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  • March 19, 2008

    GNW 5: More McGreevey messiness

    Posted by: Chris

    1. McGreevey ex-aide responds to wife's 3-way denialsMcGreevey ex-aide responds to wife's 3-way denials: QUICK LOOK: This is the statement today from former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey’s former driver and aide Teddy Pedersen after Dina Matos McGreevey denied Pedersen’s claims... (MORE)
    2. Ore. senator pushing gay rights repeal says 'shut up'Ore. senator pushing gay rights repeal says 'shut up': QUICK LOOK: State senator Gary George’s advice to the gay community? “Shut up!" In his first media interview since coming forward as co-sponsor of the initiative to repeal the recently... (MORE)
    3. Family death doesn't keep Hathaway from HRC galaFamily death doesn't keep Hathaway from HRC gala: QUICK LOOK: Anne Hathaway is a trooper. Despite a death in the family this weekend, she still showed up at a gay-rights gala on Saturday night. The 25-year-old starlet was given... (MORE)
    4. Calif. lesbian couple, son welcome new quadruplets to family: QUICK LOOK: A lesbian couple in California who already had one son are now the proud parents of quadruplets. "We're definitely done having kids," Cristine Gaiennie said. "We got more than we bargained for. We... (MORE)
    5. How 'gay' became children's insult of choice in U.K.How 'gay' became children's insult of choice in U.K.: QUICK LOOK: The word "gay" is now the most frequently used term of abuse in British schools, says a report. How did it get to be so prevalent and why do children use homophobic insults... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3 These are the Top 5 popular stories on Gay News Watch over the last 24 hours. You can also view the most popular stories of the last week or month, as well as the biggest stories of the last 24 hours, week or month.

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    March 17, 2008

    Fifteen minutes and counting…

    Posted by: Chris

    Large_mcg1 Dina Matos McGreevey should have listened months ago when the alarm clock announcing her 15 minutes of accidental fame had elapsed. But when New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer appeared at a press conference with his wife Silda by his side to admit that he had hired prostitutes, Dina couldn't resist stealing a few more precious seconds.

    So there she was, on every conceivable chat show, and even on the New York Times op-ed pages, drawing suspect  moral equivalences  -- not just between philandering Spitzer and her own estranged husband, ex-New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, who acknowledged in October 2004 that he is "a gay American." But also between herself and Silda Wall Spitzer as two wholly unsuspecting spouses, victimized by heartless men who valued sex over their marital commitments.

    We already knew that the first analogy was strained. Whatever you think of former Governor McGreevey, and I don't think very much of him, there is a substantial difference between a heterosexual husband hiring female prostitutes to cheat on his wife, and a closeted gay husband struggling with his homosexuality and cheating on his wife.

    Now it turns out that the victimized wife analogy doesn't fit either. While we don't know -- and I hope we never learn -- the details of the Spitzers' marital relationship, the McGreeveys have each written tell-all books about theirs and are now embroiled in nasty divorce proceedings.

    New06a But it was Dina's turn on the talk show circuit this past week that apparently turned the stomach of the luv guv's former driver Ted Pedersen, who is spilling the beans about a regular threesome he said he engaged in with the McGreevey's during their courtship and while they were engaged:

    "She's framed herself as a victim - yet she was a willing participant. She had complete control over what happened in her relationship," he said. "She was there, she knew what was happening, she made the moves. We all did. It's disgusting to watch her play the victim card."

    "We called it the Friday Night Special," Pedersen said. The "intense" escapades, he said, usually began with a "couple of drinks" at a local T.G.I. Friday's and culminated in "a hard-core consensual sex orgy" between the three of them at McGreevey's Woodbridge condo. …

    "He liked watching me, and she would watch me while she was [performing sex acts] with Jim," Pedersen said. "In my opinion, me being a part of their sexual relationship enhanced it for both of them."

    Pedersen lives with his girlfriend and claims he only had sexual contact with Dina during their threesomes, but those bedroom details blow a gaping hole into Dina's claim to being completely shocked her husband the governor was gay.

    A few more interesting tidbits about Pedersen's relationship to the then-governor:

