Politics makes strange bedfellows. It makes even stranger attack ads, especially when we gays are brought into the mix. If you need any proof, look no further than Florida gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott, a Tea Party backed Republican who's currently trouncing primary rival Attorney General Bill McCollum in the polls. As part of his latest efforts to take down McCollum, Scott sent a letter to supporters highlighting the "fact" that "McCollum is more liberal than you think." In addition to citing McCollum's alleged support for stem cell research, love for bailout funds and ties to disgraced GOP leader Jim Greer, Scott's statement turns to the lavender set.
"McCollum is more liberal than you think on life issues," reads the statement. "[He] endorsed pro-abortion and pro-homosexual rights candidate Rudy Giuliani for president in 2008 and was a Giuliani campaign leader in Florida." Despite his best efforts to tie gay rights, Giuliani and the always-contentious abortion into a single issue, Scott's efforts fall a bit short, and show why homophobic attacks can create a sticky political situation.
Scott takes a lot of liberties in this approach. Though McCollum did support gay inclusive hate crime legislation during his time as a Congressman, the lawmaker has also come out against gay adoption and helped undermine justice by paying right wing "therapist" George Rekers to testify against gay families. Rekers was later caught red handed with a rent boy. McCollum's alliance with this sort of hypocrite suggests he's not in the gay world's back pocket, as Scott asserts. Then there's the Giuliani angle...
The former New York City mayor has quite a checkered gay past, and not one that's as "liberal" as Scott wants voters to believe. Giuliani once told Bill O'Reilly that he supported civil unions. Later, during his failed bid for President, when social conservatives were questioning his right wing chops, Giuliani declared unequivocally that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. You know, just to make sure people are clear on the issue.
Then, last year, he again touted unions, a move that many felt was a signal Giuliani wanted to run for Governor here in the Empire State. "Marriage, I believe, both traditionally and legally, has always been between a man and a woman and should remain between a man and woman," he told the New York Post. "And Democrats, including President Obama and Hillary Clinton, have essentially the same position I have, which is let's have civil unions but not go so far as to change the definition of marriage." The Giuliani angle then just makes McCollum look, at worst, like a moderate, a label that Scott's Tea Party peers no doubt already apply to the Attorney General, thus rendering it virtually useless as an attack tactic.
Scott's attack ad's loose bottom represents one of the challenges people face when using gays as political bait. Our LGBT landscape, and where candidates stand on it, is constantly changing. It shifts beneath our feet as politicians weave and dodge around the pressing matters, choosing their words carefully and choosing them again when new polls come. Considering the erratic political climate that can be gay politics, aren't always reliable, as Scott's Giuliani/McCollum mash-up illustrates.
Once convenient, political homophobia no longer remains as potent as it has in the past. LGBT communities have had a chance to build a political history, and the ever growing waters of sexual politics are becoming more hazardous, and lawmakers will one day be forced to navigate around parsed words and broken promises until they either find the peaceful waters of inclusion or hit a beaver's dam of gay and lesbian confusion. Or maybe they'll just wise up and either accept us wholeheartedly or leave us alone all together, rather than pulling out the gay when they think it will help their electoral cause.
Note: A Version of this piece appeared at AKAWilliam.