Gay-baiting: a primerEditorial, Top Highlights Friday, August 24th, 2012
There has been some talk that Congressman Bob Filner was involved in “gay-baiting” when he questioned the role of San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio’s partner in promoting the water-gun fight in Balboa Park.
What is gay-baiting? It is the practice, most often used by Republican candidates, to imply that their opponent might be a member of the gay and lesbian community, or a blatant attempt to exploit anti-LGBT prejudice to win votes.
Unfortunately, many in our community equate any mention of a candidate’s sexual orientation as “gay-baiting.” They are wrong.
Filner questioning DeMaio’s partner’s role in promoting Lilygate is not gay-baiting. DeMaio walked hand-in-hand with his partner, Johnathan Hale, in this year’s LGBT Pride parade. How can you “gay-bait” someone who has done that? You can’t.
What some in the LGBT community are saying is that the simple mention of DeMaio’s life partner by Filner is somehow out of bounds. Really? Doug Manchester’s Union Tribune, as well as the DeMaio campaign, suggested that Filner was attacking his “family.”
I find it interesting that Manchester and the U-T magically consider Hale to be DeMaio’s family when Manchester fought so hard to ensure gays and lesbians could not marry during the Prop. 8 fight.
How many of you refer to your partner as a “family member”? Some say life partner, some say spouse, some say husband or wife; some of the old folks even use the term lover. Family member? Those are code words used by Republican mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio who is courting the anti-LGBT vote.
Is Hale DeMaio’s cousin, brother, or uncle? No, he is simply the person DeMaio loves who he cannot marry, largely driven by his Republican supporters. By using the term family member DeMaio hopes that the many homophobes who support him will not find out he is in a gay committed relationship.
What should we call the opposite of gay-baiting? When an LGBT candidate courts the support of the anti-LGBT vote by trying to obfuscate his relationship with his partner? Or by saying that LGBT equality is a social issue?
The reason DeMaio considers the mentioning of his partner by Filner to be gay-baiting, is that he is not honest and open with all audiences.
It is irresponsible for any leader in our community to even imply that Filner is gay-baiting. Filner has an outstanding record on civil rights. In 1961, Filner served two months in a Mississippi prison due to his efforts to integrate buses that are known as the “Freedom Rides.” Filner also worked with Latino activist Cesar Chavez and has been a great supporter of LGBT equality, with the exception of his vote for the Defense of Marriage Act about which the congressman has expressed extreme regret.
Carl DeMaio is either “out” or he isn’t. Talking about DeMaio being gay is akin to saying that I am African American. Of course, I cannot be African American with some audiences and not with others, something DeMaio does when it comes to his sexual orientation. When DeMaio marches hand-in-hand with Hale in a Mira Mesa parade, I will celebrate him.
Yes, many of the homophobes who support DeMaio may have been shocked by the controversy concerning Hale’s promotion of the water-gun fight in Balboa Park, but it was not gay-baiting on Filner’s part.
It is confusing that a few in our community think that drawing attention to the behavior of a gay mayoral candidate’s partner is gay-baiting. That train of thought is simply internalized homophobia. We should be both proud and ashamed of our partners, just like those in the broader community are in similar situations.
DeMaio is gay and in a committed relationship. The fact that more voters know that is a good thing. Harvey Milk said “If a bullet should go through my head let that bullet go through every closet door.” DeMaio, please fully open your closet door and honor the legacy of Harvey Milk. Take a page from Houston Mayor Annise Parker, she did it right.
San Diego LGBT Weekly
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