There is an interesting case in the US at the moment where the outing of closeted politicians has actually led to a likely outcome that is beneficial for the human rights of the homosexual community in New York State.
New York’s state Senate is going to vote, again, on legalizing same-sex marriage. The last vote, held when Democrats had a tenuous majority, failed after every Republican and a number of Democrats voted against it. This time, though, there is a better chance at passage. Three former Democratic “no” votes (and one Republican) have announced that they now support marriage equality. The most interesting switch¬†is that of Carl Kruger, who didn’t just vote “no” last time, he participated in a legislative coup designed to punish Democrats for even attempting to hold the vote to begin with. What changed?
Yes what changed was that one of those, Carl Kruger, it turns out is gay.
While the FBI investigated Kruger for bribery, they learned that he lived with his longtime male partner while pretending (or at least allowing people to believe) that his partner’s mother was his girlfriend.
I find this to be pretty compelling evidence that reporting on a politician’s sexual orientation serves the public interest.
Kruger’s secret life was surprising to many, but in Albany, his weirdness was well-known. It was known that he was unmarried, but he sometimes appeared at photo ops or events with a fake (rented?) “family.” Most signs pointed to closeted pol. But it took the FBI to actually do the legwork involved in outing him. And now, though he still insists he’s a victim of “media attacks,” Kruger has seen the light, and says he has “a better understanding of the impact that this bill will have on the rights to countless New Yorkers.” I bet he does!
So the corrupt politician turned out to be a corrupt gay politician with a fake family and gay lover. No wonder he has changed his vote.
The ethical argument against outing closeted public figures is that, basically, it’s “none of our business.” Their private lives are not relevant or newsworthy. But in the case of anti-gay politicians, their private lives seem very relevant. Ted Haggard has certainly sounded more tolerant — or he has at least ceased engaging in hypocritical political activism against gay rights —¬†since he was outed. (“I don’t judge people anymore,” he said, which is about as much as you can ask for.) Barney Frank became one of the most prominent gay politicians in the world since his outing, long ago. Ken Mehlman now fights for marriage equality. Carl Kruger switched his vote. Keeping “open secrets” that “everyone knows” from the public is already a questionable journalistic practice, and now there’s a great deal of evidence that the private lives of politicians have very real effects on public policy.
I agree that politicians private lives are not relevant or newsworthy….except when they are. Kruger was a hypocrite, he got caught, he never would have been if he had been honest about his background.
Likewise in New Zealand we have seen a media frenzy over Darren Hughes. It was an open secret that Darren is gay, amongst the beltway folk…If Darren had been more open the just maybe it would have stop his drunken behaviour and stopped him from having to chase a naked 18 year old down the streets.
No one cares that he is gay, we are well used to this in NZ politics now. Grant Robertson, Chris Finlayson, Charles Chauvel, Chris Carter and many others are open about their sexuality, and it matters not a bit. Same goes for rooters or those in open relationships…it is far better to be open and honest about it than beholden to fear and blackmail. It is only news when you get caught out otherwise.