Yesterday Rep. Randy Boehning (R-Fargo) was outed as gay by a another guy he’d been communicating with over Grindr.
But Boehning said he was threatened with exposure before that, while he was considering his vote on the controversial SB2279 which would have expanded anti-discrimination policy to include gays. Boehning spoke to me this morning – the only other interview he’s given other than to the Fargo Forum which broke this story yesterday – and said the “bullying” tactics made him less likely to vote for that bill.
I wrote about it over at Watchdog:
Boehning declined to “rat out” the lawmakers who made the threats.
“I don’t want to use the words I’d probably use,” he said of the alleged threats. “That’s not the way we do business. This is my seventh session out there (in Bismarck), and this is one of the first times I’ve ever heard of something like this.”
Boehning says he’s concerned other lawmakers may become afraid to cast tough votes on controversial bills out of fear details of their personal lives would be used against them.
“Are we going to have some other very controversial bill, if they’re hiding in the closet are they going to be afraid to vote that way?” he asked.
Asked specifically about why he voted against Senate Bill 2279, he said this sort of “bullying” figured into his thinking.
“That probably gave me stronger opinions against the bill,” he said. “The threats. That’s bullying. I don’t succumb to that kind of hate or anger. We’re all there to do a job, and I don’t think anyone should be bullying anyone out there.”
That jibes with what a lot of critics of the gay rights movement have said. Are scorched earth tactics – this “you’re either with us or we’ll destroy you” approach to advocacy – really helping the gay rights movement?
I’m not so sure it is. As I said yesterday, I think what most people want on this issue is some “live and let live.” Meaning acceptance and tolerance for both sides of the debate.
I also asked Boehning about those who say that you can’t be a conservative Republican and gay:
Boehning defended his status as a gay conservative and Republican. “If they can’t accept someone for being a conservative Republican and gay, then that’s their issue, I guess,” he said.
Indeed. I can’t imagine anything more insulting than believing a person has to think a certain way just because of something like their gender or skin color or, in this instance, their sexuality.
Meanwhile, there is a silver lining in all this. I asked Boehning how he was feeling now that his sexuality is public. While he’s not happy with how it happened, he told me there is a sense of relief.
“I don’t have to look over my shoulder any more,” he said.
I can’t even imagine what it’s like to lay down that sort of burden after decades.