    • From McGreevey aide tells of sexual trysts with ex-governor, wife, Newark Star-Ledger (March 16, 2008): "I wanted to get this out now because it was so offensive to me that she goes on television playing the victim," Pedersen said. "She's trying to make this a payday for herself. She should have told the truth about the three of us." Pedersen did not say if he was gay or bi sexual and only described having contact with Matos McGreevey during the trysts.
    • From N.J. Governor hires a dozen 'pretty boys'; big jobs, no experience needed, Bergen Record (Oct. 10, 2004): People with no real qualifications other than their proximity to the governor were awarded handsome jobs with dubious duties. As the governor's weekend aide or so-called "body man" -- a job that combines the duties of executive secretary and assistant -- Rutgers student Teddy Pedersen grew to be such a favorite of McGreevey that he was given his own room in Drumthwacket, the governor's mansion in Princeton, sources said. The governor even helped Pederson with his homework, other sources said.
    • From Matos McGreevey seeks financial information on husband's partner, Newark Star-Ledger (Jan. 11, 2008): Matos McGreevey also wants all e-mails between McGreevey's boyfriend Mark O'Donnell and McGreevey's friends, Theodore Pedersen, James Kennedy, Charles Kushner, Weiner Lesniak and Raymond Lesniak. She also wants promissory notes or other financial instruments made by McGreevey and Pedersen that shows any obligation to O'Donnell.
    • From Battlin' McGreeveys step it up, Bob Ingle Blog (Feb. 6, 2008): As part of divorce proceedings, Dina Matos wants to take a look at a financial link with Jim McGreevey's friend Theodore Pedersen. Matos McGreevey claims that a trip Pedersen took with McGreevey and McGreevey's boyfriend Mark O'Donnell to China in August 2007 was paid for out of a joint account with O'Donnell and McGreevey. Gosh, this is getting ugly.

    Actually, it apparently got much uglier than we realized. Dina subpoenaed Pedersen as part of the couple's lengthy divorce proceedings -- which have now lasted longer than their marriage -- and took his deposition, according to the New York Post: "The former driver said he believes that Dina subpoenaed him as an end-run around her estranged hubby, to see what he would say if he was called on by McGreevey's side. Pedersen said he believes that Dina never expected him to talk about their trysts."

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    March 13, 2008

    Sex-scandal styling?

    Posted by: Chris

    Spitzermcgreevey A blog hosted by the Dallas Morning News has taken note of the striking style similarities at the resignation press conferences of, on the one hand, New Jersey's James "Luv Guv" McGreevey and his wife Dina and, on the other hand, New York's Eliot "Pay for Luv Guv" Spitzer and his wife Silda:

    Both Spitzer and McGreevey are wearing dark suits, white shirts and red-and-white-striped neckties. Both men's wives are wearing uniforms of blue-ish-gray-hued suits and pearl necklaces.

    Is there a stylist out there dressing political couple's in crisis?

    Via Poltico's Ben Smith

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    March 11, 2008

    Notes on a Spitzer scandal

    Posted by: Chris

    Patersonspitzer Thanks to Andoni for his rapid post yesterday confirming that New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's would-be replacement, Lt. Gov. David Paterson, is also a strong supporter of marriage equality legislation. The Advocate has posted a background piece by Kerry Eleveld that provides a bit more background, including this concerning Paterson's past:

    Paterson has been on record in support of marriage equality as early as 1994. When Paterson was asked if he would take part in pushing through the marriage bill following his inauguration in January 2007, he told the New York Blade, “I’m not going to be in that fight -- I’m going to be in front of that fight because my first day as [senate minority leader] was the day we passed the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act. One of the reasons we need same-sex marriage is because the statistics for heterosexual marriage are so bad; that might be a way to upgrade some of the success rates.”

    As a bonus, Paterson, who is African American and legally blind, is a former Senate Minority Leader with strong ties to legislators from both parties and will operate with a deep reservoir of goodwill that Spitzner never had.

    Newsomelesbianwedding On the other hand, it is deeply disappointing to see perhaps the leading heterosexual gay marriage advocate nationwide admit to misconduct that relates directly to his own marriage. Spitzer's scandal follows on the heels of Gavin Newsome, the handsome San Francisco mayor who defiantly married gay couples in the spring of 2004, before admitting last year to an extramarital affair with the wife of his deputy chief of staff that resulted in divorces all the way around.

    Of course there's no shortage of infidelity and marital disrespect from many of those most vocal against gay marriage, from Defense of Marriage Act lead sponsor Bob Barr, a thrice-married former Georgia congressman, to presumptive GOP presidential John McCain, who backed Arizona's draconian anti-marriage, anti-civil union and anti-D.P. ballot measure despite a personal history of having dumped his injured first wife in favor of current wife Cindy McCain, who he married one month after his divorce.

    Then there's David Vitter, the Republican senator from Louisiana with a rotten gay rights record who got caught up in the D.C. Madam scandal, admitting that he hired prostitutes in D.C. -- just as Spitzer did. After Vitter's public apology to his wife and constituents, he was greeted with a standing ovation in a private session with the GOP congressional caucus. After Spitzer apologized yesterday to his family and constituents, he was greeted by a demand for his resignation by the Republican Governor's Association and and an impeachment threat from the state GOP leaders.

    Sounds eerily like the whole Clinton-Lewinsky mess, doesn't it? Spitzer is, by the way a Hillary backer and superdelegate who has said he will vote for her. Thus far she has declined comment on the scandal, except to express concern … for Spitzer.

