Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mehlman Comes Out

That former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman is gay is only half-surprising. The political landscape is littered with the wreckage of sanctimonious anti-gay bigots, to the point that to call it hypocritical flirts with cliche (but in a chaste, Platonic flirt, you understand). Mehlman, though, never made any huge political statements on gay marriage, but he gave the go-ahead on Republican attacks on gays. He claims not to have known he was gay until now, but as Dan Savage said, this "doesn't pass the smell-my-finger test," especially considering gay rumors had been floating around since 2004 or so. He may have been in terrible denial, which I would not wish on anybody. But the fact is he was in a position where could have prevented the Republicans from doing a lot of damage, or at least walked away from it, but he did nothing.

Since his tenure the situation has developed such that Californians, based entirely on a campaign of hysteric demagoguery, voted to strip gays of the right to marry. In Uganda, the parliament has introduced a bill that would criminalize homosexuality under pain of death, with the tacit approval of figures of the Christian right that have been instrumental in the gay political struggles here in the U.S. The Republicans are hostile and the Democrats tepid on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, a move that 75% of Americans favor.

These are all things Mehlman can help on, and I'm sure he will. I'm frankly skeptical that he will be able to persuade any of his erstwhile allies of the rightness of marriage equality. It's very difficult to convince people who start with a conclusion and work their way backwards of anything. But Mehlman has a lot of atoning to do, and any constructive steps should be applauded and encouraged.

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