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Rep. Barney Frank: Palin’s Family Life Germane to Election

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Sep 3, 2008

John McCain's pick for running mate, Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, has a pregnant daughter who is not married; this, together with conservative stances on liberals, gay families, and so-called family values, makes Palin's personal life of crucial interest to voters.

So argues MA Congressman Barney Frank, one of two openly gay members of the house of Representatives, reported The Sun Chronicle in a Sept. 3 story.

AZ Sen. John McCain, who is now the official Republican candidate for the presidency, announced Palin, currently the governor of Alaska, as his running mate last week--reportedly, after only a couple of brief meetings with her.

The governor's family life has come under scrutiny, along with her style of campaigning from the days when she was launching her political career as mayor of an Alaskan town, and her tenure as Alaska's governor.

As bloggers circulated rumors that Palin's infant son, Trig, who was born with Down syndrome, was the son of Palin's unwed teenaged daughter, 17-year-old Bristol, the McCain camp countered by disclosing that Bristol is currently pregnant with the unborn child of a man she plans to marry.

Frank was on the vanguard when it came to Democrats saying that these facts were relevant to the McCain campaign.

In 2000, a whispering campaign derailed McCain's nomination bid in the South; rumors were circulated that McCain had fathered a half-black daughter out of wedlock. The sight of McCain on the campaign trail with his adopted daughter, who is ethnically Vietnamese, fueled those rumors.

More recently, revelations that John Edwards, who had campaigned for the Democratic nomination, had had an affair dominated the headlines.

In both 2000 and 2004, the issue of Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter, Mary Cheney, and her partner, Heather Poe, surfaced.

In 2000, Dick Cheney reacted angrily when the media asked about Cheney's support of federal anti-gay legislation despite having a gay daughter; in 2004, when presidential candidate John Kerry noted that gay people do not see their sexuality as a matter of choice and cited Mary Cheney as an example, Dick Cheney lashed out at Kerry for the comment.

The right-wing media subsequently took up Mary Cheney's right to privacy as a cause, though without allaying their simultaneous stances against equal rights under the law for gay and lesbian individuals and families.

In the wake of California becoming the second state, after Massachusetts, to make marriage equality for gay and lesbian families legal, right-wing rhetoric against gay families and gay equality has sharpened.

Three states, including CA, will put ballot measures before voters in Nov. to amend their constitutions and restrict marriage as a special right exclusively reserved for heterosexual families.

Now, says Rep. Frank, the issue of Palin's pregnant, unwed daughter is germane to the question of the McCain-Palin ticket's suitability.

Said Frank in an interview with the Associated Press, "They're the ones that made an issue of her family."

That is especially true given how Palin was held up as a champion of Republican-style "family values."

Said Frank, "Apparently [Palin is] a great favorite with the conservative social movement."

Added Frank, "They have said that it's liberalism and liberals who have undermined families--same-sex marriage has been a problem, they don't want gay people to adopt..."

Said Frank, "This helps undercut those arguments."

On Sept. 2, Democratic nominee Barack Obama distanced himself from Frank's comments, saying, "I think people's families are off limits and people's children are especially off limits."

Like McCain, Obama opposes marriage equality, though he does support civil unions for gay and lesbian families.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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