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GAY AND GRAY: Dick Gephardt's Second Career

Posted Oct 29 2009 11:01pm

JanAdams75x75Gay and Gray is a monthly column at Time Goes By written by Jan Adams ( bio ) in which she thinks out loud for us on issues of aging lesbians and gay men. Jan also writes on many topics at her own blog, Happening-Here, and you will find her past Gay and Gray columns here. ]

Recently The Nation magazine published a long exposé of what former Democratic Congressional leader Dick Gephardt is doing in his second career. In a nutshell, he is making bundles of "money representing every anti-labor, anti-environmental, anti-universal healthcare client he can find..."

During his long career representing a Missouri district, he was best known as a pro-labor populist who worked to achieve health care reform. In 2003 during a short run for the Democratic nomination for president, he proclaimed:

"I'm running for president because I've had enough of the oil barons, the status-quo apologists, the special-interest lobbyists running amok.”

It is disconcerting to say the least that Gephardt now lobbies for drug companies and Goldman Sachs. For The Nation, the Gephardt saga is a cautionary tale of how Democrats who now control Washington are on their way are becoming as corrupt as the Republicans were when they were in charge.

For me, this Gephardt story sets off some cognitive dissonance. You see, for a job I had a couple of years ago, I toured the country showing a film, For the Bible Tells Me So that makes the case for the full humanity of LGBT people.

It's an excellent presentation aimed at mainstream religious people introducing them to nonthreatening, warm, attractive people who are gay or related to gay people.

My colleagues and I agreed that every time we saw it, we perceived new depths in it. Many times audiences cried. And Gephardt, a Roman Catholic who clearly loves his lesbian daughter, is one of the heroic figures in that film.

Being an advocate for gay rights frequently embroils one in contradictions. After all, Gephardt isn't alone as an unlikely advocate for my well being - Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter who recently gave birth to his granddaughter and that seems to have touched even that flinty heart. Can it really be true that there is something about which I agree with Dick Cheney?

Unlike most issues in our society, gay acceptance can, sometimes, cut across left-right ideological boundaries. In general, Democrats are more friendly to us than Republicans - but even Republicans can have gay relatives and friends and learn from their own families about tolerance that can lead to inclusion. And some do. Apparently lobbyists who use their past reputations on behalf of sleazy causes can too.

As I get older, contradictions like this remind me that right and wrong are not simple categories for any of us to navigate. The ways we live our lives are inevitably complicated and compromised. I'm glad that working for gay rights reminds me of this.

And I'm also glad that I remain a fierce advocate, from the left side, for peace, economic and racial justice, and environmental sustainability. That's not going to change with age, but maybe I'll get wiser and kinder as I go along.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lois Cochran: How Big is Your World?

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