Commentator Marc Acito is also worried about how the Mark Foley scandal will affect public images, but he's more concerned about how it looks for gay people.

MARC ACITO: Since we all learned that Representative Mark Foley asked an underage Congressional page over for a drink and a kiss, Foley has tried to make the issue about his being gay or alcoholic or because he was abused or because the sun was in his eyes or the dog ate his homework. It's an old trick. Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey tried the same stunt, covering up his corruption by wrapping himself in the flag when he called himself a gay American, as if he had emigrated here from some gay shtetl in Eastern Europe to drive a gay taxi while he became a gay politician.

Well, speaking as a gay man, I can tell you these are two gay Americans we'd rather not claim as our own. Having someone come out because he might be a crook or a creep is not good for gay people. We have a hard enough time with our public image. But the issue here isn't whether politicians are gay, it's about whether they're hypocrites and liars.

Just nine weeks ago, Foley, the co-chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, stood in the White House rose garden to celebrate the passage of the Child Protection and Safety Act. Then he presumably went back to his office, perhaps to IM his teenage friends.

But Mark Foley isn't the only Republican in the closet. I don't mean to imply that the Grand Old Party is the gay old party, it's just that the truth is in an undisclosed location. Tom Reynolds, who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee, says he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert about the matter last spring.

The question we have to ask is why did it take so long for the GOP leadership to receive an instant message? They, too, need to come out of the closet and tell the truth.

The term in the closet applies to us all. Any time we hide from the truth, we're in the closet, and any gay person who's done it can tell you how suffocating and dark it can be, and how the accumulation of secrets and lies will fester and rot from lack of sunlight and air.

But the good news for gays is that the outing of hypocritical leaders will actually make it harder to vote against us. When Republican Congressmen Jim Kolbe and Steve Gunderson each came out under threats of outing, guess what happened? Their voting records on gay rights miraculously improved. It's called taking personal responsibility, which the last time I checked is a cornerstone of the Republican Party.

BLOCK: Marc Acito is author of the novel How I Paid for College. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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