Earlier this week, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell launched an unfounded “political campaign” against openly gay Michigan State Student Assembly leader Chris Armstrong. The assistant attorney general went so far as to start a blog that openly attacked and mocked the college student, throwing out such names as “Satan’s representative” and “privileged pervert.” The blog also posts pictures of Armstrong with slurs printed across his face and a rainbow flag with a swastika in the center of it. When interviewed by AC360’s Anderson Cooper, Shirvell claimed that this was a political campaign against Armstrong and that he was just exercising his First Amendment rights to free speech.
Sexual orientation has long been the focus of many political battles. The first instance I will talk about that many will likely remember is that of Jim McGreevy who, in 2004, openly outed himself as a homosexual male in a public press conference. The scandal wasn’t so much that he was gay but rather that he had given his lover a key position in New Jersey’s government as homeland security advisor. Tension arose when red flags were raised about his lover’s Israeli citizenship. His admission to being homosexual not only caused waves among other tight-laced officials but also among the American people, many of whom spoke out against the former governor.
Another such case in which politicians openly bashed homosexuality is that of Roy Ashburn, an outspoken anti-gay Republican who earlier this year was found leaving a gay nightclub with a blood alcohol content twice that of the legal limit and an unidentified man in his passenger seat. He issued a statement apologizing for his “poor judgment,” and joined the ranks of anti-gay politicians who lead double lives.
The last activist against homosexuality that I want to mention is Mike Rogers. As a documentary maker, Rogers works to out gay politicians who work against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender legislation. Though my reference to him is not exactly based around a case or a scandal, he does make for a very interesting subject. He works to out these politicians to break down their credibility. By doing this, he makes it hard for anyone to take these politicians who work so hard to break down possible legislation in favor of LGBT rights seriously.
I highly doubt that the Shirvell case will result in any change in the freedom of speech of politicians. Although they are technically allowed the same rights as any American to speak out against things they don’t believe in, their position as examples to the rest of the world and as public figures should make them act with a bit more decorum than Mr. Shirvell has shown. I for one am all for people defending their beliefs, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere.