Tuesday morning, HBO's Outrage! subject Michael Rogers sent the gay/progressive blogosphere abuzz when he revealed that Rep. Mark Kirk had been sexually involved with two men in both his undergraduate and law school years. According to Rogers, these two men came forward after Kirk - who has enjoyed a long, unusually good relationship with the LGBT community despite being a Republican - voted to maintain the military's status quo in discharging openly gay servicemembers.
Rep. Mark Kirk is himself a servicemember, a Commander in the Naval Reserves for several decades with hoards of combat and intelligence awards. However, when he first ran for office in 1999, he made the strange move of publicly stating his support for an employment non-discrimination law that covers LGBT people. He voted against the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006, and has introduced many pro-gay resolutions in Congress, including, recently, a resolution co-sponsored with Tammy Baldwin condemning the arrest of the Malawi gay-couple.
After his decidedly anti-gay vote last week, however, the honeymoon is over.
Kirk is locked in a near dead heat in the race for President Obama's former US Senate seat with Illinois state Treasurer, Alexi Giannoulias. While Kirk has slid toward the right on LGBT rights, Gainnoulias announced back in the summer of 2009 that he supports the full slate of LGBT rights.
He not only supports ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell by passing the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, not only supports the Uniting American Families Act which reunites same-sex binational couples, not only supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations act... but also supports ending the Defense of Marriage Act and full marriage equality.
When he stepped out of the primary just days before the vote, openly gay candidate Jacob Meister endorsed Alexi Giannoulias because of his strong pro-gay stances, his environmental and jobs talk, and his progressive credibility supporting healthcare for all and womens' rights.
Kirk is a moderate, however, and he was for some reason very worried about losing the right wing base in his state. Rather than count on Bill Brady bringing them to the polls anyway this fall, he instead threw his LGBT constituency under the bus to make a play for the wingnuts. Rather than vote the right way on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, or even simply missing the vote, Kirk made the vote and released the cowardly non-committal statement:
"Congressman Kirk is proud to serve our country in uniform. He supports and abides by the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy."
Enter Michael Rogers.
With a history of outing hypocritical gay anti-gay Republican politicians, Rogers has been described as one of the most feared men in Washington D.C. Doubtless he has lists as long as my arm of other politicos who want it both ways: same-sex hook-ups and sex, while keeping their jobs secure with anti-gay rhetoric and votes. And when Rogers has the smoking gun on a hypocrite, he pulls the trigger.
One of Rogers' most famous gets was Larry Craig, who to this day still denies the rumors, even though he plead guilty after he was arrested in a bathroom soliciting sex from men. However, Rogers also caught Dan Gurley, who was once the RNC's anti-gay field director and is now an LGBT activist with Equality North Carolina. Rogers' work has some very positive outcomes.
Most positive is the slow implosion of that hypocritical closet in DC and other capitals around the nation. Yet another example of the positive effect of outings are recent statements by Roy Ashburn, the vehemently anti-gay Republican California Assembly member caught drunk driving a trick home from a gay bar:
My practice in my entire political career when it came to gay issues was to prevent any kind of spotlight from being shined my way, because I was in hiding. So casting any kind of vote might, could in some way, lead to my secret being revealed.... That was terrifying to me. It was paralyzing. So I cast some votes that have denied gay people of their basic, equal treatment under the law, and I'm not proud of it. I'm not going to do that again.
Protecting the closet is a sickness. We argue "Oh, it's their personal life, it's nobody's business" or "You shouldn't tear families apart." However, the deception and lies from the perpetrator is what disintegrates that family, not the honesty. And what about our families? Our personal lives? If these hypocrites truly believed that this was "nobody's business," why did they cast these anti-gay votes?
But what about Kirk?
When these outings happen, and the mainstream media picks them up, the fallout is immense for the disgraced lawmaker. They generally go into spin mode at first, and warily wait for the bottom to drop out and more and more secrets to come spewing forth. The positive stories, however, end with reform. Lawmakers who recognize their hypocrisy, apologize and work to correct those errors by working for equality in the future. Then you have those who refuse to admit the obvious and shrink away from the lime-light. While these dweebs generally don't work for equality, they certainly stop working against it, choosing to avoid the attention all together.
Any way it's sliced, these outings are a determent for the closeted to flaunt their anti-gay credentials and be present for those anti-gay votes.
However, will the mainstream media bite this one?
Though Kirk's ex-wife, Kim Vertolli, sincerely insisted to me that Kirk is definitely not gay, Mark Kirk's gay rumors have been around a while. His primary opponent, Andrew Martin, tried to make them an election issue, but they did not stick. Though the existence of these rumors in the past may pique the mainstream media's interest in this story, will they be compelled by the evidence that Rogers puts forth?
"Not one or two, or three but 5 separate individuals contacted me about the now divorced Mr. Kirk. (Mr. and Mrs. Kirk were married from 2001 to 2009, the marriage produced no children.)
Within hours of the DADT repeal vote I was contacted by two people who knew Kirk from his college days.
"In law school in DC everyone knew Mark was gay," the first source told me. I explained that the information was intriguing, it would not be enough to go on. He continued, "But I had sex with him a number of times." Well, now we're onto something I thought. "Could someone verify for me that you knew Kirk and went to school with him?" I asked. "Yes" was the swift reply. "Could you recall personal details about Kirk that others may not know?" "Yes," he said.
And he did.
The next source claimed to have gone to undergraduate school with Kirk. I asked for proof that he and Kirk were in school together and once that was shared with me, I met with the source. The source introduced me to a man who had also been friends with Kirk in college. They both shared with me their interactions with Kirk, including one sexual in nature. The source who claimed to have sex with Kirk described personal details about the House, um, er, "member." The description was the same as the first source."
Rogers goes on to tell of an incident where Mark Kirk himself had indicated his attraction toward men to Mr. Rogers at an almost all-gay hoity-toity DC party. Good story, but I'm still not sure the media is going to bite like they did with Craig.
Men fool around with other men in college. It's a fact of life. They get drunk, they kiss, they spoon, they masturbate together, they might even perform fellatio on one another, and sometimes they even get so into it that coitus occurs. When you're 19, you can literally screw anything and get off.
I don't think the mainstream media is going to see Rogers' story as proof enough to run with this story.
However, Rogers said that he was contacted by no less than five people after the vote, but here he mentions two. That means at least three others have had a tale to tell that Rogers is hanging on to for the time being. In addition, those were only guys paying attention to the vote that Mark Kirk was making. After this story continues to inch its way along the information superhighway, could there be more that come forward?
In my humble opinion, sly innuendo over mini-quiche and two drunken college indiscretions does not a homo make. However, if seven or eight more begin to pop up, one can no longer blame it on the alcohol.
In related news, the gay Feast of Fun Podcast called to interview me on this very subject late last night: take a listen!