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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Tearing families apart the Republican way

At last year's Republican National Convention, perennial presidential candidate and then-U.S. Senate candidate for Illinois Alan Keyes made the rounds of various media with his trademark brand of knuckle-dragging conservatism. When the interviews turned to the issue of same-sex marriage, Keyes was quick to denounce the idea. But he didn't stop there. He included in his pontificating condemnations the openly lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney and referred to her as a "sinner" and "selfish hedonist." (Ironically, the Cheney's had nothing to say about the attacks on their daughter, Mary. Instead, Lynn Cheney chose to lambaste Democratic nominee for saying positive things about Mary during the presidential debate. ... But that's a whole other story.)

Now, half a year or so later, there's new insight into Keyes' homophobic rants: At the same time he was attacking Mary Cheney, he was aware his own daughter, Maya, was a lesbian. Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher, in his Feb. 13 column (, reported that Keyes' condemnation of Mary Cheney went even farther. Fisher writes: "Then, without having been asked anything about his own family, he volunteered that 'if my daughter were a lesbian, I'd look at her and say, "That is a relationship that is based on selfish hedonism." I would also tell my daughter that it's a sin and she needs to pray to the Lord God to help her deal with that sin.'"

And all that time Keyes knew his daughter was a lesbian.

Now flash forward to the present. On Valentine's Day Maya Keyes officially came out and delivered a speech at an Equality Maryland rally in Annapolis. The 19-year-old fledgling gay activist told how here parents kicked her out of their house and cut off funds for her education. According to Maya, her parents had been aware of her orientation since they found a copy of the Washington, D.C., gay newspaper The Washington Blade in her room while she was still in high school. They also knew their daughter was gay while she worked on her father's fortunately ill-fated Illinois Senate campaign for the seat won by Barak Obama (and tolerated her presence on the campaign while her sexual identity remained a family secret).

Once that little secret began leaking out into the media via Maya's blog, the Keyes knew they had to do something about Maya. And they did. They disowned her. They kicked her out of the house. They refused to pay for her education. They cast her adrift like so much flotsam.

So much for Republican "family values."

It used to be that when conservative parents were faced with a son or daughter that came out it would lead to a lot of soul-searching. I'm reminded of the book Prayers for Bobby: A Mother's Coming to Terms With the Suicide of Her Gay Son in which a conservative Christian mother comes to terms with the suicide of her gay son and questions her dedication to a religious dogma that would drive her own son to take his life. That book, written by Leroy Aarons, was published in 1995 and was a Lambda Literary Award nominee the following year. But what a difference a decade can make.

Ten years later politically and religiously conservative families aren't as likely to allow the coming out (or even the suicide) of a family member to cause them to question their faith. Instead they view such an occurrence as a test of their faith by a vengeful god. These modern-day Jobs and Job-ettes view having a gay or lesbian child as a distraction from being true believers and "real Christians." They find it much easier to cast their children aside as sinners, selfish hedonists and worse. To accept them would mean to question God. Family is weighed against faith on their scales of dogma ... and family comes up the loser. After all, the Ten Commandments include instructions to honor fathers and mothers, but there's no mention about kicking one's offspring to the curb.

The Keyes' predicament is oddly similar to another right-wing iconoclast who had to deal publicly with having a gay child. Last May the gay magazine Out ran an article by Jamiel Terry, adopted son of Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue and currently head of, in which Jamiel came out. His father's response was swift and vitriolic. In a self-serving response, the elder Terry quickly drafted a reply in which he accused Out of fraud and deceit and using his son as a "trophy" to advance that pesky "homosexual agenda." ( He also claimed to love his son, but wasted no time in trashing his son's reputation with charges of drug abuse, financial mismanagement, a driving while intoxicated conviction, and an accusation that Jamiel had "prostituted" his family's name by coming out in such a public forum.

Now there are some of those good ol' "family values" the right wing is always talking about.

Ten years ago a gay child in a conservative family may not have been a cause for celebration, but it often led to a softening of the rhetoric and perhaps even a bit of understanding. Now when prominent conservatives are faced with a gay child their path is clear: Sacrifice your child on the altar of a true believer's dogma, for in the big picture what does it matter if you lose a gay son or daughter as long as you can write it off as martyrdom to your God and your politics?

Besides, you can always wrap yourself in the flag and use the Cross as a cudgel while shouting about all those homosexuals out to destroy families.