The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Karl’s Gay Dad

I haven’t blogged yet about the news that Karl Rove’s step-father was gay, mainly because I experience a wave of exhaustion just after hearing the news. The seemingly endless parade of professional gay-bashers’ queer relatives exiting the closet can has a way of sapping one’s energy, what with trying to make sense of the cognitive dissonance.

I mean, who wouldn’t be worn out by reading this:

Rove spoke of his adoptive father in a tone of fierce admiration, love, and loyalty, for, as he put it, “how selfless his love had been,” as shown by his willingness to play, persuasively, the part of a blood parent for two decades.

And then trying to make sense of it upon reading this?

One might think that such a sensitive family situation might have kept Rove from using it as a political ace-in-the-hole. Instead, Rove made sexual orientation — specifically, gay marriage — the centerpiece of a presidential campaign aimed at getting out conservative voters in states like Ohio.

If that doesn’t wear you out, let me remind you how much of the aforementioned parade has already passed by.

You want to talk dysfunction? How about Alan Keyes? (Lesbian daughter .) Phyllis Schlafly? (Gay son .) Timothy and Beverly LaHaye? (Gay son .) I won’t even start on the Cheneys, who get positively apoplectic at the mention of Mary Cheney’s lesbianism, even though she used to work as a gay & lesbian community liason at Coors, and helped head up the (now defunct?) Republican Unity Coalition Remember that one? The organization that aimed to make sexual orientation a “non-issue” in the Republican party? How’d that work out for them?

Anyway, with the exception of Maya Keyes — who acted out by coming out this past — most of the gay girls and boys mentioned above have kept nice and quiet while their mommies and daddy’s have gone about their gay-bashing bussiness.

And that’s just to name a few. There’s also Randall Terry’s gay son, who gets left out of family photos since he came out a while back.

But, hey, maybe I’ve been out so long that I just don’t get it. I don’t know how to respond to the news. My reaction is much like Hillary Rosen’s.

The nice response to the news about Karl Rove’s father would be to talk about “how wonderful it is to recognize that there are gay people in families of all stripes and that there is no reason to always make an issues of that fact.” As a teachable moment yet one I didn’t want to let it pass without political comment I could say something (as my friend Steven said) like “no matter where you are on gay marriage, there’s no denying that he used this issue… I wished he hated the politics of division as much as he loves his father.”

Or I can be snarky about it and say “since they are opposed to gay people raising children, do Karl and his right wing friends think he would have been a better man if his father hadn’t been gay?” or throw a bone to the radicals with “Karl Rove is the reason that gay parents shouldn’t be allowed to have children”.

The only answer I can come up with to make sense of it is that perhaps Karl and others like him are kind of like people who, years ago, supported segregation and had pretty low opinions of African-Amerians as a group, but made exceptions for the black folks they knew personally and who were “like family” to them.

Of course, the schizophrenia of that approach lies in the support for policies that negatively impact those same individuals who are “like family,” as much as the impact the rest of the group they’re a part of. Maybe the other side of that coin is the assurance that one will simply “take care of” family members who encounter discrimination. If Rove’s feelings about his adoptive father are genuinely the same as portrayed in the book, chances are he’d probably have stepped in to right matters if his dad had experience discrimination or violence because of his orientation. In the same manner, the Cheneys would probably take care of the matter if Mary were, say, denied access to her partners in the hospital or faced some other discrimination because she’s a lesbian.

So maybe the dissonant relationship, because it clashes with political ideology, simply gets compartmentalized and perceived as though the two are wholly unrelated. In fact, the person doing the compartmentalizing may not think one has anything to do with the other (i.e. “My dad being gay has no relation to my position on same-sex marriage.”)

And that’s without even delving into the psychosis of the gay people who support their relative’s professional gay-bashing and are even employed in their operations — Schlafly’s son came to mom’s defense when he was outed, LaHaye’s son works for Concerned Women for America, and of course Mary Cheney campaigned for Dubya while he stumped for the FMA (with a knot in her stomach, though the cat had her tongue while Dubya actively campaigned against marriage equality). I still need to wrap my mind around that business.

So can you see where just the thought of working up a response to Karl’s gay dad and balancing that with Karl’s political gay-bashing could leave one a little exhausted?


  1. For Karl Rove it is simply about power, not principle. He isn’t acting on homosexuality because of any personal convictions, but rather as a means to his ends: Establishing a Republican Hegomony in the US.

    Only the grassroots level is it really about homosexuality. (Though perhaps Keyes and Terry may be about homosexuality, too).

    In Michigan, as I am fond of recounting, in the last Presidential election we had a gay-marriage issue on the ballot put forth by social conservatives. It is likely that they were aided (overtly or covertly) by Republican activists if not the party itself. This was felt to be a tactic to motivate the base as there were already three or four laws on the books already banning gay marriage.

  2. Pingback: Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » “Karl’s Gay Dad”

  3. Strong reactions to reality have their roots in deep psychological and organic complexity. It’s well documented that one’s sexuality is strongly influenced by genetics. Simply put, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. Happy breeding!