Republican sex scandal showdown: Vitter versus Craig

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National LGBT groups are demanding that the Senate Ethics Committee either open an investigation into Sen. David Vitter or drop the investigation of Sen. Larry Craig, both Republicans. Citing the hypocrisy of investigating Craig’s arrest while ignoring Vitter’s admission of involvement with prostitution, the groups charge homophobia as the motivating factor — one that is involved in many instances of bias in the handling of sexual impropriety.

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), sent a letter to Senate Ethics Committee Chairs Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and John Cornyn, R-Tex, asserting an “inherent contradiction” between the Vitter and Craig cases. “There is no explanation for the diametrically opposed responses to these two situations, other than hypocrisy tinged by homophobia. There are only two ways to resolve this: drop the investigation into Sen. Craig or investigate the allegations surrounding Sen. Vitter,” Foreman wrote. “This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible,” Vitter said in a statement after Hustler magazine brought Vitter’s involvement with the “D.C. Madam” to light.

While Vitter admitted to sexual impropriety, Craig has not. In fact Craig admitted guilt to simply suggesting interest in sexual activity with a member of the same-sex. He didn’t actually engage in any sexual activity that anyone is aware of. Vitter admitted that he did, yet Senate Republicans have given him a pass.

“You have Sen. Vitter, when he returned to Congress, he was received with thunderous applause, and Sen. Craig was treated as a pariah,” said Foreman. “What message does that send? A man having sex with a female prostitute is OK? But a completely nonsexual episode in a restroom is just horrific? What does that say about the Senate’s values?”

It’s not just the Senate. It’s our society.

This summer there was a stark contrast in the Minnesota media as the Star Tribune’s entertainment rag Vita.mn celebrated heterosexual trysts in public places while KARE-TV’s 11 television crews assaulted men arrested for meeting other men in public parks. One celebrated heterosexual couples shacking up on park benches — “In Minnesota, sex is just another activity best enjoyed outdoors, and we think nothing of it,” wrote Vita.mn’s Alexis McKinnis — the other posted mug shots of men arrested for (attempting) to have sex with other men.

The Democrats should know better. After all they haven’t had sex scandals involving gay men in decades, while the Republicans at the local and national level are having trouble NOT having gay sex scandals. The Democrats, who outnumber Republicans in Congress, learned long ago that it’s okay to be gay while the Republicans continue to foster a hostile environment where those in the closet stay in the closet until they are caught acting out.

Let’s imagine Vitter hiring a male escort, such as Ted Haggard, or sending explicit messages to male pages, as former Rep. Mark Foley did. Vitter would be right in the firing range with Craig. Instead, the “family values” man did a little dabbling with a female sex worker, and the Senate message is “boys will be boys.”

Vitter’s troubles are by no means behind him. He’s just been presented with a subpoena to testify at a federal court hearing about his involvement with women under the employ of the “D.C. Madam.” That a sitting member of the Senate will be required to testify regarding his admitted involvement with a prostitute should qualify as something an ethics committee — not to mention 24-hour news stations — should look into.

Democrats should even out the playing field. Either drop the Craig investigation altogether or put Vitter in the firing line as well, and stop pandering to Republican homophobia.

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