Outing Scandal Hits Hill
Gay staffers are bracing for what could be a tidal wave of “outings” on Capitol Hill by gay rights activists who claim they want to expose the hypocrisy of anti-gay rights Members as the Senate takes up the federal marriage amendment next week.
The recently formed Gays, Lesbians and Allies Senate Staff Caucus has declared their opposition to the outing campaign, saying it threatens the jobs and economic security of closeted aides working on the Hill.
The group’s co-chairman, Mat Young, a top aide to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) calls the campaign “absurd” and asks, “Why are these groups terrorizing gay and lesbian staffers instead of sitting down with Members and educating them on why gay people deserve marriage rights?”
The campaign, which is targeted at closeted gay Members and staff, has already claimed some victims, including one staffer who works for Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), one of the most conservative Members of Congress and a leading proponent of the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Gay rights activist Mike Rogers, who is waging the campaign, alerted Inhofe last week that one of his aides is openly gay outside the office. (The staffer was the featured “Coverboy Confidential” a few years ago in Metro Weekly, a Washington gay magazine.)
Rogers says Inhofe is “a homophobe and I won’t tolerate it.”
The staffer, whose name HOH is withholding, is bothered by the outing campaign and called it unfair. He also defended Inhofe, saying, “The Senator and I may disagree on this issue, but I didn’t come to the Hill thinking I was going to find my political soul mate in a Member.”
The staffer, who works on the Environment and Public Works Committee, which Inhofe chairs, says he doesn’t believe Inhofe knew about his sexual orientation until last week, when contacted by Rogers.
Inhofe’s personal office provided a statement to Rogers last week drawing a distinction between working for the Senator and for the committee.
The committee provided a statement to HOH, also pointing out that the staffer does not work for Inhofe’s personal office and that “Senator Inhofe does not hire openly gay staffers due to the possibility of a conflict of agenda.”
Inhofe, who ran a “God, gays and guns” Senate campaign, first made the claim that he would never hire an openly gay staffer when he was a Member of the House. And he adamantly opposed the Clinton administration’s nomination of James Hormel, an openly gay man, to be ambassador of Luxembourg.
Gay staffers say the only positive outcome of the outing campaign would be to expose the lack of job protections in Congress for gay and lesbian staffers. There is no federal law that covers the hiring and firing of gay people. What’s more, Congress exempts itself from civil rights laws. And more than a third of House and Senate offices reserve the right to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Republican Senate sources tell HOH the EPW staffer is not in danger of losing his job over the controversy.
Inter-Parliamentary Marriage. Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) is tying the knot with another Congresswoman, this one from Guatemala.
He met her on a delegation trip to Central America in August 2003. The group led by Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-N.C.) stopped off in Guatemala for a party hosted by the U.S. ambassador, who apparently asked if Weller and Ballenger would be interested in meeting Zury Rios Sosa, the vice president of the Guatemalan Congress.
Weller wasn’t quite expecting what he saw.
“Que belleza! Esto mejere es increible!” — How beautiful! This woman is incredible! I want to get to know her more! — he says, recalling the first moment he laid eyes on his true love.
The delegation formalities went straight out the window from there.
“My priority was determining if she was single or not,” Weller said in a speech at the Morris Country Club in his district on Wednesday.
And probably determining how best to get on the good side of her father, ex-Army Gen. Jose Effrain Rios Montt, who seized power in a 1982 coup but was later deposed in another military uprising. Rios Montt was a notorious alleged human rights abuser during his regime, according to published reports.
But, according to Weller, who turned 47 on Wednesday, that streak doesn’t run in the family.
“I am thrilled to have found my best friend and soul mate,” Weller said in a statement. “Our love knows no boundaries.”
Weller and Rios Sosa plan to wed sometime after the November elections.
The Congressional Historian’s office says this will be the first time ever that a sitting U.S. Representative has married someone currently serving in a national legislative body abroad.
In an apparent coincidence, according to Weller’s 2002 financial disclosure reports, he dropped a tidy sum — somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 to be exact — on a plot of land in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
At the time, his press secretary said the Congressman went down to Nicaragua on “a personal vacation” and went sightseeing and “fell in love with the country.”
Weller told the country club gathering Wednesday that, “things happen for a reason and I know God is looking out for me.”
And it was a strange, simple twist of fate, indeed, that he should wind up on a delegation trip a year later in another poor nation in the Western Hemisphere and fall in love.
Holy Cow! The smack talk was flying like spit balls Wednesday as Republicans and Democrats prepared to take to the diamond today for the 43rd Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. Start time is 7 p.m. at Prince George’s Stadium in Bowie, Md.
Both teams, predictably, are predicting victories. Democrats boast that they won the GOP vs. Democrats basketball game last month and, therefore, they say, already have an athletic leg up on the GOP.
“Democrats won the basketball game. Winning the baseball game will be victory No. 2. And No. 3 will be winning back control of the House and defeating George W. Bush!” says Mike Erlandson, chief of staff to the Democrats’ gruff-talking, ex-cigar-chomping coach, Rep. Martin Sabo. (New on the sidelines this year: The Minnesota Democrat won’t have a cigar dangling from his lip. He quit smoking cigarettes and cigars in January.)
“Democrats are going for the trifecta this year,” Erlandson adds.
Big talk from a team that has been mostly trounced by Republicans in recent years. The Dems have won only two out of 10 series to date. Plus, if Wednesday morning’s last practice before the big game is any kind of indicator, Republicans stand to relish their longstanding role as frontrunner — as long as GOP cleanup hitter Rep. Chip Pickering (Miss.) doesn’t wind up on the DL.
Pickering slammed one out of the park — over the fence in left field, to be exact — during practice at Four Mile Run Park in Alexandra, Va. He hit the rare homer off a pitch by former Rep. Steve Largent (R-Okla.), who returned to the mound to help with GOP batting practice.
“It went at least 310 feet,” says Tim Johnson, legislative director and sports information director for Republican coach Rep. Mike Oxley of Ohio. “Everybody out there said it was the hardest hit ball they’d ever seen.”
As for the Democrats’ trifecta claim, Johnson dryly said, “Yeah. We’ve looked at those stats. And in years where Republicans win the baseball game, it means Republicans are going to win the House. And in years where Democrats win, there’s absolutely no correlation whatsoever.”
Tonight’s game is the second in the best-of-five series, with Republicans leading 1-0 in the quest for the coveted Roll Call trophy.