IT’S A FAMILY-VALUES AFFAIR

Three more right-wing Republicans are snared by sex scandals. Is “pro-family” just another word for “pervy”?

You know you’re in trouble when your spokesman has to deny you masturbated in City Hall.

Jim West, the 54-year-old mayor of Spokane, Washington, is an anti-gay, family-values Republican. He’s made a career out of trying to fire gay employees from schools and local government posts, opposing AIDS-prevention programs, supporting a statewide ban on gay marriage, and objecting to every gay-rights proposition he’s ever laid eyes on. Well, maybe not every one.

During a handful of recent America Online chats, West exchanged messages with a person he thought was an 18-year-old boy. In fact, his pen pal was a representative of the local newspaper, the Spokesman-Review, posing as a horny teen. In the chats, published in their entirety on the paper’s website earlier this month, West talked to his young friend about school, jobs, one-handed typing, and sucking ear lobes. After the two consummated one exchange with a mutual multilined “mmmmmmmmm,” West told his e-buddy “u r soooooooooooo good.”

Adding to West’s woes, two men now say he molested them as boys in the 1970s, and the FBI is reportedly investigating whether the mayor offered city jobs to young men in exchange for sex. A 24-year-old West appointee, who first met the mayor on the chat site gay.com, says West recently offered him $300 to swim in the nude. The staffer declined.

Undaunted and claiming he’s the victim of a “brutal outing,” West refuses to step down but has taken a temporary leave of absence. On the plus side, he now has ample time to brush up on his computer skills.

West’s travails come to light as Massachusetts celebrates (or bemoans) the one-year anniversary of gays’ winning the right to marry. Right-wing religious groups, predictably, marked the day by decrying the “reign of madness” that’s taken over the state and warning that “traditional marriage is in jeopardy.” And they’re right. But it’s not the 6,000 or so gay and lesbian couples who happily tied the knot this year who are the greatest threat to the institution of marriage. It’s the family’s most vocal defenders in the GOP.

Consider Don Sherwood, a congressman from northeastern Pennsylvania. Apparently no one ever told the very married 64-year-old Republican that love means never having to say you’re choking. Last September, Sherwood was giving an intimate massage to his special friend, 29-year-old Cynthia Ore, at his Washington, D.C., apartment. According to police reports uncovered by the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Sherwood’s soothing touch caused Ore to lock herself in the bathroom, call the police, and accuse the congressman of trying to choke her. Sherwood admits having given Ore a rubdown but denies that anything untoward happened; for her part, Ore is not talking to the press.

There’s also no word from Sherwood’s wife of 33 years and mother of his three daughters, which just goes to show that Sherwood likes the silent type. The GOP, however, is sticking by the Tunkhannock Strangler. Sherwood heads up the National Republican Congressional Committee, the chief fundraising arm of Republican representatives, and no one is talking about asking him to step down.

Ironically, Sherwood first met Ore at a Young Republicans gathering in 1999, the same year Sherwood voted for legislation to permit the Ten Commandments (including, we assume, good ol’ number VII) to be posted in public schools and government buildings.

Not to be outdone is W. David Hager, a controversial Bush appointee to an advisory commission of the Food and Drug Administration, which makes key decisions on women’s reproductive health. The May 30 issue of The Nation is reporting that Hager, according to his former wife of 32 years, pressured her to let him videotape them having sex and regularly paid her for sex acts that she was otherwise unwilling to perform ($2,000 for oral sex, for instance) until she put an end to the practice in 1995; after that, Hager repeatedly sodomized her without consent. Hager, a conservative Christian and close confidant to Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, is a gynecologist who refuses to prescribe contraceptives for single women and is the co-author of a book that prescribes Bible reading for pain relief (Matthew 13:44–46 for a headache, Romans 5:1–11 for PMS).

No word on Hager’s recommendation for the lingering pain of anal rape.

Not so surprisingly, Concerned Women for America, a religious right, “pro-family” lobbying organization that supported Hager’s nomination, is standing by its man rather than its women. On being told of the abuse allegations, one CWA officer told The Nation that Hager is “a person of character and integrity.” Hager’s term ends June 30, and he is expected to be reappointed to the panel.

For their part, Republicans in the Senate are responding to the Massachusetts marriage anniversary by holding yet another hearing on why a federal constitutional amendment is needed to “protect marriage.” The GOP’s wisemen might start by keeping an eye on their own zippers.