Craig Arrest Highlights Politics of Sexuality Sen. Larry Craig's arrest in a public bathroom and subsequent guilty plea for disorderly conduct, the Republican party is faced with the schism between many of its members' public ideology versus private views.
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Craig Arrest Highlights Politics of Sexuality

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Craig Arrest Highlights Politics of Sexuality


It remains unclear what Senator Larry Craig's intentions were in that bathroom in Minnesota. But if he were in search of sex with another man, that wouldn't come as great surprise to Dale Carpenter.

Carpenter teaches law at the University of Minnesota and he's a columnist for several gay publications. He believes many Republican lawmakers take a strong anti-gay stance in public, even though privately they're quite accepting of homosexuals.

Professor DALE CARPENTER (University of Minnesota): Many, many Republicans privately simply do not care whether another person is gay. On the other hand, a very important constituency in the Republican Party is the religious right. And to keep religious conservative happy, the party has steadfastly resisted efforts to support anti-discrimination laws to ease discrimination in the military against gay people and so on. So what we have here is a welding of what I would call private acceptance and public rejection of homosexuality in the Republican Party. And I think that's why we're seeing these occasional eruptions, if one wants to call it, that of the public moral dramas involving gay Republicans.

COHEN: For you, as a gay man, I'm wondering, is it ever bothersome to you that there might be, you know, a public face that says one thing and a private face that says something else?

Prof. CARPENTER: Oh, certainly. Absolutely it bothers me. And one of the reasons I think it is so troubling is that for the gay Republican who works in Washington or who works elsewhere, this combination of private acceptance and public rejection means that you must, to one degree or another, lead a closeted life, and that is a very hard life to lead. It often means lots of desperation and fear and loneliness, hiding one's true feelings, not having a long-term partner, a real love in life, but instead seeking out encounters in places like bathrooms and parks and dark bars, hoping not to be seen.

And the worst possible situation, of course, is the one where you actually marry someone and have children, in which case when you're found out it not only hurts you and your public reputation, but it hurts your family as well.

COHEN: I would imagine that it might hurt a spouse and children even if you're not found out.

Prof. CARPENTER: Absolutely, because if you're gay, it's unlikely that you're leading a completely fulfilling life with your spouse, and there's an almost inevitable day of reckoning for these people when one way or another they are found out and then they're in a very difficult public situation in which they say pretty unbelievable and often ridiculous things to try to explain their behavior.

COHEN: Professor Carpenter, it seems like this is a vicious cycle here with this public disapproval of homosexuality and private acceptance. Is there any way to break this cycle? What do you see is the future of this situation?

Prof. CARPENTER: Well, I think we're going to continue to have these occasional public moral dramas involving closeted Republicans who are brought out of the closet through one controversy or another. And so we'll continue to have the shock, the charges of hypocrisy, the pledges to go into rehab, the investigations, the sense of betrayal from parties, conservatives, the pressure to resign and so on.

The drama is going to play itself out until the Republican Party comes to the point where its homosexuals no longer feel the need to hide. And that isn't going to happen until the party's public philosophy is more closely aligned with its private one.

COHEN: Dale Carpenter is a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. Thank you.

Prof. CARPENTER: Thank you.

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