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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In Wake of DADT, Gay Rumors Swirl Anew Around SC Sen. Graham

By Kilian Melloy -

S.C. Senator Lindsey Graham
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has long denied rumors that he is a gay closeted politician, but his recent strenuous objection to repealing the anti-gay law that has kept GLBT patriots from serving openly has rekindled speculation about his sexuality, the Charleston City Paper reported on Dec. 27.

"Graham’s angry defense of the 17-year Congressional ban on out gay service members has renewed attention on what’s in his closet," the article said. "The question has come up in interviews and Graham has politely maintained that he’s a straight, content bachelor. But he can’t shake the questions about why he’s never put a ring on it."

Earlier this year, Graham was the only member of the GOP who joined Democrats in the latest attempt at immigration reform. The move made Graham a target for the far right group Americans for Legal Immigration, or ALIPAC, an anti-illegal immigration political action committee. ALIPAC accused Graham of being blackmailed into "doing a lot of political dirty work" because he is secretly gay, reported on April 20.

The president of ALIPAC, William Gheen, spoke to a Tea Party gathering in Greenville, South Carolina, in a speech phrased as comments addressed to Graham. "Look, I’m a tolerant person. I don’t care about your private life, Lindsey, but as our U.S. senator, I need to try to figure out why you’re trying to sell out your own countrymen, and I need to make sure you being gay isn’t [the reason]," Gheen said.

Rumors about the senator’s private life have swirled for years, but Graham, who is unmarried, maintains that he is not gay. In one video blogger’s recording of a short interview with Graham, the senator was asked about his support for then-Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor; the interviewer asked obliquely about rumors regarding Graham’s own sexuality, but the senator re-focused the conversation on Sotomayor’s "temperament" and her overcall judicial record.

The interviewer attempted to broach the subject of Graham’s sexuality once more, saying, "I’m guessing after a long career in the military, you’re not going to dignify any of these rumors with any kind of response?"

Graham, looking unsure about what the interviewer is referencing, replied, "Right."

"Where are you on ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ by the way?" the interviewer asked.

"I want to see what the military says," responded Graham, who served six years’ active duty in the 1980s and, later, served as a Judge Advocate in the early 1990s. Graham also served in 2007 as a reservist.

Graham spoke against the repeal of DADT on Dec. 18, before the Senate passed a bill to repeal the anti-gay law. "Some will say this is a civil rights issue of our time, the day has come, we need to move forward as a nation, the Marine Corps does not have that view," said the GOP senator. "It is up to the members of the body to determine who is right and who is wrong."

Remarks posted at the senator’s website on Dec. 21 indicated how displeased Graham was with the repeal of the anti-gay law dating from 1993. "I am very disappointed such a major policy change was jammed through the lame duck Congress without the ability to offer one single amendment," wrote Graham. "This is truly not the way to make such a major change to U.S. military policy.

"Apparently, the concerns of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, who indicated repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell under these conditions would affect battlefield preparedness potentially leading to increased risk of casualties, were ignored," Graham continued. "The Air Force and Army Chief of Staff also advised Congress now was not the time to make such a policy change.

"Our nation continues to be involved in two armed conflicts which have taken a heavy toll on our military, Graham continued. "To ask our armed forces and their families to absorb these changes in the middle of two major conflicts is both unfair and unwise."

Michael Rogers, the blogger who has made a name for himself by outing politicians, indicated that he might have evidence of a romantic encounter between Graham and another man, the Charleston City Paper reported. ""I wonder if Lindsey Graham knows I have pictures of a man who spent the night at his house," Rogers sent out in a Twitter message.

On Dec. 21, Rogers issued a follow-up: "I never said I was outing Lindsey Graham today." Rogers teased his audience by adding, "I know better than to waste news on holidays." Roger’s seeming claim to having evidence of Graham’s purported homosexuality has resulted in an uproar in the blogosphere, with Fire Dog Lake posting a Dec. 21 article under the title, "Does Never-Wrong Mike Rogers Have the Goods on Lindsay Graham?" and Democratic Underground wondering in a posting that same day, "Will Mike Rogers out Lindsey Graham?"

The Charleston City Paper recollected that rumors regarding Graham’s sexuality had persisted since at least 2002, when, as a candidate, he was dismissed by Dick Harpootlian, who had served as chair for the state’s Democrats, as "a little too light in the loafers to fill Strom Thurmond’s shoes."

But rumors and outright attacks have not visibly upset Graham, who simply maintains that his bachelorhood reflects nothing more than his not having gotten married, and asserts his heterosexuality. "I know it’s really gonna upset a lot of gay men--I’m sure hundreds of ’em are gonna be jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge--but I ain’t available," Graham told New York Times Magazine correspondent Robert Draper in the wake of Gheen’s insinuations. "I ain’t gay. Sorry."

Even if Graham were to turn out to be a gay closeted politician, not everyone agrees that it would be constructive to out him. In a Sept. 12, 2007, article on rumors concerning Graham, the Charleston City Paper quoted openly gay politician Charlie Smith, who said, "It can be very detrimental in politics to back people into a corner. Even when they’re acting against their own self interests and mine."
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

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