Recently, the son of a Colorado lawmaker was outed by an unlikely source: his mother’s campaign manager. According to the Denver Post, the campaign manager for Rep. Marsha Looper applauded her boss for voting against a civil unions bill that would have given more rights to same-sex couples in the state.
“God is truly to be praised for Marsha Looper because she also has a homosexual son,” emailed the campaign manager Lana Fore-Warkocz.
Looper wasn’t pleased with the admission, however, and issued a statement to the Post: “My family members’ personal lives are not a legitimate avenue for my campaign.”
Fair enough. Or is it?
What happens when a conservative candidate is outed for having a gay son or daughter? Is it legitimate to bring up? And what would have happened if, in this case, the admission was made by an LGBT rights organization? Would supporters be outraged?
Occasionally, offspring of politicians do get pulled into the fold – some by accident and others by choice. As Looper must reconcile with her own voting record and her family (we wouldn’t want to be at that dinner table after mom voted to limit son’s rights), another relationship takes a different path in the Mile High State.
As the same civil unions bill that Looper voted against was being debated, the son of another conservative legislator fought to convince his Dad that voting for LGBT rights is paramount to a civil rights issue.
Dee Coram, the gay son of Republican Don Coram, told the Denver Post that he’s disappointed by his father’s refusal to support the same civil unions bill. “Yesterday was the first and only time I ever called him and said, ‘Can you do this?’ He said, ‘I love you, but absolutely not,’” Dee Coram told the Post. The result? The bill died in legislature and same-sex couples in Colorado are still without any recognition or legal protection.
But this is nothing new.
The world watched a similar high-profile relationship between political Dad and lesbian daughter evolve during the George W. Bush years. The difference is that former Vice President Dick Cheney – a big supporter of state’s rights – eventually did stand up for same-sex marriage rights. His own daughter Mary was in a long-term relationship with another woman during her father’s two terms in the White House. And while he was fairly quiet about his opinion, he did eventually talk about the issue during a campaign stop in the Midwest.
“With the respect to the question of relationships, my general view is freedom means freedom for everyone,” Cheney said in 2004. “People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to.”
Sometimes kids can have a surprising influence on their parents. Just recently President Obama admitted that his own daughters inspired him to really take a hard look at same-sex marriage. And Billionaire Paul Singer has been donating generously to LGBT rights initiatives for years now.
His financial and vocal support began more than a decade ago after his own son came out as gay. He even inspired others like Republican Theodore Olson and Democrat David Boise to work against California’s Prop 8 – together, no less. Many credit him for helping to legalize gay marriage in New York last year by pouring big bucks into the campaign in favor of it (it also helped to have a governor who worked tirelessly to pass the law).
We like to think coming out truly does make a difference. It’s harder, after all, to say something negative about a group of people when someone you love, a friend or family member, embodies that group.
“It could be your friend or daughter, your friend’s son or daughter, your cousin,” Singer has said. “And they can be all kinds of people in terms of their philosophy.”
From a civil rights perspective, we like to think all Americans have a duty to support equal rights regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion or gender identity. But do parents of gay children have even more at stake?