NYRB: Has Bolivian Veep Had Gay Relations? "Not Yet."
In the course of the 2004 American vice presidential candidates' debate, the subject of equality for gays and lesbians was broached by moderator Gwen Ifill and John Edwards stated a simple fact in his comments -- Mary Cheney is, gasp!, an out lesbian and her parents love her.
From the transcripts, as posted on the White House site:
MODERATOR: Next question goes to you, Mr. Vice President. I want to read something you said four years ago at this very setting: Freedom means freedom for everybody. You said it again recently when you were asked about legalizing same-sex unions and you used your family as an experience, your family experience as a context for your remarks. Can you describe, then, your administration's support for a constitutional ban on same-sex unions? [...]
SENATOR EDWARDS: [...] Let me say first that I think the Vice President and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy. And I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and so does John Kerry.
I also believe there should be partnership benefits for gay and lesbian couples in long-term, committed relationships. But we should not use the Constitution to divide this country. No state for the last 200 years has ever had to recognize another state's marriage. This is using the Constitution as a political tool, and it's wrong. [...]
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, Gwen, let me simply thank the Senator for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that, very much. [...]
You'll recall Mary's mom got all bent out of shape about this and the GOP propaganda machine geared up to use Edwards' statement as some sort of horrible remark, generating controversy for a number of days. All that sturm und drang, just because a female family member of one of the candidates happens to have sexual relations with another woman.
Well, let's fast forward to 2005 and one of Bolivia's vice presidential debates during which a gay-related matter was raised and controversy erupted.
From an illuminating essay in the Sept 21 edition of the New York Review of Books on Evo Morales and Bolivian politics, penned by Alma Guillermoprieto, which is available on the review's web site, for a $3 charge:
Even in an interview in the national palace at seven in the morning, the dapper, slender [Vice President Alvaro] Garcia Linera, forty-three, gives the air of a boulevardier holding forth at a cafe table. But even though he is lily-white, and, and he puts it, a member of the same social class as that sector of Bolivian society which in general despises Evo Morales, he was, for a few years, a militant in a fundamentalist Indian-rights guerrilla organization. Accused of bombing power lines, he served five years in jail before returning to his books and his life as a university professor. Nothing about him betrays his difficult and dogmatic past: unlike his boss, he is smiling and relaxed even in the face of hostile questioning.
In last year's vice-presidential debates he was asked by the moderators -- one suspects that this was not a neutral question -- whether he had ever engaged in "homosexual relations."
"Not yet," he answered nonchalantly.
The nation gasped.
I'm sure it did and reading about a national candidate, in any country, got me thinking. What if Gwen Ifill had asked Cheney or Edwards if they have ever experienced gay sexual activities, or same-sex attractions or emotions. Do you think America, not to mention the rest of the world, would gasp at such audacious questioning? Never mind that for a moment, and think about the reaction if such questions were posed and the candidate replied with cool demeanor, like Garcia Linera, or, gasp!, admitted he or she had engaged in same-sex relations.
Anyway, two snaps up to Garcia Lineria for not taking offense at the question last year and also leaving open the possibility that he may have homosexual relations in the future.