‘Forced Outing’: Dragging Gay Politicians Out of the Closet, for a Cause

Michael Rogers has no regrets about exposing gay lawmakers who voted anti-LGBT.

forced outs and an lgbt couple marrying
Love appears to be the only thing that forced the coming out of this couple. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)
is a Los Angeles-based writer whose work has appeared Atlantic, Back Stage, The Christian Science Monitor and The Hill.

Publicly outing closeted politicians who block gay-rights legislation is an effective tool in the push for LGBT equality, according to Michael Rogers, a former blogger who ran stories purporting to out several prominent Republicans in recent years, including representatives David Dreier and Ed Schrock and South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer.

“No group of people has ever been expected to harbor its enemies within the group,” Rogers tells TakePart. “I don’t think there’s anything militant about it.”

Rogers, a Washington, D.C.-based gay-rights activist, doesn’t like to call what he did “forced outing.”

“I did what I like to call reporting,” says Rogers, now the managing director of news site Raw Story. “I have never done outing.”

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Some activists say “forced outs” are harmful to the individual outed and do little to advance the cause of gay rights. 

Just this week, for instance, the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative Christian legal group founded by Pat Robertson, reportedly fired senior counsel James Henderson after he was publicly outed by two bloggers. 

“There are closeted politicians on both sides of the aisle that I have not reported on,” says Rogers. They don’t vote against LGBT rights, “so why could I really care about what they’re doing?”

To Rogers, the difference between outing and reporting is stark. He considers a report that publicly reveals, say, a middle-school teacher as gay, which costs him his job, as an instance of forced outing. But to reveal that a politician who votes against gay marriage or benefits for same-sex couples is a closeted homosexual?

That’s justified reporting.

Rogers, featured in the 2009 HBO documentary Outrage, became famous in D.C. for writing that former Idaho Senator Larry Craig was gay, a claim apparently verified when the Republican was arrested in a sex-sting in a Minneapolis airport men’s room in 2007.

Rogers also published voice recordings purportedly of former Virginia Representative Ed Schrock soliciting male sex partners. The conservative Republican didn’t seek reelection after the recordings were made public.

“There are closeted politicians on both sides of the aisle that I have not reported on,” says Rogers. They don’t vote against LGBT rights, “so why could I really care about what they’re doing?”

As the 25th annual National Coming Out Day is celebrated October 11, the culture wars surrounding gay rights have tempered to some extent since the heady days of the early 2000s when Rogers was busy with his BlogActive.

Rogers, too, has moved on to other projects. (“I have yet to see a job in the help wanted section under ‘o’ for outer,” he says, tongue-in-cheek.) He has little interest in reporting on closeted politicians anymore.

But if someone comes to him with solid information? “I’m happy to work with people and help them,” Rogers says, “provided I can confirm all the facts.”

Rogers says his blogging started as the Bush Administration began using gay marriage as a wedge issue during the 2004 election. “I think it takes a moment in time when some huge culture clash comes together” to do outing, he says.

In recent years, the LGBT community has made some strides toward equality.

Gay marriage is now legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington, D.C. Other states grant partial marriage benefits to same-sex couples, and four more states have a gay-marriage-related question on the ballot this fall, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

But the case of California shows how fragile gains in LGBT marriage equality can be. In 2008, a court ruling opened the door allowing same-sex marriage in the Golden State, a door that was shut when an anti-same-sex-marriage referendum, Proposition 8, was passed that November. California’s gay-marriage ban is now working its way through the courts.

“Someone will continue to do this if things revert—I hope,” says Rogers.

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