Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Windy City Times

Windy City Times: "
Aide to Sen. Santorum, Backer of Anti-Gay Laws, Comes Out
by Bob Roehr
2005-07-20

The communications director for perhaps the most vocally homophobic member of the U.S. Senate, Pennsylvania’s Rick Santorum, is gay. Robert Traynham II has worked for Santorum for eight years, and apparently the Senator knows that he is gay.
Michael Rogers, the current leading practitioner of “outing,” broke the story on his blog on July 14 and it quickly spread across the Internet. He said that Traynham acknowledged that he is gay in a phone conversation placed to his office.

“When asked how a gay man could speak for one of the nation’s most notorious homophobes, Traynham protested that has ‘been with the Senator for eight years.’ Traynham went on to say ‘Senator Santorum is a man of principle, he is a man who sticks up for what he believes in, I strongly do support Senator Santorum.’”

“When pressed on whether he supported the Senator’s stands on lesbian and gay issues, Mr. Traynham abruptly ended the phone call by saying ‘Senator Santorum is a family man. I have been with Senator Santorum for eight years and I am very proud to be with him,’” Rogers wrote.

According to his biography, Traynham is a political and communications junkie who served as an intern in the White House at the age of 18 and became “the youngest staff member ever to work full-time” there. He later served as political director of Black America’s Political Action Committee, before joining Santorum.

He is a graduate of the historically Black Cheyney University in Pennsylvania and in 2001 was appointed to its Council of Trustees. He received a master’s degree from George Mason University in Virginia, where he is an adjunct member of the communications faculty.

Santorum’s office released a statement from the Senator calling Traynham “widely respected and admired on Capitol Hill … . Not only is Mr. Traynham an exemplary staffer, but he is also a trusted confidante to me and my family … . It is entirely unacceptable that my staff’s personal lives are considered fair game by partisans … . [ He ] continues to have my full support and confidence.”

Santorum is chairman of the Republican Conference, the third ranking leadership position in the Senate. Traynham also serves as director of communications for that group. Conference chief of staff Mark Rodgers told Knight Ridder reporter Steve Goldstein that Traynham’s homosexuality was not news to the Senator or his staff.

One anonymous poster on the Web called Traynham “as gay as a picnic basket … I knew they [ outers like Rogers ] would get around to him.” Another said Traynham “often flies a rainbow flag in front of his house,” but there wasn’t one last weekend.

Santorum is a darling of the religious right and his antigay record is well known. He is a leading proponent of what is now called the Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would limit marriage to between a man and a woman.

An April 21 article by the Associated Press said, while the U.S. Supreme Court was deliberating Lawrence v. Texas, the case that would strike down sodomy laws, Santorum said he believes “homosexuality, feminism, liberalism all undermine the family. Even parts of the Constitution can harm the family. ... If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual ( gay ) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.”

He equated homosexuality with “man on dog” sex. “All of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family ... . And that’s sort of where we are in today’s world, unfortunately. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn’t exist, in my opinion, in the United States Constitution.’’ The Senator’s views on privacy drew surprisingly little attention.

While Santorum’s views are well known, Traynham’s are not. Four times over the last two months he appeared on NPR’s “News & Notes” as the Republican foil to Democrat Donna Brazile. Perhaps it was the questions asked, but reading those transcripts there was more concurrence than conflict.

Brazile was the campaign manager for Al Gore during his 2000 presidential race and faced her own “outing” attempt. While neither denying nor admitting that she was gay, Brazile said her personal life was nobody’s business.

In this instance it is Traynham acknowledging that he is gay when he was asked, and his boss protesting that it was nobody’s business. A decade ago Traynham likely would have been fired. It is a mark of how much the political climate has changed for gays.

“That a supposedly self-respecting gay man could justify to himself working for someone as beyond the pale as Santorum makes me very angry,” said political activist Rick Rosendall. “Traynham deserves to have “not wanted” posters made of him and posted in gay establishments.

It was not surprising that most people posting on Web sites shared that negative view. Many were quick to label Traynham as “self-loathing” in working for Santorum. One noted wryly, “Good enough to hire but not good enough to marry.”

But others disagreed. Writing on KeithBoykin.com, Cool wrote, “News flash, my brothas. Every SGL [ same-gender-loving ] person out there don’t buy into the gay as subculture mentality. Every dude who takes it up the butt ain’t down with the gay agenda. It’s called democracy.”

“Bklynbro” reminded Boykin that the pundit had worked for the Clinton White House that signed the Defense of Marriage Act ( DOMA ) , and is responsible for the antigay military policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Brklynbor said, “I see Robert Traynham as being no different than all the Black gay folk that support religious institutions that condemn them. I see him as no different than all the Black gays who party to, buy and support hip hop, rap and reggae that is homophobic. “"

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