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Timothy J. Burger has penned a fascinating article for Politico highlighting several gay men who worked in George W. Bush's administration, most of them in the closet the entire time. The piece's subjects include top Bush aide Ken Mehlman, speechwriter John McConnell, and staffer Gregg Pitts, among others. Each provides a personal piece to the larger puzzle -- what was life like for them working in an administration publicly opposed to gay rights? Steven Levine, a former White House advance aide, tells Burger that he knew of at least 70 gay Bush White House staffers.

What's the Big Idea?

I highly suggest reading the article and drawing your own conclusions about the motivations of these men and the president they couldn't help but support. Bush is one of the most fascinating characters in this story for a variety of reasons. Burger explains:

George W. Bush started out as perhaps the most gay-friendly Republican president ever... a few months before nailing down his party’s nomination in 2000, met in Austin with a dozen gay Republican leaders, proclaiming afterward, “I am a better person for the meeting.”

Soon after his inauguration, in early 2001, Bush braved the ire of the religious right by naming [Scott] Evertz, one of the so-called Austin 12, as White House AIDS czar.

As Burger details the saga, Bush's status as an anti-gay Bogeyman of a bygone era is questioned. Sure, he opposed gay marriage in favor of its "traditional" alternative, but the president didn't campaign on an anti-gay platform until 2004, when his re-election campaign (and his Ohioan religious right voting core) needed an extra jolt. Burger implies that Bush's infamous place in the annals of anti-gay history is more to blame on the political (and Karl Rove) than the personal. Whether that's fair, I'll leave up to the readers.

Bush comes off very well in the piece; he and Dick Cheney are deemed to have always been gracious to openly gay staffers and their partners. It's other members of the White House staff -- as well as high ranking Republican party officials -- that created uncomfortable workplace environments for both the closeted and the out.

Continue reading at Politico

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Orhan Cam