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Jewish World Review August 18, 2004/ 1 Elul 5764

Kathleen Parker

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McGreevey's gay grievance

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | My hankies are drenched, my weeping couch a sodden raft. The deluge that Hurricane Charley dumped across Florida was a puddle compared with the titanic swells clogging America's tear ducts in the wake of New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey's monumentally brave confession: "I am a gay American."

Great God above, can there be a tomorrow?

To hear and read reaction to McGreevey's announcement that he'll resign (one of these days), you'd think he'd done something heroic, a self-made martyr deserving of admiration rather than a corrupt individual forced to face the music.

So he's gay. Who cares?

The gist of those clamoring for Kleenex is that McGreevey had to lead a double life because of his gayness, a duplicitous lifestyle inflicted on him by an intolerant culture.

We are to believe that his adultery and his misuse of public funds to employ his lover are products not of his corrupt character but, alas, of life's unfairness.

Have you noticed you can never find a Stradivarius when you need one?

McGreevey's promised resignation was appropriate under the circumstances — obviously — but not because he's gay. It's appropriate because he betrayed the voters' trust and misspent public funds while potentially endangering lives.

He hired his reported boyfriend, Golan Cipel, an Israeli national, to fill the $110,000-a- year job of homeland-security advisor, touting the fellow's military and diplomatic experience. Cipel's exact qualifications for the job were that he'd served in the Israeli Navy and wrote some press releases for the Israeli Consulate in New York.

For comparison, the security advisor to New York Gov. George Pataki is the former head of the FBI's New York office. In New Jersey, which lost almost 900 people in the 9/11 attacks, former FBI director Louis Freeh offered to serve as security advisor for no pay, according to Newsweek.

Supporting a lover at taxpayer expense while serving in public office is generally frowned upon regardless of the players' sexual orientation. That's the breach, not adultery, which barely bestirs American voters these days. That's the outrage, not McGreevey's gayness.

The fact that McGreevey confessed his homosexuality when Cipel, now his former boyfriend, threatened a sexual-harassment lawsuit thus looks more like a mask than a facing-up to a "unique truth," as McGreevey described his "outing."

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It is ludicrous, besides, to suggest that being gay is an obstacle to personal growth and expression in our "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" culture. The only way we could be any gay-friendlier would be to pipe show tunes into interstate rest stops.

Even so, McGreevey's confession has been received with gravitas worthy of a St. Augustine.

Columnist Arianna Huffington, the go-to girl when a husband figures out he's gay, noted that McGreevey "came out" the same day that the California Supreme Court annulled the state's nearly 4,000 same-sex marriages, raising the question:

What if the world were a more welcoming place where gay people could have in their lives all the 'good things' and the 'right things' without having to pretend they're straight?

Such as, what, boyfriends on payroll? For the record, the California Supreme Court ruling wasn't about whether homosexuals are due all the good and right things, but whether San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom acted legally in issuing marriage licenses to homosexual and lesbian couples. He did not.

Picking up where Huffington left off, Kevin Jennings, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, wrote in Newsweek of feeling "sick" hearing McGreevey's resignation speech.

I nearly had to turn away from the agony and pain that radiated from his face, all caused, I thought, by his decision to live a lie in order to attain political power. And I had a startling realization: but for one decision, I might have been Jim McGreevey.

I don't doubt Jennings' sincerity in empathizing with McGreevey. But his portrait of the governor as victim won't wash with the great unwashed. Bad actors who happen to be gay don't get a pass for corrupt public behavior just because they're gay. If McGreevey had placed an unqualified female paramour on the public payroll, he'd be no less culpable, though certainly less sympathetically treated.

Coming out of the closet is doubtless a relief for people who haven't publicly come to terms with their sexual orientation. Few Americans would begrudge McGreevey his personal truth as a gay American. But the larger truth is that McGreevey placed personal gratification above the public good, and that's a firing offense when you're a public servant. Eyes all dry.

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