The GOP’s Double Standard

A commentary

Jim Burroway

August 30th, 2007

Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s arrest and subsequent guilty plea for soliciting sex in a Minneapolis airport public restroom continues to dominate the airwaves and the blogosphere. As the discussions and reactions continue to unfold, I’ve noticed a very significant double standard taking shape.

Now I know that a few in the gay community want to try to paint Sen. Craig as a victim of police entrapment in an operation presumably designed to single out gay men while somehow excluding straight people. But complaining about this being a double standard ignore the obvious: straight people generally don’t use public restrooms, at least not for that purpose. They may use airplanes (mile high club, anyone?), parks, beaches, roadsides, and drive-in theaters, and they sometimes get busted when police receive complaints about it. But straight couples generally don’t use gender-segregated restrooms, for obvious practical reasons.

And while I’m well aware of the history of overly-aggressive police campaigns that have targeted gay people in more private settings or for more innocuous behavior, let’s not forget another key point. This was a public men’s room at a public airport visited by members of the public. There’s nothing private about it.

stalls.jpgWhen I go to a public restroom, the last thing I want is some dirty old man’s blue eyes looking into my stall trying to decide whether I’m tap-worthy. And the second-to-the-last thing I want to encounter in a public restroom is someone who has found someone else tap-worthy. Please people, when you find someone you want to get down and dirty with, do what any other normal self-respecting person would: get a room, for crying out loud!

So I’m all for ensuring that our public restrooms are used for their intended purposes. And I’m grateful that, in my experience at least, this problem appears to be an extremely rare phenomenon. Either that or nobody has ever found me tap-worthy. I’m actually okay with it either way.

Sen. Craig and his wife at a press conferenceNo, there’s no double standard there as far as I’m concerned. The double standard we really need to be concerned about is the reaction among others in the GOP to the revelation that Sen. Larry Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct — a misdemeanor.

Yesterday, GOP party leaders reacted to this misdemeanor by stripping Sen. Craig of his committee leadership posts, and Senators John McCain (R-Az) and Norm Coleman (R-Mn) have called for Sen. Craig’s resignation.

Sen. Craig may be a hypocrite, but that doesn’t automatically disqualify him from the Senate. If it did, they’d never have a quorum. And copping to a misdemeanor shouldn’t disqualify anyone either, unless it disqualifies everyone who cops to a misdemeanor. But as it stands now, it doesn’t.

Just last month, Sen. David Vitter (R-La) admitted to using the services of the so-called “D.C. Madam.” And while Vitter fully admitted his guilt publicly, he never had to do it in the justice system. And he probably won’t since the statute of limitations has passed for solicitation — another misdemeanor.

Sen. David VitterIn stark contrast to the fallout for Sen. Craig’s misdemeanor, I don’t remember any GOP calls for Sen. Vitter’s resignation, nor have there been any sanctions by the GOP leadership levied against the man. In fact, when Vitter spoke before his Senate colleagues about the situation, he was greeted with a round of applause. Where were the calls for Vitter’s ethics investigation?

Can anyone honestly look at this situation and not see it as anything but a double standard?

Apparently the Log Cabin Republicans can’t. They stopped just short of calling for Craig’s resignation without a single mention of Vitter. (Update: In an email alert, LCR makes their call for Craig’s resignation explicit) I find that especially egregious. Surprisingly, it’s the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force who has accurately denounced the unequal treatment between Vitter and Craig.

Believe me, the last person in the world I want to defend is a dirty old man found lurking in public restrooms. Larry Craig may be a “nasty, naughty boy,” but if you take a hard honest look at the situation, either Sen. Craig is getting a really raw deal or Sen. Vitter has gotten away scott-free with “conduct unbecoming a senator.”

As long as Vitter remains in the Senate, Craig should be allowed to serve out his term (which expires in 2008), and the decision on future terms should be left to the good people of Idaho. But if the GOP insists on driving Craig out of town on a rail, then they had better hitch Vitter to the same cart.

Update (Aug 30): This post was updated to reflect the fact that the Log Cabin Republicans did not explicitly call for Craig’s resignation.

Update (Aug 31): Log Cabin Republicans clarify their call for Craig’s resignation:

Log Cabin has been providing a strong voice in the midst of the scandal involving Senator Larry Craig (R-ID). His behavior has been inappropriate and illegal. His explanation is not credible. He should take responsibility for his poor judgment and illegal behavior by resigning.

Again, no mention of Vitter.

Update (Sept 1): As BTB contributing author Timothy Kincaid points out, Patrick Sammon, president of the Log Cabin Republicans is, well, mentioning Sen. Vitter in media appearances. I’m glad he’s bringing this up, but so far Sammon’s only calling on one Senator to resign and not two. I hope this changes.

Lynn David

August 30th, 2007

Go up a state there, Jim. You open the piece with Utah, instead of Idaho.

