In Alabama, gay lawmaker threatens to out colleagues' marital affairs

This sounds like “outing” in reverse. A gay state lawmaker in Alabama is sick and tired of hearing conservatives preaching about family values and is planning to air some dirty laundry if they don’t stop.

Alabama’s only openly gay legislator is putting her anti-gay colleagues on notice: If they keep espousing family values rhetoric as a reason to oppose marriage equality, she’ll start making their marital infidelities public.

“I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about ‘family values’ when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have,” wrote state Rep. Patricia Todd (D) on Facebook over the weekend, as reported by the TimesDaily in Alabama. “I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet out.”

Todd’s post came after a federal judge ruled Friday that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. She told The Huffington Post that she decided to issue her threat after reading some of the anti-gay rhetoric coming from certain elected officials in the state.

We apparently never tire of these stories where the private and public lives of elected officials intersect. This one has a bit of a twist on it, though. There was a time when gay public officials were fearful of being “outed” in the press, holding concerns that it could cost them their positions. (I’m sure that still takes place, but somewhat less than in decades past.The very fact that we’re talking about a lesbian elected official in Alabama should speak to the level of change.) Along the same lines, you could writes volumes about the number of politicians who have been guilty of marital infidelity, were publicly exposed for doing so and shown the door by the voters. (See Spitzer, Eliot.) Others have somehow survived similar scandals. (See Vitter, David.)

How much of this is the public’s business? There is a strong argument to be made that essentially anything an elected official or candidate does is fair game because the voters have a right to make a judgement on their personality and values as well as their official record and positions. This is clearly the case when we talk about infidelity, and the media doesn’t hold back when they get hold of such a story. (This is in stark contrast to “the old days” when a blind eye was turned to such things… see Kennedy, John F.) The media treats sexual orientation quite differently, with “outing” being seen as a slanderous attack, and people’s sexual orientation being their own business.

So is it the job of a lawmaker to call out infidelity among her colleagues, or is that the province of the media alone? I admit that my gut reaction is to tell the legislator in question to mind their own business and tend to their own garden, but that doesn’t sit well when I really pause to consider it. If it’s okay for the media to report on marital infidelity, does it really matter who digs up the dirt?

But in this case, there is a big problem with what Patricia Todd is doing and it falls under the category of hypocrisy. Were she just some sort of moral crusader who ran on a platform of righteous values and then went around exposing all such incidents she definitively knew of, that would be one thing. But this is a fit of pique stemming from her disagreement with the policy positions of opponents. She is claiming to be aware of these alleged cases of married legislators having affairs, but she is willing to continue to hold her silence about the sins provided they shut their mouths and don’t speak out on issues where she disagrees with them. If she was such a moral crusader who felt this information was important to the public she should have already exposed them, regardless of party affiliation or sexual orientation. (Yes, gay people can be unfaithful too.) But that’s not what she’s doing. What’s going on here is known by a much more ugly word: extortion.

This hypocrite should be exposed for precisely what she is.

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