HOUSTON VOICE www.houstonvoice.com
JULY 2, 2004 11
Gay staffers for anti-gay members of Congress
are aiding and abetting the enemy and
deserve neither our pity nor our protection.
Gay Hill staffers
should be outed
ONE YEAR AGO, I WOULD HAVE
opposed "outing" gay congressional staffers
who work for anti-gay members of Congress.
After all, I was once one of those staffers,
working for a Republican, no less. Today,
while outing still gives me pause, I believe
recent events have made it necessary
When President Bush and anti-gay
members of Congress teamed up with the
radical right to push for passage of the
anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment,
all the rules changed.
The FMA is the legislative equivalent of
a nuclear bomb. Its passage will ban samesex marriage from now till eternity, ripping apart thousands of already-married
gay couples. Worse yet, the amendment is
so broadly written that it could overturn
every pro-gay federal, state and local law,
and private industry policy in the country
Facing such an unprecedented threat,
it is time we considered an unprecedented
We once laughed off the gay staffers
who worked for Jesse Helms or Pat
Buchanan. We loathed their self-loathing,
but figured that for the most part they
were hurting themselves more than us.
In post-FMA America, we no longer
have that luxury. President Bush and anti-
gay members of Congress have declared
war on gay people.
GAY STAFFERS WHO WORK FOR SUCH
politicians are hardly innocent bystanders
simply exercising their right to free speech.
They are hired guns defending policies
intended to destroy our relationships. Such
staffers are, at best, enemy combatants; and
at worst, war criminals. Those who would
choose to aid and abet our enemies deserve
neither our pity nor our protection.
Some say that congressional staff members are hardly responsible for the anti-gay
positions of their bosses. That is simply
absurd. We're not talking about young kids
who simply walk the dog or stuff the mail.
There are gay men and lesbians serving
anti-gay members in the most senior levels
of Congress, from chiefs of staff to press secretaries to lawyers and other senior advisers.
To suggest that their role in policy-making is
negligible is naive or disingenuous.
It's high time we stopped treating
grown men and women as children who
simply need a hug. These people don't
need a hug; they need a swift kick in the
ass. They are, for the most part, well-educated, highly paid adults who are perfectly aware of the harm they are causing.
Yet still they choose to perform their
roles. To suggest that all, or even a majority, are closet cases living on the fringes of
gay life, and thus deserving of our pity, is
a fiction. They may work against our civil
rights by day, but they surely enjoy its
benefits by night.
BUT WHAT IF THE MARRIAGE
amendment is doomed, as some say, so no
harm, no foul? That's nice, but it's hardly
a defense to admit you tried to kill me,
And in any case, it's not at all clear that
the amendment is dead. Only a fool crows
victory before the votes have been counted. It would hardly be unprecedented for
our "allies" in Congress to cave when
faced with a hard-to-oppose anti-gay vote.
And even if the amendment doesn't pass
this year, the gay marriage debate is hardly
over. It's only a matter of time before the
issue is again ripe for future congressional
What will outing really achieve? An
outing campaign takes troops away from
the enemy, teaches members of Congress
and their staff that there is a price to be
paid for legislating "family values," and
ultimately helps create an environment in
which legislative gay-bashing and working
for the enemy is less and less acceptable.
In the end, LGBT staffers working for
anti-gay members of Congress ask of us
what they are unwilling to give in return.
They condemn the use of their sexual orientation as a Weapon while brandishing
our own against us.
They demand their private lives be protected and kept off limits while helping
their bosses turn our private lives into
criminal acts. And they ask us to ignore
our own self-interest and defend them
with our silence, while they refuse to consider anyone's well being but their own.
John Aravosis is a longtime Washington
lobbyist and activist He can be reached at
fOIIlt LYNDEN ARMSTRONG & MAT YOUNG
It's easier to terrorize than organize,
|v but activists only hurt our cause
when they out Hill staffers.
Don't out gay
SOMETIMES, WHEN WE ARE UNDER
assault, it's easier to attack our own rather
than fight those who are actually causing
us harm. In politics and in war, this is
often referred to as a circular firing squad.
As reported in Southern Voice, that is
exactly what some gay activists seem to
be doing through their efforts to out gay
and lesbian staffers on Capitol Hill.
As co-chairs of the Gay, Lesbian &
Allies Senate Staff Caucus, we forcefully
condemn any campaign that would "out"
lesbian or gay congressional staff. The
GLASS Caucus has been working to creak* ;i more positive, safe and affirming
environment for gay and lesbian staffers;
we believe that outing staff is counterpro
ductive and will only encourage some
staffers to go even deeper into the closet.
It may seem exciting to threaten staffers
by outing them if they don't come out themselves and to shock members of Congress
about the unknown sexual orientations of
their staffers. But if these activists were
truly committed to ensuring equal rights,
they would be organizing gay people to educate the public and members of Congress
about public policy issues affecting our lives.
BUT WHY ORGANIZE WHEN YOU CAN
Anyone who would threaten to out gay
and lesbian staffers — potentially costing
them their careers and their economic
security — is not only cruel, they are
doing nothing to further the fight for
equality. This will do nothing to stop the
Federal Marriage Amendment from coming up for a vote in mifl-July.
In fact, the FMA will most likely fall far
short of the necessary 67 votes for passage.
So, we're left wondering: What exactly are
these activists hoping to accomplish?
They certainly aren't changing anyone's value systems. They certainly aren't
using logic and reason and the values of
inclusion and fairness to sway members
of Congress. Rather, the only likely outcome of this campaign would be to potentially cost some people their jobs and to
give our opponents ammunition by showing the country how we treat our own.
Staffers may advise their bosses, but at the
end of the day it is the member of Congress
who is accountable for his or her vote. Many
gay staffers don't even advise their bosses on
gay rights, but on a host of other issues or
serve in administrative or technical positions.
Outing a staff assistant, a legislative
correspondent, or even someone as senior
as a legislative director or a chief of staff
will not change a member's beliefs.
There are LGBT people on Capitol Hill
making changes in both small and large
ways everyday. Some do it by being out
and actively contributing to policy discussions. Others do so by coming out to select
coworkers and slowly and subtly changing
the atmosphere in their offices.
Outing is not a panacea to convincing
anti-gay politicians that we are full citi
zens deserving of equal rights. Rather it
is an incredibly reckless, misdirected, and
lazy form of activism.
COMING OUT AND SPEAKING OUT
for ourselves is a personal journey, and it
is one that some seem to have forgotten.
The coming out process is a difficult one
for almost all of us. Often the last step is in
our workplace to our colleagues and bosses.
That last step is usually taken only
after we are reasonably confident that we
will be judged on our skills and contributions and not our sexual orientation.
LGBT people — even Capitol Hill
staffers — must be allowed to go through
the process of coming out and merging
our personal and professional lives at a
pace that is comfortable.
An individual's sexual orientation
should not be an issue for employment and
by outing staff to their employers, these
activists reinforce the notion that there is
something wrong with being gay or lesbian.
While some may disagree with the mindset of closeted LGBT staffers who work for
members of Congress who do not support
LGBT equality; we believe those are the personal decisions to be made by each staffer.
We call on these activists to stop attacking LGBT staff and direct their energy
toward more constructive causes.
Lynden Armstrong, a Republican, and Mat
Young, a Democrat, are the founding co-
chairs of the GLASS Caucus and can be reached