On Wednesday former Senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) acknowledged that he fathered a child outside of marriage some 30 years ago. While the media seems to be focused on the fact that he cheated, the bigger scandal for Domenici — and other lawmakers like him — is that he voted for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as between a biological man and a biological woman, federally excluding same-sex couples.
Of course, there are several hypocrites in the this discriminatory tale — in the House and Senate which passed DOMA, and the president who signed it. When making laws, it seems, these politicians are passionate in their defense of marriage. In their personal lives, however, they had fewer qualms about violating their sacred vows. The following eight men all voted for DOMA, and all cheated or attempted to cheat on their wives. None of them serve in the federal government anymore.
1. Pete Domenici (Senator, R-N.M.)
Domenici’s announcement that he fathered an illegitimate child 30 years ago was a stunning revelation for many New Mexicans. What was not news was his anti-gay and “values”-oriented voting record: he earned 0% ratings from both the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union during his time in office. In 2006 he stated, “I am a strong believer in the benefits of traditional marriage. While I understand that individuals are involved in various types of relationships, I believe we must give special recognition to marriage for one man and one woman.”
2. Larry Craig (Senator, R-Idaho)
Larry Craig’s particular brand of hypocrisy has been well-documented and lampooned: the Idaho senator was caught in a public bathroom by an undercover officer soliciting gay sex. While the senator tried to hide the incident from his wife, ultimately the scandal broke. Craig not only voted for DOMA, but also advocated against the inclusion of LGBT provisions in anti-hate crime laws even after the airport incident.
3. Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.)
Gingrich continues to support DOMA, and while in Iowa — one of the first states to allow gay marriage — he said, “I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I think that’s what marriage ought to be.”
He has been married three times, divorcing his first wife when she was struggling with a potentially terminal illness, then doing the same thing to his second wife. His third ex-wife claims that he requested an open marriage in order to continue his affairs unabated, though he refuses to discuss this claim with reporters. However, this infidelity was "common knowledge on the Hill," and the illness of both of his wives that he divorced left them with little recourse beyond condoning the infidelity. It's clear that Gingrich has innumerable problems with the institution of marriage, regardless of his stance on marriage equality.
4. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.)
During the Clinton impeachment scandal, then-Congressman Burton told reporters that: "No one, regardless of what party they serve, no one, regardless of what branch of government they serve, should be allowed to get away with these alleged sexual improprieties..."
A few months later, Vanity Fair printed an article revealing that he had a child outside of his marriage. Burton voted for DOMA, and once remarked, “Marriage between a man and a woman has been the foundation of human civilization for thousands of years all around the world.”
5. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.)
Continuing the trend of politicians who sought to see President Clinton impeached while hiding their own extramarital affairs, Representative Hyde engaged in an extramartial affair of his own that he later characterized as a “youthful indiscretion” with a woman who was also married (which took place at the tender age of 41). Representative Hyde characterized DOMA as a way to express this "disapprobation" for homosexuality.
6. Rep. Robert Livingston (R-La.)
Larry Flynt, former editor of Hustler, provided a financial incentive to expose Republican infidelities during the Clinton impeachment trials, and reported on a number of hypocrisies from those objecting to Clinton's infidelity and who are staunchly anti-gay. Former Louisiana Congressman Bob Livingston is no exception: as Speaker-Elect, his frequent use of escort services (without his wife's knowledge, unsurprisingly) was made public. Only a few hours later, he resigned from the post. Livingston's vote on DOMA seems to be a greater judgement on the conduct of LGBT persons than his own record equipped him to make.
7. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.)
Now retired Representative Bob Barr from Georgia has always been solidly anti-gay in his policies, and voted for DOMA accordingly. Yet in his commitment to protect such an institution from same sex couples, he obscured his own troubles with marriage: his ex-wife claims that the pro-life congressman paid for her to have an abortion and married a woman he had an affair with mere months after they split.
8. Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio)
LaTourette and his wife divorced after she accused him of having an affair with his chief of staff, who he later married.
9. President Bill Clinton (D-Ark.)
And of course, we have the notorious President Clinton himself. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” quickly became a viral phrase after the scandal of his infidelity, but Clinton remained concerned with the sanctity of marriage. He signed DOMA into law, but has since distanced himself from his ratification of the bill. Regardless of his current attitudes towards marriage equality, DOMA lives on, just like the scandal that eventually led to his impeachment.
These politicians are dangerous not because their personal lives are indicative of moral failings, but because they voted for such a restrictive and close-minded piece of legislation without considering their own personal struggles with the institution of marriage.
While there was a time that these politicians views on marriage equality represented the vast majority of the American public (whether their personal infidelities represent the values of the American people is another matter) the times are changing: over two-thirds of Americans oppose OOMA, and the first openly LGBT senator was just elected to office. Clearly Americans are changing their attitudes about LGBT rights even if their elected officials are not. More and more LGBT couples are happily married with minimal erosion of our national moral code.
It seems that the politicians that vote for oppressive bills while committing their own indiscretions are far more of a danger to the institution of marriage than LGBT people ever could be.