I’m actually beginning to wonder if Craig is closeted or otherwise. If any of what is told about him has happened. Still, it would be good to see him out of the race for the Senate. Though like you I do not see his infraction being cause for removal.

Oh… read what Stephen Bennett wrote in his press release: Is Senator Larry Craig ‘Gay’? Former ‘Gay’ Man Offers Unique Insight at:

http://www.earnedmedia.org/sbm0829.htm

His press release which asked the question, said Bennett had a unique answer/perspective…. but he wasn’t going to tell you unless you hired him to do so. Does that make us who are gay with our own unique perspectives fools for giving away our opinions in blogs? LOL! Anything for the buck Bennett.

WingNutDaily did its best to denigrate gays asking, “Queer behavior: Where’s the love?”

http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=57388

There is good news! It is now illegal for a “gay” man to solicit another “gay” man in public!

As if public restrooms are any place out gay men need to meet. The “witch” who wrote the article then had the nerve to ask where was the outrage from the gay community. It was a rather innane polemic that freakishly sought to deflect interest from conservative Republicans.

Oh well, good luck Senator or former Senator Craig or what have you.

rmthunter

August 30th, 2007

Vitter confessed to something that “real men” do; Craig got caught at something sissies do. I think the whole question of reaction among the elect is probably a little more complicated than straight vs. gay. Their collective masculinity is involved.

There’s a double standard in play here, but I’m not sure it’s the one you mention: Craig’s replacement, should he resign, would be chosen by a Republican, Vitter’s by a Democrat.

You don’t really have to look any farther than that.

Jim Burroway

August 30th, 2007

Lynn, thanks for the correction. I have no idea why I wrote Utah in that first sentence. I had him in Idaho everywhere else!

KCProgramr

August 30th, 2007

It’s not about the gay thing, it’s about the power thing. The governor of Idaho is Republican. If Craig steps down, another Republican is appointed to serve the rest of his term. The Senator from Idaho, whether or not it’s Craig, is going to be Republican, at least until the next election. The governor of Louisiana is a Democrat. If Diapers Vitter steps down, the GOP loses a Senate seat. Therefore, Craig is expendable in a way Vitter is not. rmthunter has it right, I think. The rest is just playing to the large homophobic subset of the Republican base.

But if Craig’s replacement would be a Democrat, we’d instead be hearing about forgiveness and the importance of avoiding a rush to judgment.

Timothy Kincaid

August 30th, 2007

Jim,

Another correction for ya. The link you provided does not support your statemen that Log Cabin “called for his resignation”.

Sammon said “Senator Larry Craig’s ability to continue serving the people of Idaho is in serious doubt” and “Senator Craig owes the people of Idaho a more credible explanation than what he has provided”, both of which are true. And neither of which are exactly a call for resignation. Some news sites are claiming that LCR is calling for resignation but they do so without quotes or attribution.

And I’m not too surprised that they haven’t called for Vitter’s resignation either. Generally (though not always) Log Cabin doesn’t comment unless something has a specific connection to the gay community. They really are a one-issue organization and they define that issue fairly narrowly (unlike our friend Alex).

Timothy Kincaid

August 30th, 2007

HOWEVER,

I do agree with your point about the double standard of the Republican Senators and heirarchy.

Perhaps part of the difference can be attributed to the fact that Vitter’s failing was “a long time ago” and Craig’s more recent. And perhaps folks don’t view visiting a prostitute as being as disgusting as hitting on people in a bathroom. Or perhaps folks see the victim of Vitters as being his wife (and if she’s OK, so are they) while the victim of Craig is the bathroom going public.

But regardless of the reasons, it is true that there was a rush to forgive Vitter and to condemn Craig. It was an unequal response and probably based on homophobia.

A Stitch in Haste

August 30th, 2007

Republican Hypocrisy in the Craig Affair…

More than one Republican senator are calling for Larry Craig to resign:Several Republicans ……

Jim Burroway

August 30th, 2007

True, LCR did not explicitly call for Criag’s resignation. I’ve updated the post to reflect that. But I think it’s easy to read that suggestion between the lines:

“Senator Larry Craig’s ability to continue serving the people of Idaho is in serious doubt…”

and especially:

This situation may have permanently damaged Craig’s ability to continue serving in the U.S. Senate.

That last line especially seems to be a strong call for a resignation without specifically saying so. But no, they did not precisely say so.

David

August 30th, 2007

“Can anyone honestly look at this situation and not see it as anything but a double standard?”

Uh, yes. Senator Vitter admitted to his actions. It seems that Senator Craig is lying about his. If he is lying, he isn’t just lying about his own sexual misbehavior. He is accusing the arresting officer of making a false arrest and of filing a false report! Doing such a thing is certainly grounds for expelling him from the Senate.

