By Michael Nam
Another virulently anti-LGBT and pro “family values” legislator was revealed to be a hypocrite on Wednesday. Republican John Diehl was forced to step down from his powerful position as Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives after the Kansas City Star obtained texts of a sexual nature between Diehl and a female college intern in April and reported the story on May 13.
The married father of three children had a reputation in his job for being a staunch supporter of a gay-bashing legislative agenda. In February, Diehl joined in an amicus brief to defend Missouri’s anti-marriage equality law to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th District. The brief argues:
As a natural institution, marriage has always existed to channel the presumptive procreative potential of man-woman relationships into committed unions, to bind men to women and both to the children born of their union. Despite this enduring social purpose, some now seek to redefine marriage from a gendered to a genderless institution, while many others legitimately believe that such a change would obscure marriage’s animating purpose and undermine its social utility.
It does not appear that the definition of marriage presented by the brief is extended to an extramarital affair with a college intern.
His anti-LGBT crusade also targeted young people, however. As Right Wing Watch points out, the legislator co-sponsored a bill that would have banned LGBT-straight alliances in Missouri public schools stating: “Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no instruction, material, or extracurricular activity sponsored by a public school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific instruction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school.”
His public persona crusading against marriage equality, gay parenthood, employer contraception coverage mandates and LGBT teens did nothing to prevent texts that included innuendo, suggestive emojis, flirting language and photos of the intern in question.
Additionally, as someone who took “full responsibility” for his actions, it was curious that he initially seemed to be in no hurry to effectively remedy the situation as the Kansas City Star reported, “Diehl had issued a statement Wednesday afternoon admitting the relationship and asking for forgiveness. He told news media gathered outside his office later that night that he had no intention of resigning.”
After pressure mounted, Diehl finally announced he would be resigning as of Friday, May 15, “for the good of my party, the caucus, and this state.”
Aside from the fallout that has pained Diehl’s family and the intern, named Katie Graham according to the Kansas City Star, the internship program itself was jeopardized by the scandal.
The discovery of the text messages between Diehl and the intern followed a decision by Missouri Southern to end its Capitol internship program last month — more than a month prematurely.
The implication is that Missouri Southern State University had some awareness of a problem during the spring, but they could not comment directly on the issue due to privacy concerns. “This is the first time we have pulled all the interns,” the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Richard Miller, revealed. “Usually, when something happens, it is a problem with the interns themselves, but that was not the situation this year.”
With no plans to continue the program at this time, a family values politician may have killed a two-decade-old internship program for his young constituents to learn about the political process.
The hypocrisy of extremely ideological politicians is nothing new as was recently shown with another anti-LGBT legislator being discovered on a gay dating app. As recent data on millennials show, America has less reliance than ever before on organized religion, traditional institutions and outdated views on gender and sexuality being upheld by the current crop of far-right conservatives. The more often this hypocrisy on social issues gets exposed, the more isolated and diminished political parties, businesses and other institutions that uphold these views become.