The list is growing of Northwest politicians caught up in gay sex scandals in recent years. The latest is Washington State Representative Richard Curtis who resigned Wednesday. So what’s the GOP to do? Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins put that question to three party observers.
First there was Spokane Mayor Jim West. Then Idaho Senator Larry Craig. And now Southwest Washington lawmaker Richard Curtis.
Scott Tucker: “We’re yet again witnessing the harmful and really shameful effects of a life lived in the closet.”
Scott Tucker is a spokesman for the Log Cabin Republicans, a national gay and lesbian organization. He predicts gay sex scandals will continue to bedevil Republicans unless the party becomes more accepting of gays and lesbians.
Scott Tucker: “You know when you tell people they have to keep part of themselves hidden or they have to live this sort of double life in order to serve their party or their country you do nothing more than encourage this sort of deviant, compulsive unhealthy behavior.”
Tucker’s group has been preaching this message for thirty years. But he says the unwritten policy within Republican Party ranks is still don’t ask, don’t tell.
Chris Vance disagrees. He’s the former chair of the Washington State Republican Party.
Chris Vance: “There’s no policy you can’t be gay and be Republican. There are gay Republicans.”
Vance believes the West, Craig and Curtis cases are not about whether a Republican politician is a closeted gay man.
Chris Vance: “I think these are isolated incidents and I think we need to remember that all the folks we’re talking about got in trouble not because they were gay but because they broke the law.”
Technically, only Craig of Idaho — who insists he’s not gay — was charged with a crime. But all three opposed gay rights legislation. And that, says Scott Tucker of the Log Cabin Republicans, is dishonest.
Scott Tucker: “We deserve leaders who aren’t hypocrites. You know people whose votes during the day match their behavior at night.”
These scandals aren’t just the province of Republicans either points out Mathew Manweller, a political science professor at Central Washington University.
Mathew Manweller: “One of the most high profile gay men who was in the closet married was the Democratic governor of New Jersey.”
James McGreevey. As for Republicans, Manweller — who is one — says the GOP is somewhat hamstrung. It has to be the party of both small government libertarians and social conservatives.
Mathew Manweller: “It would be wise for Republicans to focus more on free markets, free trade, limited government, judicial restraint and ease back on you know social conservative issues.
But Manweller says it’s those social issues that can really motivate the Republican base come Election Day.