The House majority leader still can't explain why he chose to make the declaration Wednesday, but says he felt it was important to do so.
By LIZ ANDERSON
Journal State House Bureau
The Providence Journal
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PROVIDENCE - The e-mails have piled up in Rep. Gordon Fox's in-box: 35 within a matter of hours, and about 100 a day after that "from all over the country." He's received flowers from constituents, letters from colleagues, and a stack of telephone messages.
Virtually all were reaching out to congratulate and support the 42-year-old House majority leader and Providence Democrat, who for the first time on Wednesday night publicly announced that he is gay and in a six-year committed relationship with a man.
"It's been a tremendous response," he said yesterday of his declaration, made on the spur of the moment at a rally in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry.
"I think politics and public policy is really about that human dimension," Fox said, "and I think it's people that have been touched personally either they're in the same situation or a similar situation, or they're supportive of the concept of equal rights and [feel] that everyone should be treated the same."
"In that regard I think it's had a positive effect, and it's had an effect that I didn't plan, but would have intended had I planned it," he said.
In an interview in his office yesterday, Fox struggled to identify why he had not revealed his sexual orientation up until now. He said he's never been one to put his family on his political brochures to mix the personal with the political.
"I'm just private," he said. "I was brought up in a very private Irish, Cape Verdean, Catholic household where family business is family business. It stays within the four walls. You don't wear your heart on your sleeve."
"I've never hidden the fact that I had a partner, and have gone to events with him, [being] open and obvious in that sort of way with no real declaration," Fox said. "If somebody ever came up to me and asked me point-blank, it wouldn't be like I would lie to somebody."
Fox says he still can't explain why he decided to leave the ongoing House session on Wednesday to check out the boisterous gay-marriage rally, or take the microphone when it was handed to him under the State House rotunda.
Declaring he is gay is "not something I've ever been that motivated to do," he said, "but I thought it was important at that moment [at the rally] to be motivated to do it."
Shortly afterward, he called his partner to let him know their personal life was now public.
Was his partner supportive?
"Yes," Fox responded slowly, "only because he's out to friends, family, everyone who knows him. But we also share [that] we don't need to wear our relationship, again, on our sleeves."
Fox declined to say more about the man, calling him a private citizen, but acknowledged the ring he wears on his left hand is "a symbol of our connection."
"I have no plans of having a wedding ceremony, and that's a personal decision between two people, including myself and my partner," Fox said. "My support of this bill is to give people the option."
His partner is eligible for, but does not receive, health coverage through Fox's state plan, the lawmaker said. Fox has made the man the beneficiary of his will, but they have yet to set up other legal documents, such as health-care proxies, which would give them some of the rights afforded a heterosexual married couple.
They share a home on Gorton Street, in Fox's East Side district, and are accepted as a couple by their families.
Marriage, Fox said, is "an evolving concept, an evolving notion of society." He cites his own parents, an interracial couple, as having the type of union once banned in many states.
Fox said he's long been supportive of civil-rights issues "whether it's regarding sexual orientation, sex, gender, race, national origin . . . because I think that's what makes us a society respect for one another, and all these rights."
As a mixed-race child, he said, he was asked, "Are you white or are you black?" Now, "brown-skinned people are in. . . . What was, 30 years ago, thought of as a stigma is now a cool thing to be."
"It just shows society evolves in what society accepts," he said. "Human beings are progressive by nature, and they should be, and I think on this issue progress will dictate that at one point, some day it may not be now that same-sex marriages will be allowed."
Fox said, "I've always been comfortable with who I am, and I strive to be more comfortable every day." He said he never declared his sexual orientation directly to his family; they just seemed to know.
Raised Catholic, Fox served as an altar boy in his youth. He said he struggles with the church's position on gays and gay rights.
"A lot of what the church does is wonderful - a lot of the teachings of love and respect. You can take these things and say, 'They teach this, and why can't they get here?' " he said. "And trying to reconcile them is sometimes frustrating."
Fox said he believes few political associates were surprised by his announcement: "I think most people in the building had a feeling, or knew." But he says he is still touched by the comments he's received after becoming the only current, openly gay member of the legislature.
"It's a heavy burden," he said of that new label. "But I have sturdy shoulders."
He scrolled through some of the e-mails on his computer, at a reporter's request, reading them out loud.
"Bravo, Representative Fox it takes courage to stand in front of the public, media, and your peers and declare who you are and what you believe to be right," wrote a man in Providence.
"Good for you!" declared a correspondent from Bristol. "As a straight, married woman I hope you will take a stand to fight for the rights of gays and lesbians always."
Even "conservative-type legislators or traditionalists or whatever they like to call themselves have been, on a personal level, extremely supportive, congratulatory and very affectionate, and that means a lot to me," Fox said.
So down here at the very end, where only the diehards are still reading... We should perhaps make a distinction between sexual identity and sexual behavior.
The Toronto Star (The elephant in the room) went looking for explanations for, among other things, Larry Craig's assertion that "I'm not gay." The sources range from Freud to Kevin Alderson, associate professor of counselling psychology at the University of Calgary:
....Gay activists and others emphasize that the men most often caught in these compromising situations are not openly gay, but rather those who identify as heterosexual or are married. They may associate being gay with "anonymous, cheap gay sex" in places like bathrooms, "so they project (that) it's wrong and publicly state how immoral gay people are, because to them that's what being gay is about," says Alderson. "But that's not what it's about. People having sex in washrooms? It's mostly married men."