Larry Craig on Gay Rights

Last night, I gave some thought to bigger political developments, inspired to consider the issue by Senator Larry Craig’s guilty plea. This morning, though, I thought a little bit more about that incident on a somewhat more personal level.

Now, let’s not forget that maybe there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for Senator Craig’s behavior in the men’s room in the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, one which does not involve him giving a “footie” to a vice cop in an apparent solicitation of gay sex. For instance, one guy suggests that Senator Craig may suffer from OCD and, Monk-like, was nervously fidgeting before relieving himself as a result of the cracks between panels of the bathroom stalls.
But I’m inclined to think not. The oft-misunderstood and misquoted logical principle of Occam’s Razor, however, counsels against adding variables into an explanation for a phenomenon when all the data necessary to explain it is already there, such as the presence of a mental health issue like OCD. My training as a lawyer nearly compels me to frame the issue this way: Craig is observed to loiter around the entrance to a bathroom for several minutes. Then he enters a stall and blocks the door with his luggage. Then, he places his feet in a very wide stance so they protrude into the adjoining stalls. Then, he touches his foot to that of the man next to him, and slides it up and down a few times. Then, he protests when the man flashes a police badge at him. He is arrested but doesn’t get a lawyer for two months, and then pleads guilty to a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct in public. Which is the more probable explanation — A) he was cruising for a sexual encounter, or B) he was suffering from an intense act of OCD?

It certainly makes political junkies want to revisit past rumors of Larry Craig’s gay life.

Now, Craig might protest that he is a straight man with a wonderful family, (victimized, perhaps, by all these men who keep performing sex acts on him) but let’s get real here. Having a wife doesn’t mean he’s not gay. Closeted gay men sometimes get married and have families and may even legitimately love their wives on a number of levels — but it sure looks like we’ve got ourselves a Brokeback Senator, and while you and I might be willing to forgive him his personal foibles, it does make his future in politics look rather grim. You know, that whole dead girl/live boy thing.

What’s saddening is to look at the man’s legislative record and to see the consistently anti-gay rights stances he’s taken. I can understand some of these positions on the basis of adhering to strict constitutional principles, and I can understand some others based on a vision of sound public policy. Some I have more difficulty understanding, like Craig’s “no” vote on the bill to include homosexuality as a Title VII protected class for anti-discrimination law.

It’s saddening because I have to wonder what was going on in his mind when he cast all those votes. Surely, at some level, he’s known what he is for a long time, wife and religion notwithstanding. The votes either demonstrate a level of political cowardice — something that it seems Craig can rise above, given his recent stances on immigration — or a degree of hostility towards the idea that the law should treat gay people like it treats everyone else. Being a closeted gay himself, how must that have felt? How could he not die inside a little bit every time he voted against giving gay people the same rights as other kinds of people? What must that kind of self-loathing feel like? That’s what made me sad.

That, and the fact that he seems to be a competent (if ideologically rigid) legislator, and his lifelong political ambitions will likely end because of this. Larry Craig’s term in the Senate expires in 2009. It seems doubtful to me at this point that he would seek re-election or any further political office, lest this troublesome matter rear its ugly head with socially conservative voters in Idaho. But it must be sad to realize that you’ve made such a terrible mistake that you have to let go of your dreams.

Hopefully, things will work out well within his family.

UPDATE: Senator Craig insists that he’s not gay and never has been. (Sure, and neither was Liberace.) The whole scandal is the Idaho Statesman’s fault for persecuting him. Still that’s not convincing to some Republicans, who want him to resign. A sample Idahoan’s opinion, sent in to those witch-hunters at the Statesman: “I have been very happy with the manner in which he has voted and served in the U.S. Senate… However, given his recent conduct I have come to the conclusions that his public positions is important enough to call for him to resign.” (Because, see, in America, your position on the critical issues of the day like war and peace, taxes, and judicial appointments just plain don’t matter as much as what you do with your penis.)

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.