by Joe Siegel
A bill in the U.S. Senate, introduced last month by South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, to ban most abortions after 15 weeks has outraged Democrats and divided Republicans. But it’s also brought back the loud whispers of speculation about Graham’s sexual orientation.
While the speculation has long been a topic in LGBTQ media, it hit the mainstream media recently when Whoopi Goldberg, on her daytime talkshow “The View,” made a joke implying Graham is gay while discussing issues of abortion, marriage equality and states’ rights. After a commercial break, she hinted that a producer had her address the remark. She later issued an apology for the joke.
Graham introduced his bill in an attempt to force Republicans to adopt a party-wide consensus on the issue. At the same time, Democrats have focused on the issue of abortion rights as part of their midterm election campaigns following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of voters oppose the end of federal abortion protections.
All this also brings of the issue of “outing.” That is, is speculating on Graham’s sexuality fair game?
“Of course it’s fair game for LGBTQ media to discuss Lindsey Graham’s sexuality as it relates to his crusade against LGBTQ people and other minority groups,” said Jason Villemez, managing editor of Philadelphia Gay News. “It’s a natural reaction for a group that is under attack to try and defend itself, and in this case, the tool being used is hypocrisy. At this point, I don’t believe references to Lindsey Graham’s sexuality make any difference to him nor does it change the minds of his voters, but it’s always good to remind the public that conservative and even homophobic gay people exist.”
“I think the LGBTQ media can discuss Sen. Graham. The rumors have been out there for years,” added Cynthia Laird, news editor of San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter (BAR). “The BAR does have a policy of not outing people, but in terms of commentary pieces or the quip on ‘The View,’ I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
Tammye Nash, managing editor of the Dallas Voice, said the publication has this stance on outing.
“If an elected official, political candidate, public official or celebrity is closeted and is not actively opposing LGBTQ equality or otherwise presenting anti-LGBTQ viewpoints, etc., Dallas Voice will not make any effort to out them,” said Nash. “If, however, someone in one of those positions is actively opposing LGBTQ or attacking the LGBTQ community in some way, they are fair game.”
“Lindsey Graham has long been rumored to be a closeted gay man, and more than one man has come forward to recount sexual encounters with him. He is also a notorious homophobe who has actively opposed LGBTQ equality and has harmed or tried to harm the community many times in his role as a U.S. senator,” Nash added. “We owe him no protection”
Graham has indeed been criticized for hypocrisy by LGBTQ media for quite some time. For example, in 2020 Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff wrote an editorial entitled, “The sad, closeted hypocrisy of Lindsey Graham.”
“Closeted figures like Graham have done so much damage over the years, from Donald Trump’s idol and mentor Roy Cohn, to Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, passing laws and judgment against members of their own community while cowering in the shadows,” Naff wrote. “It’s remarkable that in 2016 Graham ran for president and is now running for re-election to the Senate while largely avoiding questions about his sexual orientation from the media. His disdain for the LGBTQ community is established in a string of votes against our interests, from voting against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to co-sponsoring the Defense of Marriage Act, to shoving a hostile Supreme Court justice down our throats two weeks before a presidential election after vowing he would never do such a thing.”