It’s been one of those rumors in South Carolina that has never gone away: Is U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham gay?
Much like what was once known as the “worst kept secret in the Palmetto State” with the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, a longtime segregationist, being the father of a biracial daughter, South Carolinians have often gossiped about Graham, the 59-year-old resident of Seneca, S.C., who has never married and has no children.
For a national politician, being single with no children is unusual.
A little too unusual.
So, for decades, there have been speculations about Graham’s sexuality.
Last month, one of the candidates running against Graham for the U.S. Senate in S.C. brought the issue to the table again.
“It’s about time that South Carolina says, ‘Hey, we’re tired of the ambiguously gay senator from South Carolina,’” said Dave Feliciano, an Iraq war vet who is running for the U.S. Senate seat.
That one statement got Feliciano, a long-shot candidate to say the least, immediate national attention.
Graham, who has been a long-time opponent of same-sex marriage and voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2013, once again had his sexuality challenged in public.
But the Republican senator has always denied the rumors about him being a homosexual.
In fact, about four years ago, Graham directly answered the question posed by The New York Times.
“I know it’s really gonna upset a lot of gay men,” Graham reportedly said. “I’m sure hundreds of ‘em are gonna be jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge — but I ain’t available.”
After Feliciano’s comment in March, the national website, thedailybeast.com, interviewed Feliciano about his “ambiguously gay” comment.
Feliciano told The Daily Beast that he got the idea from watching the old Saturday Night Live skit called, “The Ambiguously Gay Duo.”
“I thought it was kind of funny,” Feliciano told The Daily Beast. “It means that he says he’s not [gay], but based on public perception and internet searches, it appears that he is. I don’t know one way or the other.”
Feliciano also insisted to The Daily Beast that he was not homophobic.
“I love gay people,” Feliciano told The Daily Beast. “If you go to my website, I have a whole spot on there about what I think about homosexuals. I have some dear friends that I cherish, and I’ve actually put this to them and said, ‘Hey, what do you guys think [about Senator Graham]?’ And they said, ‘Man, that guy’s gay!'”
Just this week, the conversation about gay politicians in South Carolina continued.
Charlie Smith, an activist from Charleston, S.C., wrote a letter to the editor to The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.
“South Carolina’s gay citizens have learned in the past two months that we have no right to be present in the literature or even the policies of our public colleges,” Smith wrote. “We are unfit for service on the boards of trustees, and the Legislature has the right to cut funding of public colleges that have policies that in any way allow their closeted lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students to come to new and positive understandings of themselves.
“The shame is that the Legislature has no means of dealing with its own closeted gay members; aka hypocrites who use their closets for snipers’ nests. If they are that obsessed with rooting out homosexuality, perhaps our legislators should start by disclosing and discrediting their closeted colleagues, and leave our colleges alone.”
Smith wrote that there are homosexuals throughout South Carolina’s executive and judicial branches.
“There are lots of folks they could start with, all in the Republican Party,” Smith wrote. “Who gets to be first, guys?”
But, again, this is far from the first time that questions about Republicans and Graham’s sexuality have come up.
When GQ magazine asked Graham about his sexuality in 2006, he simply said he was not gay, just a loner.
In 2007, the Charleston City Paper wrote a lengthy story about whether Graham was hiding in the closest.
The paper wrote that Charlie Smith, a Charleston realtor who ran for the Statehouse as an openly gay man, said these “closeted politicians” are walking a thin line and certain political positions harmful to the gay community could prompt activists to address the hypocrisy.
But Smith said he did not support such actions.
“I’m not a believer in outing,” Smith told the Charleston City Paper. “People have a right to deal with this in their own time.”
But the rumors continue.
During Graham’s 2002 election to the U.S. Senate, state Democratic Party Chair Dick Harpootlian was one of the first to openly question his sexuality, stating that Graham was “a little too light in the loafers to fill Strom Thurmond’s shoes.”
Shortly after, Harpootlian backed off the comment, claiming he didn’t know what the term meant.
Right. Sure he didn’t.
Ignorance is always a good excuse.
Only Graham knows who shares his bed, but when the rumors continue each and every election year, it may be time for the senator to consider asking a closet organizer to draw him a map.