he should have won it. As Gohmert recalls the intimate details of a bunk-crawling incident when he was in the Army at Fort Benning, one can’t help but wonder whether he shouldn’t be speaking in the first person.

—  John Wright

Bigot of the Day: Texas Rep. Mike Conaway

Rep. Mike Conaway

Despite a Pentagon study that recommends just the opposite, Texas Republican Congressman Mike Conaway continues to spew right-wing propaganda by suggesting that repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” will force the military to build separate living facilities for gay and lesbian troops. Conaway also says he thinks DADT is currently working “unless you intend to make sexuality your No. 1 issue when you wake up in the morning.” Which, of course, is precisely what Conaway is doing. From the San Angelo Standard Times:

“You’re going to accommodate folks’ preferences as to whether or not they want to be in the same sleeping arrangements or bathroom facilities, all those kinds of things,” Rep. Mike Conaway, a Republican from Midland, said Monday. …

“Apparently their housing arrangements are not set up in that direction,” Conaway said. “And if you have to segment them further from what they are just between men and women, then you’re going to have to provide additional facilities that weren’t provided before. …

“I think my final conclusion was it’s a policy that’s currently working unless you intend to make sexuality your No. 1 issue when you wake up in the morning,” he said.

We’re not sure why the Standard Times is even bothering to publish this crap at this point, but at least the story goes on to note that Conaway is dead wrong:

The Pentagon study released Nov. 30 on the effect of a repeal recommended that “the Department of Defense expressly prohibit berthing or billeting assignments or the designation of bathroom facilities based on sexual orientation.”

Commanders would retain authority to alter those assignments or accommodate concerns about privacy on a case-by-case basis, the study said.

“Most concerns we heard about showers and bathrooms were based on stereotype,” the study said.

The study also indicated 70 percent of military members surveyed believed doing away with the policy would have mixed, positive or no effect.

—  John Wright

DeLay, who warned U.S. would ‘go down’ because of gay marriage, is brought down by a lesbian

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg

If case you missed it, former House Republican Majority Leader Tom “the Hammer” DeLay was convicted Wednesday on felony charges of money laundering for illegally funneling corporate dollars into Texas state legislative races in 2002.

DeLay, who represented a Houston-area House district from 1984 to 2005, faces up to life in prison but says he will appeal the verdict.

DeLay had a decidedly anti-gay voting record in Congress, receiving the worst possible score of zero from the Human Rights Campaign in each of his last two sessions. A year before his indictment and resignation, DeLay spoke on the House floor in support of a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage:

“This nation knows that if you destroy marriage as the definition of one man and one woman, creating children so that we can transfer our values to those children and they can be raised in an ideal home, this country will go down,” DeLay said.

“So believe me, everybody in this country’s going to know how you voted today,” he said, his anger mounting with every word. “They’re going to know how you stood on the fundamental protection of marriage and the definition of marriage. And we will take it from here and we will come back, and we will come back, and we will come back. We will never give up. We will protect marriage in this country.”

Given DeLay’s record on gay rights, perhaps there’s some poetic justice to the fact that the district attorney who obtained the conviction, Rosemary Lehmberg, is an out and proud lesbian. Lehmberg, a Democrat, was elected to replace Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who initiated DeLay’s prosecution, after Earle retired in 2008. Before that, Lehmberg served as Earle’s first assistant for 10 years in the office that’s home to the state’s Public Integrity Unity, which is charged with investigating corruption in government.

Of course, DeLay’s prosecution had no more to do with Lehmberg’s sexual orientation than it did with her party affiliation, and none of the stories we’ve seen about his conviction even mention it.

Which is why we thought we would.

“I think that I serve as an individual who demonstrates that sexual orientation is not particularly relevant, except to your personal life, and therefore a lot of the homophobia and bias is unwarranted — the fear that people have,” Lehmberg told us following her election in 2008.

—  John Wright

Sessions is missing the Log Cabin dinner to discuss the importance of ‘traditional marriage’

Earlier today we wrote about how Dallas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions had backed out of a scheduled appearance tonight at the Log Cabin Republicans National Dinner. In cancelling his appearance, Sessions cited another commitment — specifically a meeting of the House GOP Conference.

