Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some years ago, at a friend's wedding, one of the other guests came up to me and said, "I understand you're also a member of the 'Gee, [Jimmy], I always thought you were gay but you didn't have to go to all the trouble of getting married to prove me wrong' club."
"Jimmy," as I'm calling him, had certain stereotypically gay habits and qualities, but dated only women and, as I've suggested, married one. This all comes to mind, of course, because of last week's engagement announcement from Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.
I've rarely witnessed such a cynical reaction to an engagement. Crist has long been rumored to be gay, despite frequent denials of same. (Crist was married, briefly, about 30 years ago.) His pending nuptials have been taken, therefore, not as proof of heterosexuality, but as a ploy designed to make him more, well, attractive, to John McCain as a potential running mate or Cabinet member.
I suppose that may be. But the only reason it would be so is if we assume it's still a career hindrance for politicians to be openly gay. If that is the case -- and surely it is -- it is due to prejudice, one that is only fed by such snickering from the chattering class.
Update: Okay, I admit Crist himself lends fuel to cynics. His wedding day, which he'd said would happen in the fall, has already been put off until spring some time (after Election Day). And this apparently is his fourth engagement -- two earlier ones didn't come off.
I'm familiar with the debates within the gay community about outing public officials and celebrities. The strongest argument made for such outings come when the person in question chooses not only to stay closeted but to exhibit hypocrisy by attacking gays and gay rights causes.
That isn't the case with Crist. Sure, he defended the state's Defense of Marriage Act as attorney general, but the top lawyer for the state isn't supposed to pick and choose which state laws he defends in court. Crist has not been a gay antagonist in the same sense that, for instance, Larry Craig or Mark Foley has been.
So what's with all the mockery? No one has any evidence that Crist is gay -- not even the owner of a gay bar interviewed by the Broward-Palm Beach New Times in its most recent (but not sole) examination of Crist's sexuality.
And, if people assume Crist is gay, shouldn't there be some tone of sorrow in their commentary, about it being a tragedy in this day and age that a man in his position feels he has to lie about his sexuality to the world and his betrothed?
Instead, people prefer to boast about how their own powerful gaydar shows that Crist must be a liar and an opportunist.
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