    One final note was the interview (closet case) Anderson Cooper did last night with Dina Matos McGreevey, estranged wife of New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, whose "I'm a gay American" press conference was eerily similar to Spitzer's somber statement yesterday. Like Spitzer's spouse, Matos McGreevey is a sympathetic figure, given the public humiliation they were both put through.

    But I don't agree with Cooper's observation that Silda Spitzer is now being subjected to "ridicule" like Matos McGreevey had been, mainly because Mrs. Spitzer managed to avoid the Stepford wife grin frozen on Matos McGreevey's face. And Matos McGreevey has stooped to the sewer every bit as much as her despicable husband during their incredibly nasty divorce litigation.


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    May 13, 2007

    Sunday Survey: Abortion a gay right?

    Posted by: Chris

    Not a lot of disagreement among visitors to this blog about Jim McGreevey, the governor of New Jersey who announced his "truth" that he is "a gay American" and then resigned because he was cheating on his second wife with a member of his staff.  In response to last week's Sunday Survey, more than three quarters of you (82.4%) said he was an embarrassment to the rest of us, while the remainder (17.6%) were proud to call him a fellow traveler.

    McgreeveywifeI count myself among the majority of you.  I am happy to see a governor come out of the closet, but the messy circumstances more than made up for whatever social advance we could claim.  I would place McGreevey in the same category as any number of other celebrities, including Mark Foley and George Michael, who only come out after years of hiding when the news that they're gay is intended to help deflect even worse publicity they face for their personal misconduct.

    I am sympathetic to how the closet might have led these men to their ignominy, although in George Michael's case his conduct hasn't changed since he was free of the closet.  (In fact, he's claimed "cottaging" — as public sex in the bushes is known among Brits — as some sort of gay right.)  And the closets of McGreevey and Foley have too long a body count, in misled wives and manipulated teens, to simply forgive and forget.

    You need look no further than McGreevey's latest round of divorce filings to see his claim to being a "changed man" is as big a sham as his years of pretending to be heterosexual.

    On to this week.  I was happy to run columns by freelance writer Jamie Kirchick during my tenure at the Washington Blade and its sister publications.  He is a thoughtful conservative with often provocative opinions.  He has kept it up since my departure, penning a column in last week's New York Blade that argues against gay rights groups treating abortion rights as if it were a gay rights issue.

    It might surprise you to learn that I wrote an editorial years ago making the exact opposite argument.  I'll post my thoughts soon, but in the meantime, what do you think?  Is abortion a gay rights issue?  Vote on the Vizu poll to the right, and as always, you won't be transported off the site or have to deal with any pop-up ads.

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    May 07, 2007

    Sunday Survey: Proud of McGreevey?

    Posted by: Chris

    Surveyprezissues Last week's Sunday Survey was the most popular yet, so thanks for voting. I asked what issue is most important to you in the 2008 presidential election.  From the looks of things, about half of you should be pretty happy with the commitments already made by the Democrats in the White House hunt.

    Every Democrat in the race is already on the record backing both of your top two choices: "Don't Ask Don't Tell" repeal (22.7%) and employment non-discrimination (19.7%).  They've already committed as well on the two smallest vote-getters: hate crimes (4.5%) and domestic partnerships for federal workers (1.5%).

    The other half focused on forms of legal recognition for gay relationship.  One-third of the total survey voters wanted stronger commitments through either full-fledged marriage equality (18.2%) or federal recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships (15.2%).  Another 7.6% — God bless you every one! — singled out immigration rights as the form of legal recognition most important to you.  The same percentage (7.6%) listed repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act as your top priority.

    Finally, 3% of you remembered that HIV/AIDS remains with us and listed it as your top priority.

    Mcgreeveyxlarge Now on to this week's topic.  I'll post more about this later today or tomorrow, but former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey is back in the news this past week.  The twice-married father famously announced in 2005 that he is "a gay American" and then resigned over an affair with one of his staffers. He wrote a memoir last fall, but now it's his ex-wife's turn.

    Dina Matos McGreevey took time off from increasingly nasty divorce proceedings to pen her own memoir disputing McGreevey's claim that she must have suspected he was gay. In an interview with Oprah, she of the frozen smile at the press conference went even further, "It's a cliche that the wife is always the last to know, and it's true." she told Oprah. "I'm not in denial, but I don't think he's simply gay. I think he's bisexual. I mean, he was married twice. He has two children. And, you know, I never saw him checking out men, but I certainly saw him checking out women."

    Dear, dear Dina. Slick Jim was slicker than that, for sure. Despite her ongoing denial, Dina is the understandable object of a great deal of sympathy.  How do you feel?  On the one hand, her husband admits kissing her goodnight at the hospital after a particular difficult pregnancy delivery, then bopping off home to bop his male paramour.  On the other hand, she's screaming that in so doing he exposed her to AIDS.  (Eye roll.)

