A few weeks ago Pause was good enough to send me a link detailing California state senator Roy Ashburn's confession of rampant gayness, despite him having spent his time in office on crusades of rampant anti-gayness (one can only assume he had to wear gloves when touching anti-gay bills to prevent the entire California legislature from exploding in a shower of pink protons). I read it, had a bit of a think about it, and promptly forgot about it when the cyclone of Spain-based preparation struck.
Now that I've returned, unpacked, and run through my backlog of comics and TV series, though - and having been reminded of the issue by this cartoon - the cogs are turning again.
Here's my thing. I don't believe it's hypocritical to either vote for legislation which disadvantages a group to which you belong, or refuse to vote for legislation which would help said group. To suggest otherwise would be to imply that the only two positions a politician can hold on any issue that would affect him or her is hypocrisy and naked self-interest. Remember when people were calling Obama a hypocrite because he was proposing public health care he wouldn't be taking advantage of himself? Those people were turds, and I don't want to pretend the idea makes any more sense just because I think Ashburn's politics stink. To demonstrate hypocrisy in terms of Ashburn's voting record, I think one would need to have evidence of at least one of two things, either a) the suggestion that homosexuals are not fit to run for public office, or b) rhetoric accompanying Ashburn's votes that states or implies his belief that gay people don't deserve the same rights as heterosexuals because they are in some way less than other people. I haven't read everything Ashburn has said on the issue, but whilst I come across several articles condemning his voting record, none seem to accompanied by any kind of quote that fulfils either of the above two criteria.
So I don't believe a gay politician casting votes which harm the gay community (or fail to help them) is a priori hypocritical. There are of course many other words that can be laid at Ashburn's feet; unfeeling, reactionary, bigoted; but aside from the bigotry in his case being far harder to understand, that's the same list of adjectives that one can apply to straight anti-gay Republicans just as easily.
In this case, though, that's not all there is to it. What makes Ashburn's case of note (aside from it spinning out of a DUI - whoops!) is his determination to explain his voting record as justified because it's what his constituents wanted.
So, here's my question. Is it possible to believe that one is representing a group of people homophobic enough to believe gay people shouldn't have the same rights as straight people - most obviously but not exclusively the right to marry - but who wouldn't mind if the guy they sent to the State Senate was gay himself? More pressingly, is it possible to believe that so strongly that you don't see any problem in hiding your sexual orientation during your campaign?
As far as I can see, that's where Ashburn's hypocrisy lies. Not in voting against his own orientation, but in deciding his constituents' hopelessly backward desire to judge others unworthy should only apply to those people who are not prepared to hide who they are.