Robert L. Traynham, the senior spokesman for Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. -- an outspoken opponent of LGBT rights -- confirmed to a blogger that he is gay.
Mike Rogers, the publisher and editor of PageOneQ.com, played to the PlanetOut Network a phone conversation in which he confronted Santorum's director of communications, Robert L. Traynham, about his sexuality.
"Are you out to the senator?" Rogers demanded.
Traynham replied, "Yes."
Rogers then asked the staffer how he could work for a politician who had an extensive history of opposing LGBT rights.
Traynham sputtered before finally stating, "Senator Santorum is a man of principle. He is a man who sticks up for what he believes in. I strongly do support Senator Santorum."
He added, "Senator Santorum is a family man. I have been with Senator Santorum for eight years, and I am very proud to be with him."
When Rogers asked Traynham if he supported Santorum's opposition to LGBT rights, the communications director became agitated, saying, "This is how you get your twisted wiles." Traynham eventually hung up.
Santorum, the third-ranking Republican in Senate leadership, has spent his political career targeting the LGBT community.
In April 2003, he infamously compared gay sex to a variety of sexual practices in an interview with the Associated Press (AP) when talking about the Lawrence v. Texas case challenging the state's sodomy laws.
"If the Supreme Court says that you have a right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything," he declared.
Santorum has also been on the forefront to add a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. "Isn't that the ultimate homeland security? To defend the sanctity of marriage?" he asked during last year's debate on the cloture motion to force a vote on the amendment.
The senator, who has been said to be mulling a 2008 presidential run, recently drew fire from lawmakers for comments linking Boston's liberalism to the Catholic clergy's sex abuse scandal.
"Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture," Santorum wrote in Catholic Online in July 2002. "When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm."
The remarks, which were again quoted in newspapers last week, prompted the 10 legislators in the Massachusetts congressional delegation to demand an apology. Traynham said Friday that the senator stands by his remarks.
Today, the senator is standing by his spokesman.
"Not only is Mr. Traynham an exemplary staffer, but he is also a trusted friend confidante to me and my family. Mr. Traynham is a valued member of my staff and I regret that this effort on behalf of people who oppose me has made him a target of bigotry in their eyes," Santorum said in a statement released to Advocate.com.
"It is entirely unacceptable that my staffs' personal lives are considered fair game by partisans looking for arguments to bolster my opponent's campaign," Santorum's statement continued. The senator is up for reelection next year against his likely Democratic opponent, State Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr.
"Mr. Traynham continues to have my full support and confidence as well as my prayers as he navigates this rude and mean-spirited invasion of his personal life," Santorum's statement concluded.
Neither the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) nor the Stonewall Democrats would comment on the ethics of outing Mr. Traynham.
"It is unfortunate that people are focusing on Mr. Traynham's personal life when the real outrage is the work he has done on behalf of Senator Santorum," said LCR spokesman Christopher Barron.
"People like Rick Santorum should do the right thing, regardless of whether his spokesman is gay. And if a particular senator says he supports his gay staff member, he needs to demonstrate that support when it comes to hate-crime laws and, ultimately, marriage laws," said John Marble, spokesman for the Stonewall Democrats.
But the New York Times has decided that in some cases, outing is fair game. Ethicist Randy Cohen wrote on Sunday that "the more aggressively, the more centrally, an official participates in a policy struggle, the more reasonable it is to out him."
For Mike Rogers, the answer is simpler. "It's not outing," he said. "It's reporting." If you'd like to know more, you can find stories related to Anti-gay Santorum stands by outed spokesman.
© 2005 Planet Out