Yesterday was a bad day for the gays. First, California’s Supreme Court ruled that the gay marriages performed in San Francisco were illegal and declared them void. Then, on the other side of the country, a popular governor’s seemingly heterosexual marriage also disintegrated before the nation’s eyes.

It’s no small coincidence that these two events happened on the same day. Jim McGreevey’s announcement that he was gay could’ve been a powerful statement of equality, at once an inspiration to gay kids of what they can accomplish and a declaration to the world at large that sexuality is an irrelevant issue when it comes to public service. But McGreevey didn’t stop at outing himself. Instead, he announced his resignation, as if this were a foregone conclusion, as if being gay were incompatible with serving in public office. And then came the news that what motivated all of this was a clandestine affair capped off with an extortion plot. So much for gay empowerment.

The sad thing is that Jim McGreevey seems to see being gay as his problem. Now that people know his private secret, he can no longer live a public life. Instead, his problem — and his apparent solution to it — were both rooted in deep, crippling shame. His mind is still buried in a time where homosexuality needed to be hidden, where a good gay did the smart thing and married a woman, then inevitably cheated on her and ruined her life as well as his.

That’s why it’s so sad that all of this had to happen the same day California ruled that this is the only kind of marriage gays can legally enter. If Gavin Newsome’s brave move a few months back was our one step up, I think we just had our two steps back.

What really bothers me is a quote in this article from Alice Whitman Leeds of P-FLAG. She says, “Coming out always takes an incredible amount of bravery… we applaud and appreciate his stand.” You can call McGreevey’s announcement and his resignation a lot of things, but I’m stunned anyone would call him brave. He outed himself only out of fear and necessity, and in the process, he ruined any opportunity he may have had for heroism. A hero doesn’t run away when he’s needed the most. A hero is someone we look up to, and I pity anyone who looks up to Jim McGreevey. We can find better heroes. P-FLAG should know better.

Ultimately, what people do with their sexuality is their own business. And now New Jersey’s governor can return to a more sheltered life where he can handle who he is in his own way. He wants his privacy; let’s give it to him.

Jim McGreevey is the past. Here’s to the future.

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