    FullfrontalOn the one hand, she's fighting for custody and citing among the factors that prove he's an unfit parent that he has a full-sized poster of a naked man (pictured) in his bedroom.  On the other hand, the man in the poster is his partner's ex.  (Eye roll.)

    McGreevey has raised conservative hackles with his academic appointment to the faculty of Kean University in New Jersey — as an ethics professor.  Then the lifelong Roman Catholic raised everyone's eyebrows by announcing that he's begun the process to enter a new profession: as an Episcopal priest.

    McgreeveyxWhat do you make of all that? Are you proud of James McGreevey as "a gay American" fighting for the right to raise his daughter and build a new life with his partner?  Or are you embarrassed by the former governor for coming out when it was expedient, cashing in on his scandal and family pain with a big book deal, and making all sorts of very public bad choices ever since?

    Vote now and vote often — OK all you're allowed to do is change your vote. And as with all Vizu polls, voting won't transport you away from this site or open any annoying pop up windows.

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    December 29, 2006

    2006: The closet's swan song?

    Posted by: Chris

    Bladeyir2006 The Washington Blade and its sister publications came out with their Year in Review issues today, and their choice for the story of the year was, "Swan song from the closet: Politicians, performers made news in 2006 by coming out."  Using the closet to tie together the Mark Foley and Ted Haggard scandals, as well as the celebrities who decided to come out, the story draws some interesting conclusions about the status of the closet as we head into 2007:

    Having confined and defined much, if not most, of modern gay existence, "the closet" showed once again in 2006 that it is still a mighty force, albeit a shadow of its once powerful self. In fact, some believe the closet is steadily inching toward irrelevance, as successive generations of gay and lesbian youth settle into their sexual orientation without first surrounding it with four walls of angst, denial, duplicity and shame.

    Far from being a place that only harbors half-truths and paralyzing secrets, the 2006 version of the closet helped fuel best-selling memoirs and a breathtaking power shift in Congress. The closet opened its doors on the set of America's most popular prime-time television series and inside one of the nation's most influential megachurches. And whereas coming out of the closet was long considered social and professional suicide, in 2006 it proved anything but.

    That somewhat rosy assessment is backed up by examples like Lance Bass, the 'N-Sync alum, who revived his fame by coming out, and embattled politicians Mark Foley and James McGreevey, who tried using the closet as "an escape hatch" in the midst of scandal.  Their stories are contrasted with that of Haggard, who stuck to his anti-gay guns even after being outed by a gay escort.

    So we're left to conclude that the closet remains a problem mainly for conservative Republicans. "Outside of Republicans, [the closet] is going to recede as more and more people are going to be out from day one so it won't be an issue," the story quotes David Ehrenstein, author of "Open Secret: Gay Hollywood 1928-1998," as saying.

    "I think there were much larger issues than Mark Foley that influenced the elections, but with that said, I think both the Foley and Haggard scandals reinforced the perception of the right wing forces of the Republican Party as being cynical hypocrites," echoed Mark Foreman, of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.

    Of course, official Washington is littered with closeted Democrats who defy such nice caricaturization,
    but the razor sharp political divide in the U.S. over the last decade or so makes black-and-white as popular with the left as it does the right.  That's how Ehrenstein can publicly praise the decline of the closet for all except Republicans while at the same time more discreetly cheer on efforts to involuntarily "out" even the most junior gay Republicans who work in the nation's capital.

    When outing activist-blogger Michael Rogers recently published embarrassing personal photos of a young, already-out student who worked as a lowly advance staffer for Vice President Dick Cheney, Ehrenstein cheered on the effort.  "You shouldn't have blacked-out the faces of the other guys," Ehrenstein wrote in a comment to Rogers, referring to the young staffers' friends, even though they had no apparent connection to Cheney. "They're collaborators," claimed Ehrenstein.

    When one commenter using "Sad" as a moniker took issue with the outing, Ehrenstein was quick to reply, with a reference to outed escort-conservative journalist Jeff Gannon (a.k.a. James Guckert).  "Don't be sad, 'Sad,'" wrote Ehrenstein. "Now go suck off Guckert like a good little KAPO."  Kapos, so you don't miss the reference, were concentration camp prisoners who worked for the Nazis in low-level administrative positions. 

    This is the world according to David Ehrenstein, and it's the other side of the closet that re-entered the debate this year, though it's not mentioned in the Blade review.  The Foley story, especially, raised anew questions about when it's justified to "out" someone in government, whether they're holding elective office or not.  For Ehrenstein and Rogers, there are no limits to be observed, no boundaries of personal privacy to be respected, and for Ehrenstein at least, dissent is tantamount to complicity.  The Task Force's Foreman, as well, though not dirtying his own hands with outings, has publicly said he supports them.

