- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2005

NEW YORK - “Outing” — the practice of exposing secretly homosexual public figures — is denounced by many activists, but is expanding into new terrain as Internet bloggers target congressional staffers, political strategists, even black clergy whose sermons and speeches contain anti-homosexual rhetoric.

Numerous homosexual organizations, such as the Human Rights Campaign and the Log Cabin Republicans, staunchly oppose outing, yet many other activists support it when the targets are public figures — or their aides — who condemn homosexuality.

“It’s not the gay thing that’s the problem. It’s the hypocrisy,” said Michael Rogers, who has led several recent outing campaigns on the Internet. “I’m going to be calling out the politicians who vote against us and work against the interests of the very community they come from.”

Christopher Barron, political director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said he understands the anger that activists such as Mr. Rogers feel, but believes they are wasting their energy.

“Outing is not an effective tool,” Mr. Barron said. “I don’t know a single vote on gay-rights issues that was changed because of outing. … Folks should be focusing on the hard work that needs to be done and not get bogged down in personal attacks.”

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said outing can backfire by distracting attention from more substantive political issues or by prompting conservative politicians to harden their views after aides and associates are outed.

Two black activists are now taking aim at prominent black pastors who they say have gone too far in assailing homosexuality from their pulpits. Jasmyne Cannick and Keith Boykin are soliciting information about the pastors’ private lives — including whether some might be homosexuals.

So far, the pair has collected only uncorroborated “tips,” not any solid information that any of the pastors is homosexual, but Mr. Cannick defended the campaign. “We know there are people who preach one thing and do another,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with investigating.”

Many other recent outing targets have been Republican politicians and operatives. Among the cases:

cIn 2003, Rep. Mark Foley, Florida Republican, called a press conference to denounce a report in an alternative newspaper that he was homosexual. Mr. Foley said his sexual orientation was irrelevant to his political duties. He contended the story was circulated to derail his Senate campaign, which he abandoned four months later.

cThe Republican mayor of Spokane, Wash., James West, faces a recall election prompted by newspaper articles accusing him of offering City Hall jobs, sports tickets and cash to young men he met in an online chat room for homosexuals. Mr. West has denied doing anything illegal.

Not all outing campaigns gain traction. A cadre of activist bloggers and alternative-media journalists have been contending for more than a year that another Republican congressman is homosexual and yet has often voted against homosexual-rights legislation. Thus far, the mainstream media — both national outlets and those in the congressman’s home region — have declined to report on the campaign, although the effort is common knowledge among political reporters and on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, who in 1987 became the first member of Congress to voluntarily make his homosexuality public, said he does not know if the targeted congressman is homosexual, but said, “I think he’s wrong to be silent about this.”

Mr. Frank is now one of three openly homosexual members of Congress, and there are about 300 openly homosexual elected officials nationwide, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. The president of the fund has mixed feelings about outing.

“If we ever outed anyone, we’d lose our credibility with the people we work with,” said Chuck Wolfe. “On the other hand, who can condemn people for using whatever weapons they have to fight for equality and point out hypocrisy? It seems exactly why we have a democracy.”

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