Guest Gaggler Joshua Alston mounts a convincing argument below against the outing of gay politicians. For the most part I agree with him, but I'm feeling a little argumentative and there's a little gap in his argument worth exploring. Josh writes:
I don't agree that the voting public has a right to know everything about a politician's personal life. Whether a politician likes to watch Gossip Girl or prefers to sleep on the left side of the bed has no bearing on his or her ability to carry out the duties of the job, and that capacity to effectively contribute to governance should be the criterion by which we make decisions about how to cast our votes. Mostly, I don't even want to know if a politician is cheating on his wife. Having an affair doesn't automatically make him a poor leader or decision maker, unless it interferes with his job—like if he uses public funds to finance the affair, or if it involves criminal activity, or if he's made traditional values a centerpiece of his campaign. Then it becomes an issue of trust and character. If a politician's candidacy is constructed around a commitment to values that the candidate himself can't uphold, that's a piece of information voters should have. Why? Because it casts doubts on the veracity of his declarations. It alters our perception of his judgment.
When it comes to gay politicians, I have no problem with them not choosing to disclose their sexual orientation insofar as that orientation has no bearing on the decisions before them. I have about as much interest in what Barney Frank does in private as I do in Nancy Pelosi's shoe size. Sexuality shouldn't be a hindrance to obtaining public office. But there are times when it becomes an issue, like when a representative is making decisions or statements that specifically affect his gay constituents, unfairly or not. There may be gay elected officials who are terrific at managing budgets, jobs, and health-care policies, and there's no necessity for voters to ever know what happens in their bedrooms. But if one of those same officials makes homophobic remarks, it's not unreasonable to expect that person to be outed. In that scenario, there's a key fact at stake that would help voters determine the official's credibility. Hypocrisy and politics don't mix, and a failure to provide voters with central facts is as much a dupe on them as it is on democracy.
Josh later writes, "