    Neilpatrickharris For most of the rest of us, 2006 was indeed a banner year in adjusting to the changing dynamics of the closet.  As each new public figure emerges, there remain fewer "firsts" like Ellen DeGeneres in prime time or Elton John in music or Martina Navratilova in sport, to grab the biggest headlines.  And so both Neil Patrick Harris ("Doogie Howser, M.D." and "How I Met Your Mother") and T.R. Knight ("Grey's Anatomy") continue to play sexually active heterosexual men in popular TV shows, despite coming out this year in People magazine.  As the Blade story notes, popular culture is once again miles ahead of politics.

    Tammybaldwin Because in politics, despite Ehrenstein's partisan assessment of the closet as a Republican problem, the U.S. Congress is a bipartisan, heteros-only club.  We must search back almost a decade to 1998 for the one and only time someone was elected for the first time to Congress despite being openly gay.  Despite all the pro-gay triumphs of November 2006, not a single openly gay non-incumbent even won a primary for the U.S. House or Senate.  And when the new Congress is sworn in next month, that same solitary member of Congress, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), will serve alongside Barney Frank (D-Mass.) as the only elected gays on the Hill.  So much for the closet's swan song.

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    December 03, 2006

    He Said, He Said

    Posted by: Chris

    Golancipel Former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey claimed in his tell-all book "The Confession" that Golan Cipel was his lover, but the former aide went on "Larry King Live" this week to call the whole thing a lie. Cipel, now on his first trip back to the U.S. since returning to Israel after McGreevey resigned, tells a story so dramatically different than the former governor that only one thing is really clear: At least one of these two men is telling an incredibly brazen, and detailed, lie.

    Here's a portion of the interview — and take note of Larry King's bizarre hand-wave and whispered scream off-camera:

    Cipel claims that, rather than having a romantic and sexual relationship with McGreevey, the former governor sexually assaulted him on three occasions.  Two of the incidents have that "so strange they might just be true" quality to them. Cipel claims McGreevey, laid up in bed with a broken leg and his infant daughter in the same room, played with himself and tried to coax Cipel to the bed — all while the governor's wife and another aide were briefly out of the room.  In another, Cipel and McGreevey were in a van with two state troopers driving to Washington, and Cipel claims the governor, who was lying on a matress on the van's floor, put his exposed penis on Cipel foot and grabbed his leg — all while the troopers sat in the front seat.

    These two incidents also could be true stories of consensual weirdness — McGreevey being sexually reckless with his secret boyfriend Cipel — that the former aide has twisted into assaults that also make his old boss look plain strange.  There are holes in Cipel's account; no satisfactory explanation for why he stayed in McGreevey's employ after the first two alleged assaults, and his claim he dropped the threatened harassment suit because McGreevey resigned and "it was never about the money." If that's the case, then how does Cipel explain demanding money (rather than a resignation)?

    The two men's stories are so dramatically different that there's no reconciling them with your typical "truth is somewhere in between" shrug. It's hard to consider McGreevey to be credible, given his lifelong history of lies and deceit, not to mention the way he cashed in on his family's pain with a tell-all book, published by the now-infamous Judith Regan, the amoral mastermind behind O.J.'s recent "if I did it" farce.

    But it's hard to believe Cipel's account when you remember that rumors of an affair between the two swirled with such intensity in the last months Cipel worked for McGreevey that reporters were assigned to track them down. Why would so many believe the two spent inordinate time with each other if, as Cipel claims, he was avoiding the governor because of the first two alleged assaults?

    It's also eyebrow-raising that Cipel, a good-looking 38-year-old has never been married, though he told the Jerusalem Post that, "I'm just seeking a nice American Jewish bride." Can you say green card, anyone?

    Whoever is telling the truth, Cipel's version of events only adds to the seediness of the whole sordid McGreevey affair.  Far too many within the gay community have embraced the former governor as a hero for coming out, mainly because he's a Democrat with a decent gay rights record, without regard for whether his account is true, and whether we — like so many others in McGreevey's life — are just being used.

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    November 02, 2006

    McGreevey update: He did put his mouth where his mouth is

    Posted by: Chris

    An intrepid gay news hound informs me that James McGreevey has, in fact, offered his services on behalf of those lobbying the New Jersey Legislature to amend the state's marriage laws to include same-sex couples, rather than create a separate, unequal institution called civil unions. In an interview with WNBC that is available on video (though I can't get it to play on my Mac), the former New Jersey governor, says of the legislative battle to come, "I'll do whatever Steve Goldstein wants me to do."

