California congressman David Dreier (R-CA) was passed over to replace House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in part because of questions about his sexuality, a congressman and several reporters told RAW STORY this week.
Dreier was expected to replace DeLay after the tough-talking Texan was indicted for conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws. After being rebuffed, media reports indicated that conservatives were upset about the congressman’s “moderate positions.”
But several Washington reporters and an openly gay congressman say Dreier’s views were not the ultimate factor, asserting that speculation the Republican was gay played a major role in derailing his nomination.
A call placed to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was not returned.
Responding to reports that Dreier was nixed because he was a moderate, openly gay congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) remarked, “Yes, in the sense that I marched in the moderate pride parade last summer and went to a moderate bar.”
RAW STORY revealed that Dreier was gay and that he had lived with his male chief of staff, with whom he had traveled to dozens of countries at government expense. The story was later broadened by LA Weekly. Reports Dreier had lived with his male chief of staff were first floated by blogACTIVE.com.
Frank said he didn’t know personally that Dreier was gay.
“I have no knowledge of David’s sexuality, [but] the fear that he’s gay or the perception that he’s gay was a factor in his being rejected,” Frank said. “Hastert had named him, it made sense. The right wing revolted.”
Frank said he had several conversations with mainstream reporters who declined to print his allegations.
“Many of the media who cover Congress say that the gay piece was a factor,” he quipped. “I’m not saying that it was the reason, but I think that it was a factor. Stem cell research is not an issue for them. [Sen. Bill] Frist (R-TN) and [Sen.] Orrin Hatch (R-UT) would not be rejected as moderates.” Frist and Hatch support stem cell research, a position not held by conservative Republicans.
Several Washington reporters, who would not go on record by name, confirmed Frank’s account. Each said concern surrounding Dreier’s sexuality was a major factor in the decision, but added that there was not enough information to write a story on the issue.
The issue at hand, Frank says, isn’t whether Dreier is gay, but that a decision would be made based on perception of a congressman’s sexuality.
“It’s reflecting this review that gayness is so terrible that it’s the unmentionable of unmentionables,” Frank told RAW STORY. “I believe there are journalists who know this and won’t say.”
The Massachusetts Democrat admitted that he’s able to be more outspoken on gay issues because he is openly gay. Frank is among only three openly gay members of Congress; the others are Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
“I certainly have a greater freedom to do so, because it’s kind of hard for people to accuse me of being insensitive to the gay issue,” Frank stated. “We’re not talking about outing, we’re talking about the role that it plays in important decisions.”
“A cadre of activist bloggers and alternative-media journalists have been contending for more than a year that another Republican congressman is gay and yet has often voted against gay-rights legislation,” wrote AP reporter David Crary. “Thus far, the mainstream media — both national outlets and those in the congressman's home region — have declined to report on the campaign, although the effort is common knowledge among political reporters and on Capitol Hill.”
The 52-year-old single congressman voted for the Marriage Protection Act last July, a measure that would have stripped federal courts of jurisdiction over challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, which bans the federal government from recognizing gay partnerships. He did not vote on the latest amendment to constitutionally ban gay marriage, and said he opposed it.
The Christian Scientist also supported the original Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 and a measure that banned gays from adopting in Washington, D.C. He has a 92 percent favorability rating from the Christian Coalition, and was elected with Ronald Reagan in 1980.