Saturday, May 07, 2005

Do as I say, not as I do:

Over the last three months, Mayor James E. West of Spokane, one of the most powerful politicians in this state, carried on an online exchange - full of mutual compliments and often overtly sexual - with someone who said he was a 17-year-old high school senior. In time, the mayor, 54, revealed his identity, and said he had lots of sports memorabilia he could give the boy from his office. As they prepared to meet for the first time, the mayor professed his nervousness, and his caution.

"Guys like you don't come along very often and I want it to last," the mayor wrote. "Am I crazy here?"

The two never met. The high school senior was a fiction, created by The Spokesman-Review, a Spokane newspaper, as part of a three-year investigation into whether Mayor West, a Republican, used his authority to have sex with boys and young men.

Let's be clear about what makes this story so scandalous. It's not the male-on-male sexuality. It's not even the age gap, or the fact that West is 54. If it were just the fact that some of the males West was chatting up were still in high school, it would be sleazy and unethical, for sure -- but certainly not any more sleazy or unethical than Tom DeLay's accepting tainted money to finance golf junkets to Scotland. West did not lie to these young men about who he was.

No, what makes West's behavior so disgusting is that, at the same time he was having online sexual contacts with young men, he was actively pushing and promoting anti-gay policies and laws. He was adamantly opposed to legislation giving benefits to domestic partners; when the Spokane City Council passed such a measure, he said he would veto it. He wanted to criminalize all teenage sex -- homosexual and heterosexual.

According to the Times article, Mayor West has lived two lives for the past 25 years: straight and strongly opposed to gay rights in public; gay and closeted in private. Obviously, gay men and women have been hiding their same-sex orientation for centuries, and for completely understandable reasons. But to lead a secret, closeted gay life while actively working to deny basic civil and human rights to gays and lesbians is truly repulsive.

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