Jim Burroway

August 30th, 2007

I see the hair-splitting has begun.

I don’t argue that Craig shouldn’t be expelled. I argue that there are no grounds for not including Vitter in the same discussion.

Timothy Kincaid

August 31st, 2007

Jim,

Some media is agreeing with you and making the same point.

http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&q=vitter+craig&um=1&sa=N&tab=wn

Jim Burroway

August 31st, 2007

Log Cabin Republicans have sent his out in an email message:

Log Cabin has been providing a strong voice in the midst of the scandal involving Senator Larry Craig (R-ID). His behavior has been inappropriate and illegal. His explanation is not credible. He should take responsibility for his poor judgment and illegal behavior by resigning.

Timothy Kincaid

August 31st, 2007

I missed referencing this story earlier. It seems Log Cabin did mention Vitter

Patrick Sammon, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group that supports gay rights, agreed. “I think voters don’t have much patience for hypocrisy,” he said, regardless of one’s party affiliation. “I think voters are tired of people who don’t live honest lives.”

Hypocrisy is not a sin associated with only closeted homosexuals, Sammon said.

He pointed out that Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, in July acknowledged having telephoned the alleged D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey. Like Vitter, Sammon said, “Sen. Craig has tried to legislate morality at the same time he’s having serious character and integrity problems himself.”

I have not, as of yet, identified where Log Cabin called for Vitter’s resignation but at least they are speaking about him in the same sentence as Craig.

Timothy Kincaid

August 31st, 2007

Sammon also spoke about Vitter on CNN’s Good Morning America

Mark

August 31st, 2007

I agree that LGBT advocates really don’t have room to defend gay sex in public bathrooms (or if you speak polari, ‘cottaging’), a vestige of a past before gay men could proudly declare their identity and meet in gay venues publicly without fear of arrest or violence. And for all the talk about the ‘threat to children’ (in most cases a reactionary, simpleminded stance), gay advocates should think twice about what the presence of gay sex in public bathrooms means to questioning LGBT youth who might not have an outlet in their community or peer group for their desires. As a closeted gay youth raised in a restrictive evangelical household, my first awareness that others felt the same way I did came from sexual notes scrawled on the bathroom walls of the public library bathroom in my hometown. I loitered to see who these people might be without any inkling of the threat this behavior posed, and was approached by a man who masturbated at the urinal next to me. I allowed him to fondle me for an agonized minute before I fled in discomfort. Over a decade later, I’ve embraced my sexuality and had the good fortune to enjoy friendships and relationships with self-respecting and proud gay men, and sometimes remember the confused, troubled state that found me in my first ‘sexual’ experience. As a community, we need to vehemently disavow this behavior and promote nurturing alternatives (LGBTSAs, peer counseling, safe zones) so that questioning and confused youth aren’t put in this primitive position.

Alex Blaze

September 1st, 2007

Speak my name, Timothy, and I shall appear, lol. But you’re right about the LCR – once gay marriage happens nationally, it’s back to war-mongering and tax breaks.

Good post, Jim, although I don’t think that one has to condone Craig’s actions or think that there should be no repercussions to think that this sort of sting and the way he was railroaded into a plea is wrong and unjust. I’m not going to pretend like it was worse for him than any of the other men who are picked up for this sort of thing, and I was kinda wavering back and forth on the issue until I listened to the police tape of his interview. It suddenly made the whole thing a lot less funny, considering how many times Craig tried to assure the officer not challenge him or his recounting of events in court, as the officer was threatening to add felony charges. To me, even if Craig did everything that the officer says he did and was going to do everything the officer thought he was going to do, due process still wasn’t served.

I’m not trying to convince you to agree with me here, just explaining the feeling I got while listening to that tape. (I’m trying to be less heteropatriarchal in the way I argue, and, yes, Timothy, I even see how one argues as a queer issue. Go figure, lol.)

Begonia Buzzkill

September 1st, 2007

Claiming Craig as “gay” on this issue of Tea Party Tarts being busted in mens rooms around America is a misnomer.

Studies, resulting in publications, on human sexuality on this issue of men in bathrooms as resulted with the facts (culled from police arrest records) is the simple fact over 90 percent of the men arrested in the bathrooms (ie Bob Allen the Bible Thumping homophobe for elections purposes) ……

FROM THE PUBLIC RECORDS:

Over 90 percent of the men arrested having sex in bathrooms are married, straight men with kids who happen to think their penises trump their biblical oaths at some church altar.

The prisons are full of these straight men on the downlow.

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2007

Begonia, That’s an impressive statistic. Do you have a reference or link?

As for claiming that he’s gay, please forgive my confusion but I’m not sure what you’re referring to. I certainly didn’t say it in my piece. That would be up to Craig to answer, not me.

Benton

September 1st, 2007

Begonia, being married and having children does not necessarily mean one is straight. Ask my partner.

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