November 14, 2007
Back off of Larry!
Posted by: Chris
Since I've been very direct with criticism of Matt Foreman and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force for their divisive role as lead grandstander in the trans-or-bust "United ENDA" coalition, I want to offer some props for the organization's recent missive to the Senate Ethics Committee about the Larry Craig toilet scandal. The Hill newspaper, which broke the Craig story way back when, has the details:
A leading national gay rights advocacy organization is pressuring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Ethics Committee, to drop an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho). As a result, Democrats may question the merits of pushing the embattled Republican out of Congress.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which last week helped push gay rights legislation through the House, has written a strongly worded letter to Boxer and Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the Republican vice chairman of the ethics panel, criticizing their investigation of Craig as unfair.
The group argues the Ethics Committee has singled out Craig because he allegedly solicited gay sex but has ignored allegations of impropriety involving Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) because Vitter’s alleged behavior was heterosexual.
It's rather humorous to see The Hill identify the Task Force has having "helped push gay rights legislation through the House" last week, when Foreman's group actually did everything they could to keep Barney Frank's compromise ENDA from coming up for a vote, or passing. Still the paper can be forgiven the error; generally you would expect gay rights groups to favor gay rights legislation.
The paper's political analysis is also a bit off. The Democrats hardly need the Task Force to give them a reason to leave lame duck Larry in his Senate seat. It serves their interests just fine to have a sitting reminder of GOP hypocrisy in place until Election Day.
That said, given all the civil liberties concerns about Craig's misdemeanor arrest and guilty plea, it would compound things to see Craig pushed out while admitted "john" David Vitter is left in office. My old friend Chuck Wolfe, who heads up the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, had a similar message for Senate Dems:
“Certainly there’s a double standard because everyone’s assumption is they are dealing with one [lawmaker’s transgression] because it’s homosexual sex and not the other’s because it’s heterosexual sex,” said Wolfe, in reference to the ethics committee. “If they investigate every member of the U.S. Senate because of an extramarital affair, gay or straight, we’d be getting even less done than we are today.”
“Anyone with any degree of personal ethics will drop it,” said Wolfe.
Of course, there is the matter of Craig pleading guilty to a crime and Vitter not having been charged. On the other hand, Vitter admitted breaking the law, while Craig tried to withdraw his guilty plea and asserts his innocence.
Either way, as I pointed out in a blog post comparing the scandals to Barney Frank's escort scandal way back in 1990, none of these crimes involve the type of official abuse of power that would justify removing them from office.
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