Somewhere in Southwestern Virginia lives a Republican lawmaker with a distinctively anti-LGBT voting record and a clean-shaven torso, who recently used Grindr for at least one potential hook-up, according to an out journalist in Richmond, Va.
Brad Kutner, web editor at GayRVA.com, wrote in an open letter to this so-far anonymous member of the General Assembly that he was alerted to the man's presence on the gay cruising site by a "young man" in college that the politician "hit up on Grindr" over the weekend.
According to screengrabs posted by Kutner, the House member posted a shirtless photo of himself, identified himself as staying at the downtown Richmond, Va. Omni hotel and said he was "not looking forward to the storm haha," in reference to a snowstorm that paralyzed the region over the weekend.
Kutner wrote that with those clues he was able to identify the lawmaker and questioned his stance on several issues that the editor said he voted against, including adoption, LGBT discrimination on campus and in the workplace, and the appointment of an out judge named on the website as Judge Thorn-Begland.
On adoption, Kutner challenged the politician directly:
"Do you ever want to have kids? You voted to make it harder for same-sex couples to adopt by allowing state funded adoption agencies to deny adoptions to people that violate their moral 'conscience.'
"Even if you don't want children some day, you have made it damn near impossible for the people you're trying to sleep with to do the same here in Virginia."
And Kutner was clearly amused by his discovery, as he wrote directly to the Republican:
"What college did you go to? (I actually know, I googled you!)"
"On a lighter note, your torso is actually not bad and I shall give you credit for staying in shape."
Although the kind of detailed voting record Kutner outlined ought to make it easy to identify the politician, Kutner stopped short of outing him. The letter he wrote concluded with a note from the editor explaining why:
"'Outing' someone is not something to be taken lightly and often comes off as tacky or vengeful. The legislator we're addressing with this letter has a voting record which would make an openly gay man shake their head in disgust, but he hasn't been specifically vocal on LGBTQ issues. This is one of the reasons we're choosing to leave them anonymous, however we hope this message reaches their desk and they'll consider the words below if and when they have a chance to vote on LGBTQ related bills in the future."
On his blog, writer Dan Savage took a stand in favor of outing the lawmaker, although he himself did not do so:
"I disagree: this legislator's votes against workplace protections for LGBT people, adoption rights for same-sex couples, and the judicial appointment of a qualified out gay man speak loudly of his hypocrisy and the the particular kind of damage done when closeted conservatives abuse their political power to protect their closets. We've heard this song about a thousand times before."
Kutner wrote that his mission in writing the letter was not humiliation but to send a message:
"Now I really wasn't aiming to embarrass you with this letter, but I just want you to know we're out there and we aren't gonna blow you when you blow your chance to do some good for the community.
Coming out is a personal choice, but when you've been given the kind of power you now have, it's pretty disappointing."
As Savage wrote, even if the lawmaker somehow remains anonymous, his next vote on issues important to the LGBT community could seal his fate:
"If he casts another anti-LGBT vote, GAYRVA will out him. But if he pulls a 180 and suddenly starts casting pro-LGBT votes, he'll be outing himself. Checkmate either way."