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Views & Voices

Former S.C. Governor Mark Sanford: No gays on the Appalachian Trail

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

“This was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story. A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day.”

Mark Sanford, June 30, 2009

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford knows a thing or two about forbidden love. In the summer of 2009, he told his wife and staff he was going to hike the Appalachian Trail, disappeared, and was found days later coming off a flight from Argentina, where he had gone to visit the woman who was his “soul mate.”

Mark Sanford

Four years later, after a tearful resignation, a bitter divorce and a period of soul-searching on his family’s farm, he is engaged to the woman he loves and staging a political comeback — yesterday he won the Republican nomination for South Carolina’s open House seat.

Sanford’s own experience, you would think, would make him a natural ally of anyone whose unconventional love story has been the object of public scrutiny. Yet, when it comes to gays and lesbians, the former governor’s allegiance lies with the Republican Right Wing rather than with his romantic, Appalachian Trail-hiking free spirit.

During his three terms in Congress, Sanford voted both to impeach President Bill Clinton over his extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky and to approve the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. On his Clinton vote, he has since repented, saying, “I’m going to worry about the log in my own eye before I worry about the splinter in somebody else’s.” But on same-sex marriage, why has Sanford dug in his heels, saying this weekend that he opposes efforts to overturn DOMA and that he would support a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality?

Many anti-gay activists habitually compare homosexuality to adultery, but seem to have infinitely greater reserves of tolerance for the latter. Idaho Republican Larry Craig was laughed out of the Senate when he was caught in a Minneapolis airport gay sex sting. Louisiana Republican David Vitter is still going strong in the Senate six years after he admitted to patronizing female prostitutes.

To be sure, the comparison between homosexuality and adultery is offensive. But if the Right is going to use it, they should at least be consistent.

Instead, Mark Sanford perfectly encapsulates the particular sanctimony the Right reserves for homosexuality. Republican politicians perfected this selective intolerance back when gay people were a convenient political punching bag – an unfamiliar other with whom the majority could not immediately identify. Since then, gay people have come out of the closet in droves and most Americans have come to embrace gay rights. But the GOP is sticking with its reflex condemnation of gay people.

Does it trouble Mark Sanford or give him any pause at all as he goes from being the ambassador of international love back to his embrace of a position that is now laughingly hypocritical? It appears that Sanford believes marriage should be between one man and one woman, then an Argentinian woman.

Perhaps he should revisit an interview he gave to CNN’s Piers Morgan in 2011, in which he described a dark time after his resignation:

Sanford: [It was in] the middle of the storm where I thought I might be stoned to death if any woman saw me. And I was in Sumter, South Carolina. And this big black woman was walking down the street, and she put her arms out, and said do you need a hug. I had little choice in the matter, she was bigger than I was.

Morgan: How did that make you feel?

Sanford: It was fabulous. It was fabulous. I think we all need grace and we all need love. There’s plenty of judgment to go around and there’s certainly a role by folks in the media and others to be played in getting things uncovered and wrongs right, but I think that there is abiding need for human grace and love. I got it that day on the street and I’ve gotten many times since then with people across my state.

It is true that “we all need grace and we all need love.” Another thing we could all use is a little bit of self-awareness and a lot less pious sanctimony and blatant hypocrisy.

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31 more reader comments:

  1. I suppose Sanford can’t go there….

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:40am
  2. I guess he was too busy cheating on his wife to notice us queers who do hike it,

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:40am
  3. I can’t wait to hear him defend “traditional” marriage in a debate with Busch Colbert!!

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:41am
  4. How would he know? He’s never been to the Appalachian Trail. but he’s been to Argentina where gays are treated like equals.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:41am
  5. Just another bigot in office.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:43am
  6. You SUCK Sanford !

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:44am
  7. Anothrr gop douche…hypocrite

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:45am
  8. Hypocrite!

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:46am
  9. ahhhhh… so glad hes not the gov of our state ne more

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:46am
  10. He is the kind of man who gives men in general a bad name. A weaselly little coward without the fortitude to live by the moral principles which he is happy to apply to others and codify in law.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:47am
  11. The one in the eastern US or the one in Argentina?

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:49am
  12. Disgusting man!

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:49am
  13. Fine…a public adulter…seems a right wise bloke…NOT!

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:49am
  14. This man( and I use that term loosely as he certainly hasn’t acted like a real man) has an opinion that I could care less about and is someone who doesn’t deserve our time.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:55am
  15. What kind of wing nut are you Sanford … ??? Those who have their heads buried in the sand are soon left behind … Stick with the head in the sand bit, it appears to be working wonder for ya Big Guy … !!!

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:56am
  16. Someone ought to feed his ass to the lions at the zoo.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:57am
  17. Shame!

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:57am
  18. Oh, I guess it

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:58am
  19. but its alright for him to be married and go to another country and screw another woman (who knows if it was a woman) then he divorces his wife and brings the other woman over here YOU SUCK AIR

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:58am
  20. Hey Sanford…Go back to Argentina ur a douche …Once a cheater always a cheater

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:59am
  21. dumb!

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 10:01am
  22. And Sanford the philanderer chimes in……..

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 10:09am
  23. Sanford is a frigging creep and i hope his doesn’t wing the election. If it does it says allot of the mentality of the SC population who vote.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 10:14am
  24. I’m so relieved that the GOP is such a staunch defender of family values.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 10:19am
  25. Hmmmm, i suppose he never encountered myself and 25 of my gay friends hiking in the Appalachains…or ever been near Dollywood, half the performers that work there are LGBT.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 10:24am
  26. WE DON’T CARE!

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 10:40am
  27. I wonder if he has seen this article. I hope he reads it and really considers what it says.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 10:45am
  28. Only half- LOL!

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 11:03am
  29. He has “sinned” more than any gay man.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 11:08am
  30. I grew up in SC. Sanford is a prime example of the people who continue to live there.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 11:25am
  31. Disgusting hypocrite

    Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 1:16pm