One of the least likely debates imaginable has now erupted: is former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert gay? It pits former Congressman Barney Frank against Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart.
Hastert, who is nobody’s idea of a pride parade pin up, is facing accusations that he engaged in sexual relations with at least two male students when he was a high school wrestling coach. The news broke when Hastert was indicted for breaking money reporting laws apparently to pay hush money to a former student whom he had abused.
Former Congressman Barney Frank, never one to shy away from a debate, has been quick to brand Hastert a hypocrite because he had gay sex.
“Dennis Hastert twice as Speaker tried to get the house to pass a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage [and], in fact, retroactively would have canceled marriages that happened in Massachusetts,” Frank told Huffington Post “So when someone who himself has engaged in same-sex activity then uses his position of great power to try to penalize other people who are doing that, that’s the kind of hypocrisy that should be penalized.”
Ever the partisan, Frank has noted that Hastert was leading the impeachment of Bill Clinton for having sex with Monica Lewinsky, who was, as Frank notes, at least of legal age. “The fact that this man…initiated any gay activity is directly relevant because of the issue of hypocrisy,” Frank said on MSNBC.
Not so fast, says Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart. “What Hastert allegedly did has nothing to do with being gay or the push by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans to ensure that equal protection under the law applies to them,” Capehart argues in directly response to Frank. “What he allegedly did — sexually abusing a number of underage boys — was criminal.”
Part of Capehart’s problem is that he doesn’t want to equate sexually abusing teenage boys with being gay. And there is a point to that. If the allegations are true, it may have been a question of convenience on Hastert’s part–the boys were delivered to him daily as a wrestling coach. But there is some kind of same-sex attraction going on there, whether you want to call it gay or not and even though it was completely inappropriate, to put it mildly. (Repugnant might be a better word.) A lot of men would look at males, teenage or older and see nothing sexually attractive. Hastert seems not to be one of them.
A similar problem dogged the debate over abusive priests. It was convenient for the church and the right-wing to call them gay because doing so was a two-fer: it branded gay as evil and it severed the priests from the Church. But those priests weren’t gay in any sense that gay men understand.
It’s not like Hastert was cruising in restrooms, like one of his GOP colleagues. On that Capehart is right. But Hastert is a male who apparently liked to have sex with other males. The males were presumably all underage. That would make him a creep and potentially a criminal, but you can’t dismiss the underlying sexual attraction that would motivate his perverse actions. That’s definitely homosexual.
The question is: Is it gay?