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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 3, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 36
Murray and Pedersen weigh in on Mehlman
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Murray and Pedersen weigh in on Mehlman

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

When former Republican National Committee chairman and George Bush crony Ken Mehlman came out as Gay, many were left saying, 'Well, yeah. Everyone knew that.' Like many closeted politicians, entertainers, and clergy before him, Mehlman's sexual orientation seemed evident to everyone - except to him.

In the wake of his official coming out, Mehlman has said that he will change his ways and has begun to raise money for marriage equality in the U.S. - something he spent many years helping the GOP tear down.

Seattle Gay News asked two local openly Gay political heavyweights, State Senator Ed Murray and Representative Jamie Pedersen, to share their thoughts on a man who, while they fought for equality, used the closet as an excuse to why he stayed on the opposing side of same-sex equality for LGBT Americans.

Senator Murray, who has championed Gay rights in Olympia for years, told SGN, "We want people who are in the closet to come out. It is what our cause is about; living openly and being treated equally."

He says that as an out politician dealing with all the public scrutiny associated with that, he is not offended that some people who enter into politics choose to stay in the closet, because "coming out is part of a process for all of us."

"I have been out since college, so it is difficult to imagine my life any other way at this point," Murray told SGN. "I think that the examples of closeted politicians and clergy speak for themselves."

"Being out is still the most political act an LGBT person can do," Murray continued. "Electing LGBT people to office is still the best way to ensure that our issues get addressed."

Murray does not condone Mehlman's past actions; instead, he reminds us that no one, Gay or straight, is obligated to share the same political agenda. "We should treat him with the kindness we would treat anyone who has struggled with their sexual identity and just come out," concluded Murray. "We must realize while his politics are not ours, diversity means including different political opinions."

Representative Pedersen, one of Seattle's most recognizable Gay politicians, told SGN, "I feel sorry for politicians who are in the closet. I am sorry for the pain that they must feel at not being able to be themselves and sorry that our society has not yet gotten to the point where all LGBT people can comfortably come out."

Pedersen says that, although Mehlman may have used his position in politics to harm the Gay community, "Not all closeted politicians support laws that harm our community. Some have actually been great advocates from the closet. Any politician - whether closeted or not, Gay or straight - who uses a position of power to oppress people, especially for political gain, offends me."

Pedersen said that it was love that showed him that living life as a closeted individual was not for him.

"After I fell in love the first time, I came to believe that a life without love was empty," he said. "So living in the closet was not an option for me. The experience of being an out Gay man and not being treated fairly by my government was what drew me into activism and politics."

Pedersen believes that it is important for LGBT politicians to come out. "Having our voices at the table when decisions are made, and having other elected officials know that we are speaking as LGBT people, changes the conversation both inside the government and in society," he said. "As other leaders get to know us, fear subsides and natural compassion for the injustice we and our families face causes them to want to help by changing the laws that have oppressed us. More generally, having out elected officials and politicians sends the important message to young people that LGBT people are full members of the community."

"I welcome every friend and ally in the struggle for our civil rights," said Pedersen. "I am glad that Mr. Mehlman's journey has brought him to the place where he can be out and use his connections and experience to help eradicate some of the injustice that he helped to perpetuate."

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