‘Outing’ drive hits Capitol Hill
Gay rights advocates say effort exposes hypocrisy of closeted staffers in Congress
BY BOB DART; Cox News Service July 14, 2004

WASHINGTON - As a Senate vote nears on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages, some gay rights activists are "outing" closeted homosexual staffers who work for members of Congress who support it.
  "Frankly, we're giving as good as we get. If they want to have a debate on family values, we'll have one," said John Aravosis, a political consultant and gay activist. "They want to make us second-class citizens, and gay people are aiding and abetting in the effort."
  “We're doing it to expose hypocrisy" said Michael Rogers, another leader in the outing campaign.
  However, the tactic is being denounced by other advocates of homosexual rights and causing angst among some gay and lesbian workers on Capitol Hill who fear for their jobs.
  "It's not going to help the cause at all," said Lynden Armstrong, an aide to Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and a founder of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Senate Staffers, or GLASS Caucus. "It's not going to change the minds of any member" because they will vote to satisfy their constituents or their own convictions.
  "Coming out is a very personal process that people go through," Armstrong said. "It can be emotionally and psychologically difficult. . . . It is not fair that they are doing this."
  “We oppose using sexual orientation as a weapon," echoed Steven Fisher, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group.
  Aravosis and Rogers, conducting separate outing efforts, have targeted 20 offices of House members and senators or committees in which they say key aides are closeted gays or lesbians and in which the lawmakers or committee, chairmen support the amendment. They are exposing the aides on Internet sites or through ads in gay newspapers.
  Aravosis is the national co-chairman of DearMary.com, named for Mary Cheney, who is openly gay but working for the re-election of her father, Vice President Dick Cheney,
  President Bush supports the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and wants to make gay marriage a campaign issue. Rogers has conducted his outings on his "BlogActive" at www.michaelrogers.us.
  "We want to create a climate where the price of anti-gay prejudice is too high for Congress," said Aravosis, a former staff lawyer for Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. "I worked on the Hill over 20 years ago, and gay people are everywhere. Unfortunately, too many of us are working for the enemy."
  Not surprisingly, the outings have stirred considerable interest and controversy in the politically active gay community of the nation's capital. In an editorial, the community's newspaper, the Washington Blade, supported the outings.
  "If ever there were a definition of a gay Uncle Tom, it would fit these people...," the Blade editorialized. "These are smart, talented, well-educated professionals who could find success in any number of highly paid positions on the Hill but who instead have chosen to devote their professional lives, to advancing the careers of politicians who would strip them and their friends of basic civil rights protections and even redress of their grievances in the courts."
  But a different view was offered by a gay aide for a Republican senator supporting the amendment.
  The staffer works on an environmental issue completely unrelated to gay marriage and admits there is a "tradeoff' in "diverting my eyes from all other issues" in order to work on what is most important to her.
  However, the outing campaign has diverted attention from the "real issue" here, said the staffer, who asked not to be identified.
  “We're focused on outing gay people when we ought to be outing the people who are really doing damage to, the institution of marriage,” she said. How many heterosexual members Congress are divorced or having affairs? She wondered.
  “The people who are doing the outing are missing the point. The issue is marriage," she said. "It is difficult for me, as someone who has always played by the rules, to be told that I'm less than a full person" and not "eligible for the status of marriage."
  The outings were also condemned by Christopher Barron, communications director for Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP group.
  “This plays right into hands of the evangelical right,” he said.