    Mcgreeveyvid Goldstein, you'll recall, is the head of Garden State Equality, New Jersey's gay rights group, who refused to see victory in the state Supreme Court ruling, instead declaring (cue Scarlett O'Hara eating an onion), "So help us God, New Jersey's LGBTI community and our millions of straight allies will settle for nothing less than 100-percent marriage equality." If that's the case, then Goldstein shouldn't hesitate to enlist McGreevey in the fight, despite his troubled marital trackrecord.

    The fight for full marriage equality appears quite achievable in New Jersey, despite opposition from the governor and leaders of both the state Assembly and Senate, all of whom are Democrats. Both Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) and Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) already talk about marriage for gay couples as an inevitability, though just not yet. Gannett News Service reports:

    "If you look at the ways we've advanced in terms of rights for gays and lesbians, clearly the next step would be marriage," Codey said. …

    "At some point down the line, there will be broader support for same-sex marriage, but I don't believe we are there yet," said Roberts, who himself favors gay marriage over civil unions. …

    "If you look at the history for domestic partnerships, and the fact that we are probably going to do civil unions, the next step that would clarify everything would be marriage," Codey said.

    Codey said polling data shows growing acceptance of gay marriage. If that trend continues, the Legislature will come to reflect those beliefs in future years, he said. In an interview on WCBS radio Codey said that the change might come in six or seven years, but later said he was only speculating. Roberts declined to predict when gay marriage might win legislative approval.

    In fact, a Zogby poll commissioned by Garden State Equality showed a majority already favoring
    marriage equality, 56 to 39 percent. Two big caveats, however: The poll was taken before the Supreme Court opinion, which might have crystallized opposition to marriage among some, and because it was commissined by the gay rights group, the question was no doubt worded to elicit the highest possible positive response.

    Still, the climate in New Jersey makes marriage a realistic legislative goal, and as Bill Clinton loved to say during the "gays in the military" debate, "We don't have a person to waste."

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    October 31, 2006

    McGreevey: Put your mouth where your mouth is

    Posted by: Chris

    Never one to miss an opportunity for self-aggrandizement, former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey has been telling interviewers this week that he wants to marry his partner Mark O'Donnell if the state responds to last week's Supreme Court ruling by allowing same-sex couples to do so.

    Jamesmcgreevey "Marriage would offer the ability to bless our relationship in a committed way," McGreevey told the New York Times. Twice-divorced (to women), a marriage to O'Donnell would be his third, and the first where he was ever committed, at least in the monogamous sense most people mean by the word.

    Not surprisingly, not everyone wants McGreevey's help. In his typical, drive-by-blogging style, outing activist Mike Rogers said "someone ought to tell this guy to shut up":

    Let's make sure that this guy doesn't become the poster boy for marriage equality. He doesn't have a very good record and there's no need to give the other side ammunition by allowing a corrupt guy to be the most visible one in our community.

    Interesting perspective coming from Rogers, who most gay people think makes a pretty rotten poster boy for the gay rights movement generally, digging into the private sex lives of politicians and gleefully spilling all the details if the pol fails his partisan-biased hypocrisy test.

    I, for one, would love to see McGreevey put his mouth where his mouth is, and take a break from his self-promotional book tour to actually lobby for gay marriage in New Jersey. He claims that his fellow Democrats in the Legislature have embraced him since coming out. So why not use his considerable political skill to make up for his opposition to gay marriage while in office — a stance he admits taking only to protect his own closet. "I regret not having the fortitude to embrace this right during my tenure as governor," McGreevey told AP.  Well now is the time to atone, on his "road to authenticity."

    We shouldn't hold our breath, waiting for his help, however. The Jimmy McGreevey who emerges from his autobiography, "The Confession," is someone completely self-obsessed. His decisions to come out and publicly "confess" his sins were carefully calculated to benefit no one but him. (He even admits falling in love with Golan Cipel, the man whose threats forced him out of the closet and out of office, because of the way Cipel hung on his every word and thought.)

    It was nice to see that the former New Jersey governor at least got some tough questions while visiting San Francisco, since his Atlanta visit to Outwrite bookstores was pretty much a cakewalk. In San Francisco, McGreevey said the goal behind his book was to give back to gay youth. "Selfishly, for me, that will be a process for healing," he said. (Funny, in Atlanta he said his goal now was to work against world hunger; seriously, that was his Miss America answer.)

    Kudos to Jimmer Cassiol, gay liaison for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, for calling the ex-gov on that one. In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter, Cassiol said "he didn't consider McGreevey a hero, but someone whose tale provides a lesson about the effect living in the closet has on one's life. For gay youth, he said, it is an example of what not to do."

    Dropping the book tour in favor of some old-fashioned lobbying back in his home state would offer a a real opportunity for McGreevey to make amends, and he'd even look good in the process.

