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Nina Burleigh Headshot

Satan's in the Stall Beside Me

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The demise of mountain state Republican Senator Larry Craig amuses those of us who enjoy watching right-wing heroes crash to the ground, spiked on their own hypocrisy. It further confirms my theory: prick any conservative and the kink oozes out. The rockier the rib, the more likely you'll find pink lingerie under the trousers or a bullwhip and manacles in the bedside drawer. You can bet those Beltway dominatrices, madams and escorts (gay and straight) have been able to buy second homes -- maybe even in Sun Valley! -- with their haul during W's reign.

However, because we are people of compassion, we should also feel a little horrified by this tortured man's sad, humiliating demise. He's obviously lived his whole life afflicted by the religious psychobabble and outright bigotry of people who say homosexuality is a sickness and a lifestyle decision instead of an innate state of being that has nothing to do with illness or choice.

The sickness, of course, is in the suppression, which is why closeted men seek love in rank public bathroom stalls.

The Republican Party got Bush re-elected in 2004 by playing the homophobe card. In Ohio, their minions went door-to-door in Amish country and warned the historically non-secular inhabitants that if they didn't get out and register Republican, gay marriage would be the law of the land. Tens of thousands of Amish men and women hitched horses to buggies, cracked their whips, and raced to the nearest polling place to vote to repel the Sodomites. With their unprecedented help, Ohio, that crucial state, slid ever so narrowly into the red column, sending the Bush regime back to the White House with four more years to plot how to bomb Tehran.

The trouble with this wedge issue, as everyone now knows, is that it's Republican suicide. The hateful public stance of the party has driven its many gay members into ever more contorted acts of self-loathing excess, driving the disease of suppression out in the open and subjecting men to public stoning by their own frenzied followers.

Foley, Haggard and Craig are only the most famous. There's Florida Rep. Bob Allen, also caught lurking for sex in a public bathroom, Corporal Matt Sanchez, gay porn star and -- for a shining moment -- Fox News channel's right wing Marine of the moment. And who can forget Jeff Gannon, the right-wing faux journalist with a secret life as a gay escort favored with a hard (yes!) White House press pass by the Bush administration communications department.

Yesterday, Republicans were sprinting away from shiny-shod, crisply cuffed mountain man Larry. Craig "represents the Republican Party," Rep. Pete Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan, said. You got that right, Pete! And then: "I think it's important for Republicans to step out right now and say, 'No, this behavior is not going to be tolerated.'"

"Tolerated." Now there's a word Republicans should meditate on for a long moment.

When I was covering Capitol Hill just before Clinton's impeachment, every other young, spiffily manicured male staffer I met in Republican Congressional offices was at least androcentric, if not obviously gay. I don't have a sensitive gay-dar, but there was something about them. Ties never askew, hair immaculately groomed, cuffs gleaming, they usually knew more about my shoes than I did.

Bill Clinton's voracious heterosexuality had as much to do with drawing their rabid hatred as any of his other attributes. He loved women too much, and if only he'd given equal time and effort to seducing those beautiful men, he might have saved himself some trouble.

Republicans in Washington know there are probably more gay men in their ranks than there are on Castro Street.

Still, against all logic and sense, they won't utter a word about tolerance.

It's time for Republicans to embrace their own gay wing and stop fueling the sickness of suppression that drives men like Larry Craig into airport bathroom stalls. Until they do, they're headed straight for the toilet with him -- not that they shouldn't jump right in anyway.