It's a pretty interesting and well thought out post, and the comments seem relatively divided, which suggests that this is an issue worth talking about for a minute. This is the sort of issue that I think some people give very little thought to, while others can't help but think about in a major way, because it effects them so intimately.
Generally speaking, I'm pretty opposed to outing other people, regardless of the reasons for the outing. It's one thing to report on a scandal that involves criminal activity- sexually harassing your employees or rape, for example. In a case like that, the outing becomes an almost unavoidable side-effect of reporting on criminal activity. If you're being accused of sexual harassment by a male employee, and you're a male politician... well, people might draw conclusions, there.
But, in some cases, politicians are outed even when there's nothing criminal or unethical about their sexual activity. They're out because of the perception of hypocrisy in engaging in sexual activity with someone of the same sex, while opposing gay rights like marriage or adoption. In these cases, the person is outed to prove a point or to gain political capital.
Cases like that, I'm very much opposed to. While stinking hypocrisy often makes me want to scream and/or throw things, I can't condone outing a person in those cases, for a number of reasons.
First, and least important, is that the impression of hypocrisy is not necessarily hypocrisy. It's completely possible to have sex with someone of the same sex without thinking that same sex couples ought to be allowed to marry or adopt children. Do I find that attitude confusing or troubling? I do. But, it's not necessarily inconsistent.
Oh, and wrong.
Still, it's not hypocritical anymore than it's hypocritical to support gun control laws but still enjoy shooting skeet. You might support the notion that people should be allowed to rent rifles from licensed dealers in order to shoot skeet, and you might think that homosexual sex is okay, but not marriage. Or you might think that homosexuality is a sin, but that you're a sinner. That makes you a jerk, not necessarily a hypocrit.
More importantly, though, is that I see this kind of outing as being exactly the kind of thing that many of us work against. That is, the use of a person's sexuality as a weapon against that person. As I see it, that's one of the problems with sexual slurs. When people use the term "fag" as an insult, they're using homosexuality as a weapon to tear down and insult another person. The goal there is to use sexuality in such a way as to harm another person.
The effect, though, goes beyond the person using the insult and the person being insulted- the use of slurs like that has a chilling effect, I think, on the community at large. When we tolerate the use of slurs like that, we send a message that homosexuality is demeaning. That there's something wrong with being gay. To some degree, I think that public outings have a similar impact.
Elizabeth Schmitz, one of the commenters in that feministing thread, said:
I am somewhat conflicted about the tactics of Rogers. The process of accepting and disclosing one’s gayness is very stressful and scary–you have to worry about rejection from the people you care about the most, and begin to deal with the changes that come with being identified as a gay American. When someone else outs you, you loose control over this very difficult process, and it adds to the emotional turmoil.
What’s more, Rogers’ tactics create a new sort of McCarthyism targeting gays. It makes me somewhat uncomfortable to see again this kind of a witch hunt going on within the walls of our government.
Even though we come to different conclusions, I think that Elizabeth's comment is a pretty accurate description of what happens. I think that it goes further, though. It's not just the politician that is harmed by this, it seems to me that it probably has a bigger effect. The goal might be to expose perceived hypocrisy, but the result is that it gives credit to the perception that there's something wrong with being gay.
These scandals don't prove the hypocrisy of the anti-gay movement, they create the sense that these politicians should be ashamed of engaging in homosexual acts. I don't see how that can be good for creating the sense that it's okay to be gay or engage in same-sex acts and relationships.
Discussions of other people's sexuality often leave me feeling a bit uncomfortable. I think I discussed my discomfort with talking about how so-and-so must be closeted gay because sie is so vocally opposed to homosexuality on here, before, and I think that it's related, here too. It just seems like it's a little bit too much like using sex as a weapon, which, ultimately, seems really harmful, regardless of the pleasure I take in seeing asshole bigots get put under the spotlight and taken to task.
Which, ultimately, I think is the point. Their choice to have sex with someone of the same sex isn't the problem, and their choice to keep that activity out of the public eye isn't a problem either. The real problem is that they're trying to pass bigotted legislation. I'd much rather see them taken to task over being asshole bigots than being raked over the coals for knocking boots with other men.