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Originally published Friday, May 13, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Danny Westneat

It's not because Spokane Mayor Jim West is gay

Meet the state's newest, most fired-up crusader for gay rights: Spokane Mayor Jim West. In the week following the news that the conservative...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Meet the state's newest, most fired-up crusader for gay rights: Spokane Mayor Jim West.

In the week following the news that the conservative Republican may have molested boys in the '70s and is cruising for barely adult males now, West has transmogrified himself into a gay-pride activist. "I am being destroyed because I am a gay man," West told The Spokesman-Review.

Then he sent an e-mail to an anti-discrimination task force, in which he agonized over who in society is worth protecting.

"Does that include people who have an internal struggle with who they are sexually and are searching for a way to come out and are torn by a desire to be out and a fear of what happens if they are?" he wrote.

"Should we not stand up for justice — even for those we despise? Because if we don't, who will stand up for us?"

Next he'll be riding a float in the pride parade.

It's all a bit hard to take from a guy who once co-sponsored a bill to bar homosexuals from being teachers or day-care workers.

It also shows that Jim West still doesn't get it.

Neither, though, do some of his harshest political critics.

This scandal has not one thing to do with West's sexual orientation. He is not being destroyed for being gay.

Switch the gender and see what you think. If he'd allegedly abused 8-year-old girls, cruised the Web for 18-year-old girls, given a job to a 23-year-old woman he met online and then hounded her for dates and offered her $300 to swim with him naked, don't you bet he'd still be in trouble?

Yet some insist the story is West's gayness and how it contradicts his right-wing policies.

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"The hypocrisy, cynicism and lies upon which Mr. West built his political career harmed homosexuals in our state, and his sexual orientation is thus a legitimate topic for discussion," Mike Kress of the Spokane Human Rights Commission wrote in The Spokesman-Review paper.

Well, it's out, so we might as well talk about it. But I don't see why the hetero legislators who tried to ban gays from teaching aren't just as repugnant, and culpable, as West.

I also find troubling this notion that consistency between your personal and public life trumps all else, including the presumption of privacy.

Are we now going to out the sexual orientations of all 25 state senators who voted against the gay-rights bill, to see if they are hypocrites, too?

Do we ask all female politicians whether they've had abortions, to see if their lives match their voting records?

So West is a hypocrite. So what? Hypocrisy is among the most meaningless charges in politics. West is finished, but let's be clear why — potential child molestation and abuse of his office to get dates.

But if the legacy of this scandal is that consistency between public and private is paramount, and to prove it we're willing to further invade people's bedrooms, then aren't we just as bad as the lawmakers who want government to regulate our private lives?

You know, people like Jim West.

Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Friday.

Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com.

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About Danny Westneat

Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the Puget Sound region's news, people and politics. Send tips or comments to dwestneat@seattletimes.com. His column runs Wednesday and Sunday.
dwestneat@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2086

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