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    October 11, 2006

    'Ass of the Year'

    Posted by: Chris

    Elephantass When Mark Foley entered politics, he probably dreamed that one day he might make the cover of Time magazine.  Maybe he didn't expect "Man of the Year" honors, but I guarantee he never imagined a story on him would make the cover, illustrated with a photo of an elephant's ass.

    Time's report on the scandal confirmed that the mainstream media are beginning to probe the role gay Republians played when they learned about the Foley's inappropriate contact with male pages:

    A whisper campaign has been launched in Washington to blame an internal culprit [for the Foley scandal]: a "velvet mafia" at the upper levels of GOP leadership on Capitol Hill.  Foley, that line of argument went, had been protected by gay staff members like [Kirk] Fordham, [Jeff] Trandahl and others whose names were being widely circulated.  Says a top aide: "It looks like they may have tried to handle this among themselves because they were similarly situated."

    Note that Time doesn't identify the names of the other top gay GOP aides, even though their "names were widely circulated."  If there's to be a silver lining to the whole Foley mess, hopefully it will rewrite the rules about when to report on a gay person's sexual orientation.  (There is, of course, no restriction on when the press reports someone's heterosexual orientation, whether they are a public official or even a public figure.)

    If there are senior Republican aides who were aware of Foley's "page problem" and didn't act on it because, at least in part, they are gay also, then their sexual orientation is front-and-center newsworthy and reporting the mere fact of their homosexuality does not violate their privacy.

    It's long past time the media applied the same rules to deciding when a gay person's sexual orientation is relevant as they do a straight person's. If they did, we woudn't learn so often that a public figure is gay when they are mired in a seedy sex scandal, and using their sexual orientation to explain away their marital infidelity (James McGreevey) or to blunt suggestions they are a pedophile (Mark Foley).

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    October 06, 2006

    The road to authenticity

    Posted by: Chris

    When I found out former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey was going to be in Atlanta tonight for an appearance at Outwrite Bookstore, I rearranged my schedule to stay here an extra day to hear what he had to say.  I'm not particularly sympathetic to McGreevey, who came out only when he had absolutely no other choice, and when it was actually in his interest to do so.  Hardly a profile in courage.

    His memoir, "The Confession," doesn't cheat on details the way Mary Cheney did in her recent effort, but all McGreevey's talk about integrity and "authenticity" comes up short, in the book and in person.  Self-effacing and a dynamic speaker, McGreevey is at his best describing the turmoil of the closet, his own oversized ego and the ambition that came with it.  He pulls few punches there.  He also succeeds in describing in vivid detail the toll the closet took on him and his political ambitions — along with the political advantages he took from lessons the closet taught him about compartmentalization and portraying an image, whether "authentic" or not.

    Where McGreevey loses his "authenticity" is when he describes the toll his closet took on anyone other than himself, and his double life has quite the body count. As much as he professes to have been changed by his "journey," McGreevey comes across as the same self-absorbed egotist as emerges from his book. Only now, since his most sympathetic audience is likely gays and our friends, we have become his target audience. The very people whose lives he short-changed while in power — through opposing gay marriage and even civil unions — he now milks as his cash cow.

    To be sure, McGreevey offers perfunctory apologies to some of those he has wounded along the way: his two wives and two children, his parents, his advisers, his supporters, the people of New Jersey, and on and on. But very little about his actions suggests the remorseful words are "authentic." If McGreevey felt true regret for dragging his wives and families through the mud, for instance, then why do so all over again now with a high-profile book tour? The motive, of course, is financial — to the tune of a half-million-dollar book advance, according to GQ Magazine.

    Another group of folks victimized by McGreevey's cowardly path to power, and equally cowardly fall, didn't even make his "apology list." So during the Q&A, I asked him whether it tarnished the image of gays generally when most Americans learn for the first time that so many prominent people are gay only when they are mired in some seedy sex scandal, whether it be McGreevey, or Mark Foley or even George Michael. Shouldn't his apology list include those gay people who have had the courage to risk their own ambition to live openly and authentically, only to be dragged through McGreevey's mud by association?

    His answer was nothing if not politically masterful. He rambled a bit about the perils of the closet, then riffed on how society bears responsibility for forcing people into the closet, segue-waying seemlessly into a vignette about a lesbian teen beaten up in her high school for coming out. When he summed up by calling for anti-bullying legislation, half the audience cheered, having completely forgotten the question and McGreevey's near-total evasion of it.

    McGreevey is the first to admit that he would likely never have come out if events hadn't forced him to, and even that's not quite right: He only came out when doing so was more advantageous to staying in the closet. Among the most telling passages of "The Confession" is when McGreevey describes the epiphany that led him to come out publicly.

