Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Mark Kirk: On the Wrong Side of Gay History

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    NEWSLETTERS

    D.C. Stephenson, Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, once said that, “Everything is fine in politics, as long as you don’t get caught in bed with a live man, or a dead woman.”

    That was in the 1920s. Now, politicians who get caught in bed with live women are seeing their political careers end -- goodbye John Edwards, John Sanford and Eliot Spitzer. And yet it’s not so bad to get caught with a live man. Today, we have gay congressmen, gay mayors and gay aldermen.

    In fact, we may be reaching a point where homophobia is more damaging to a political career than homosexuality. We’re already there in most big cities.

    The House just passed a bill that would end DADT. So did the Senate Armed Services Committee. And a CNN poll found that 78 percent of Americans oppose the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prevents gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

    So Mark Kirk’s vote against repealing DADT -- while it may be motivated by a sincere belief that the policy is good for the military -- isn’t going to help him win over the moderate voters who will decide this Senate election.

    Kirk was the rare Republican who had a chance to win gay voters -- he opposed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage -- but he just threw away that constituency. Chicago’s Pride Parade is a popular event for politicians. Pat Quinn, Todd Stroger, Dorothy Brown and Toni Preckwinkle marched last year. So did Kirk’s opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, who plans to march this year, too. Let me just predict that a “Mark Kirk for Senate” float would be overturned on Halsted Street, and have its tires stolen. Also, Berlin is serving $2.50 mimosas this Sunday, but let’s see Kirk try to get a drink there, now.

    Roland Burris, the man Kirk is trying to replace, co-sponsored the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in the Senate.

    “This policy for too long has undermined the strength and integrity of our military by discharging perfectly capable soldiers from serving their country,” Burris said in a statement. “Through this repeal, we will strengthen our armed forces and finally allow gay service men and women to serve openly without the threat of prejudice.”

    Someday -- like, this time next year -- the all-straight military will look like as much of anachronism as the segregated military. Is it progress to replace a defender of gay rights with an opponent?