You Can’t Teach an Old Republican

by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca on December 5, 2007

The shoe’s on the other foot right now. U.S. Senator Larry Craig, a conservative from Idaho, would probably have been one of the first legislators to push for getting tougher on public sex. A strong “family values” kind of guy with a perfect record of voting against gay rights, Craig would no doubt have lost no time in denouncing the “perverts” who come on to other men in parks or public restrooms.

Facing charges now that he made similar advances (via foot tapping and a hand gesture) to an uncover cop in a Minneapolis airport men’s room, Craig is singing a different tune. He’s claiming that the police sting operation that caught him in its net is “unconstitutional.”

No doubt it is (or at least should be unconstitutional), but Craig is looking more and more desperate these days–and with good reason. Men are coming out of the wood work to claim they had sexual encounters with him. Reminds me of the stampede of Tom, Dick and Harriettes after the Catholic priest sex scandals hit the headlines.

Rumors that Craig is gay are nothing new. He’s been denying them for years. He still is, even more adamantly than ever, now that the stampede’s begun.

One of the guys recalling a sexual encounter with the Senator is the hustler who’s writing a book about his trysts with another right-wing Republican icon: Ted Haggard, the once king of a televangelist empire.

For those who want all the dirt, details of sexual encounters with Craig can be found on the audio clips on the Idaho Statesman site. For a particularly graphic account, go to wonkette.com’s “I had sex with Larry Craig.”

I don’t care if Craig has had, or continues to have, sex with men, whether in the privacy of his D.C. apartment or in an airport bathroom. I think all charges should be dropped against him. He did nothing wrong, even if he signaled that cop for sex.

For me, the issue is whether Craig and his legislative buddies have learned anything from his ordeal. Anti-sex laws have destroyed lives for decades. Back in the 50s and 60s, people’s names and addresses were printed in newspaper articles when they were arrested in raids on gay bars or for cruising in bathrooms or parks. A person was immediately presumed guilty of being a sexual pervert, which was enough to mark him for the rest of his life. Guys committed suicide rather than face the daily stigma.

People are still being ruined by arrests for public sex or even nudity. In some states, such an arrest results in being listed as a sex offender, the 21st Century’s version of the Scarlet Letter. In California, that means not being able to live within a certain distance of a school. It also means being lumped together with guys who commit real sex crimes, such as the rape of five-year-olds.

Reform is needed in how the law deals with sex and sexual advances in public. Rationality should prevail. Sex in public may be distasteful to some, but so is breast feeding or even kissing. Perhaps society should have a live-and-let-live attitude about encounters in bathrooms and bushes, especially if they’re out of sight. Certainly no one should end up being listed as a sex offender for these activities.

Expecting liberal reform from Republicans who have either faced charges themselves or seen a fellow legislator’s career destroyed by them is probably unrealistic.

You can’t teach an old Republican new tricks.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a radical Italian queer atheist writer and performer with a website: www.avicollimecca.com

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