One of the more thoughtful commentators on gay issues is Dale Carpenter, a lawprof at Minnesota. I think it is fair to say that Carpenter, who is gay, writes from a "liberal perspective" on these issues, i.e., he supports same-sex marriage, etc. He blogs at the Volokh Conspiracy.
On the Larry Craig matter, he does a good job of making what seems to be the irrefutable point that the charges brought against Craig are extremely problematic. How can placing your foot and hand under a restroom stall divider be disorderly conduct? Even if it is clear that this is a way of asking for sex, how can doing so in such a veiled way be criminal? If Craig were a supporter of expanded legal recognition for same-sex relationships or if he were openly gay, the fact that these charges were even brought would be seen, with some justification, as a civil rights issue.
But in this case, as Carpenter and others point out, Craig's problem is not whether he broke the law but whether he is, in fact, gay. If he is, then he is presumably subject to charges of hypocrisy. His sexual orientation is thought to be relevant because it is presumed to reflect on the sincerity of the positions he takes on same-sex matters. Thus the Idaho Statesman has apparently regarded Craig's sexual orientation as newsworthy while we know that other media outlets are perfectly willing to allow a politician's sexual orientation to remain an open secret - at least if there is not a perceived conflict between that orientation and the individual's voting record.
Carpenter draws a parallel between the Craig matter and the fact that there are a fair number of gay staffers who work for the GOP. He comments upon the fact that a number of GOP illuminati - even socially conservative ones - don't seem to hate gay people. He suggest that their positions on these issues stem from a need to mollify a religiously conservative base as, the argument goes, Craig's must also. Carpenter doesn't want to call this hypocrisy (although I suspect many people would), but a schizophrenic private acceptance and public rejection that, he argues, is extremely hard - even life-destroying - for gay Republicans.
I think he is right in the sense that it may make little sense for people who do not believe that their homosexuality is wrong or something to be resisted to act as if they are something they are not. But Carpenter seems to imply that reconciliation of this "schizophrenia" must involve a change in GOP policies (the party's "public philosophy" must be more closely aligned with its "private one.")
Is that right?
For example, I don't believe that homosexuality is intrinsically immoral or that "practicing" (for lack of a better word) gays and lesbians are sinners. But I oppose same-sex marriage and I believe that, while society ought to be tolerant, it is perfectly free to behave as if heterosexuality is normative.
Of course, I am not a religious conservative (I'm Episcopalian, for the Ultimate One's sake)and I have no base to mollify (with the possible exception of the Reddess who is a demanding constituency.)I suppose its also possible that GOP pols who take the more traditional view of the Abrahamic faiths about these matters are actually practicing the age old admonition to hate the sin but love the sinner. I even can imagine that pols who are gay nevertheless believe that this orientation is also a temptation that ought to be resisted in much the same way as one who is oriented toward alcoholism should try to refrain from drinking. That he or she might not always succeed in resisting that temptation does not change his or her view on the nature of the conduct. Whether that qualifies as "self-hating" or wrestling with the Devil is another matter.
As a matter of pure politics, the dynamic that Carpenter describes is probably real. My point is that the debate over same-sex matters does not necessarily turn on animus or even on the question of the ultimate morality of homosexuality. The choice is not between fundamentalist condemnation or a society that is gender-blind in matters of sexuality. One can hire gays, not dislike gays and even have gay friends without adopting a supposedly complementary set of policy preferences on same-sex marriage and related matters.
Notwithstanding Professor Carpenter's disavowal of the charge, all of this leads me to a point about hypocrisy. We don't like it and we shouldn't. But isn't there a tendency to believe that showing someone to be a hypocrite undercuts that person's defense of whatever standard he or she has failed to live up to? A politician's stance on gay issues must he wrong or at least insincere if he trolls for sex in a men's room. A Senator's feminism must be insincere if he uses female staffers as playthings.
But that doesn't follow. Doesn't hypocrisy tell us as much about human weakness as it does about the standards that we too often fail to meet?