Irony of ironies, it turns out the GOP Conference will be meeting to discuss a brand new election year agenda to be unveiled Thursday that — surprise! — will include social issues and specifically a statement affirming the party’s support for “traditional marriage.”

From Politico:

House Republicans had a spirited debate behind closed doors about the degree to which social issues should be included in the new agenda, and social conservatives have been pressing for the GOP to be more explicit in putting social issues in writing on this 2010 agenda.

Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.), winner of a 2012 presidential straw poll at the recent conservative Values Voters conference, led the campaign to ensure social issues would not be ignored. Some others believed that the plan should focus more narrowly on fiscal and security issues that unite a broader swath of the GOP.

The decision to at least affirm opposition to abortion and gay marriage appears to represent a compromise between the factions.

House Republicans will be able to review the new agenda this afternoon, after which they will discuss it at a conference meeting. Republican leaders will unveil it to the public Thursday morning.

Gee, we wonder which side of the “spirited debate” Sessions was on.

UPDATE: Via CBS News, below is a draft of the GOP’s new “Pledge To America”:

GOP Pledge to America

—  John Wright

UPDATED: Log Cabin responds to Congressman Pete Sessions’ decision not to attend dinner

Pete Sessions: Silver fox or just sly like one?

Roll Call is reporting that Dallas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions has backed out of a scheduled appearance Wednesday night at a fundraiser for Log Cabin Republicans, saying he needs to attend a House GOP caucus meeting instead.

Well isn’t that a convenient excuse? We’re sure Sessions’ no-show has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he and Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, also slated to appear at the Log Cabin dinner, are being villified on right-wing websites for accepting the invitation. As we reported, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins sent Cornyn a letter last week demanding that he skip the dinner. And FRC said on its blog Tuesday that Cornyn shouldn’t have accepted the invitation in part because Log Cabin derives its name from the idea that President Abraham Lincoln was gay, a theory FRC seems hell-bent on dismissing. Meanwhile, American Family Association President Tom Wildmon told CSN News that by attending the fundraiser Cornyn is actively promoting “men having sex with men.”

We called Sessions’ D.C. office to get further explanation about his decision to back out — such as whether the Republican caucus meeting was scheduled before or after the Log Cabin dinner, whether they are in fact at the same time, and if they are, whether he can’t afford to miss a few minutes of the caucus meeting to make a cameo at the LCR dinner. But not surprisingly, Sessions spokeswoman Emily Davis mysteriously became unavailable after we identified ourselves as being from the gay paper, and she hasn’t gotten back to us.

We’re sure some gay Republicans will defend Sessions’ decision, pointing to his appearance at the annual dinner of the Dallas chapter of Log Cabin two years ago. But we’d like to point out that the 2008 dinner came immediately AFTER the November elections, not six weeks before them. Let’s face it, folks, Republicans like Sessions are scared shitless of the Tea Party right now. And while tea-baggers like to say they’re concerned primarily with fiscal issues, many of us recognize them as the same right-wing nutjobs who were peddling social issues five years ago.

In case you’re wondering, Sessions faces Democrat Grier Raggio in November.

UPDATE: Melissa Kennedy, a spokeswoman for National Log Cabin Republicans, contacted Instant Tea to say that our previous headline, which suggested the Sessions had gotten cold feet about the dinner due to pressure from social conservatives, was inaccurate. Kennedy said we should have contacted Log Cabin before posting it. She said Republican House leaders have called a mandatory meeting for tonight and so Sessions’ reason for not attending the dinner is legitimate. She said if Sessions was worried about how the Log Cabin appearance would look, he wouldn’t have accepted their invitation in the first place.

Sessions is sending a senior staff member to pick up his award from Log Cabin, and he’s videotaped a message that will be played during the dinner, Kennedy said.

“We don’t feel like someone left us at the altar,” she said.

Asked whether Log Cabin has any qualms about hosting Cornyn after he supported Tuesday’s filibuster of the bill containing language to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell,” Kennedy said absolutely not. Kennedy said Log Cabin supported Senate Republicans’ decision to filibuster the bill based on Majority Leader Harry Reid’s refusal to allow them to propose amendments.

“We’re not saying they’ve been our best buds and we’re going to have sleepovers, but we’re working on it and we appreciate the fact that they said yes,” Kennedy said of Cornyn and Sessions and their decision to accept the group’s invitation to the dinner.

—  John Wright