    When he finally admitted he was gay to a gay supporter — after avoiding the question during almost two weeks of internal discussions about his extramarital affair — his friend exclaimed, "That's it! That explains everything! Don't you see? The truth will set you free." [Read: The truth is coincidentally advantageous to you!] "This is the truth! Tell it to everbody. Hold a press conference and tell the truth. And suddenly the tawdry affair with your political appointee makes sense. You were a man in the closet, and now you're free. This is huge, Jim. I think the voters will understand."

    McGreevey described his friend's reaction as "a preacher's altar call" that reduced him to tears of relief. It was clearly ironic to McGreevey that the truth he had hidden all his life actually benefitted him at this point, he had dug his hole so deep. So he moved forward with his press conference, without regard before or since about the impact it had on anyone but himself.

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    October 04, 2006

    What was Foley's fatal flaw?

    Posted by: Chris

    Now he comes out. After a decade of dodging questions about his sexual orientation, Mark Foley finally acknowledged on Tuesday he is gay, hours after the American public learned of the sexually explicit online chats the Florida congressman had with teenage males he met as pages.

    By waiting until he was disgraced by scandal to finally come out of the closet, Foley joins a disappointingly lost list:

    * Jim McGreevey, who announced he is "a gay American" in the same press conference he resigned as New Jersey governor for having an extramarital affair and hiring his unqualified boyfriend to oversee the state's homeland security efforts.

    * George Michael, who finally owned up to the rumors he's gay after his arrest for soliciting a police officer for sex in a public park.

    * Gerry Studds, the Massachusetts congressman who came out two decades ago after admitting he had sex with — you guessed it — a teen-age male congressional page.

    Lacking the courage to come out when times are good, these public figures shame us all by coming out only when times are at their worst, and their conduct is invariably a smudge on all our reputations.In the short time since the Foley scandal broke, he's already trotted out a series of excuses, while simultaneously insisting he's not offering as excuses: He's an alcoholic (it was the booze talking); he was an abuse victim himself; and, of course, he is gay.

    The role these factors played in Foley's life probably won't be developed into a more complete picture until we're treated with the inevitable confessional autobiography and "Oprah" appearance, assuming Foley follows the same route as McGreevey.

    It's an ironic bit of karma that the media spotlight for McGreevey's book tour was stolen by the Foley scandal, as the media became distracted by even more salacious sexual misadventures by another closeted gay public official.

    Like Foley, McGreevey refused all interviews after coming out and resigning from office. McGreevey said his silence was out of respect to his wife and family, though now it's clear it was intended to build up interest for a "tell-some" book that cashes in on his misconduct.

    As suggested by the book's title, "The Confession," McGreevey now portrays himself as fully contrite, accepting responsibility for betraying his wife and the public. He claims he was driven by his Catholic upbringing to stifle his homosexual impulses and marry and have a family. In truth, his political ambition outstripped his religious devotion, since he did not feel similarly bound by the Catholic restrictions on divorce and remarriage, not to mention honoring his (re)marital vows.

    Still, even without knowing all the details of McGreevey or Foley's stories, the deception, sexual immaturity and hypocrisy featured in both their scandals bear the hallmarks of lives lived in the closet.

    Mark Foley is no Jim McGreevey, to be sure. Foley wasn't married to a woman and for much of his political career has been "openly closeted": that is, publicly unwilling to identify his sexual orientation. Some media reports, as well as some of those who know Foley, say he has a long-time (male) partner, who resides back in his home district.

    None of that discounts the toll the closet no doubt took on Foley, no matter how deep inside it he may have lived. Normal sexual and romantic development, through adolescence and adulthood, involves trial-and-error lesson-learning about the relationship between sex and love, and the benefits of integrating the two.

    Much of that education occurs firsthand, through crushes, dating, romances and relationships, and much of it occurs secondhand, learning and mirroring our parents' relationships, as well as those of other loved ones and friends.

    As many gays know all too well, sexual and romantic development for us is often quite different. Sex is associated with guilt and is compartmentalized into a secret, double life. Sexual and romantic maturity can be left in a state of arrested development. The older the gay person, the fewer examples they've seen among family or peers of successful gay relationships.

    Integrating that double life can be a lifelong task, made all the more difficult the later in life it's attempted, and made near-impossible under the pressure of public and media scrutiny.

    Jim McGreevey cheated so easily on his wife because he long ago learned to compartmentalize his sexual desire from his relationship feelings. Mark Foley similarly compartmentalized his sexual fantasies from his relationship with his partner, a skill that was second nature after decades in the closet.

    None of this excuses their behavior, or even offers a complete explanation for it. But we should face up to the fact that closeted gay politicians engage in sexual misconduct at a much higher rate than do openly straight elected officials.

    And we shouldn't miss the lesson that depriving a person of normal sexual and romantic maturation can really screw them up, raising the risk of gross misconduct later in life. Just ask the Catholic priest Foley alleges molested him as a teen.

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