Closeted Gays and Public Office

It would follow logic that if one is gay that person would promote gay rights and health in the gay community, that is, unless the person is in the closet and in public office. Ed Koch was the seated mayor of New York City when the first lethal wave of the AIDs epidemic hit the gay community. It was not until after Koch’s death that the public voiced their anguish over Koch’s absent public policy on addressing the AIDs epidemic and most attribute Koch’s stance as that of a closeted gay man trying to “eliminate any whiff of homosexuality from his profile.”

Although Koch never publicly came out as a gay man, his sexual orientation remained suspected his whole life. Since 1977, Koch put energies towards squashing any rumors on his sexuality and reporters and activists in the gay community withheld publicly outing Koch because one’s sexual orientation is his or her’s privacy. Koch garnered near equal attention for his failure in taking public action on the AIDs epidemic. The gay community had no outlet for risk reduction or health education, let alone fair access to hospitals and treatment. Koch’s New York City spent $24,500 on AIDs compared to San Francisco’s 4.3 million.

The Society of Professional Journalists states that journalists should be accountable to the public but still minimize the harm of their subjects. The question, only debated in public after Koch’s death, was whether his suspected hidden sexual orientation affected his public policy towards the gay community. As a journalist, would you have published opinion on Koch’s sexual orientation in order to address an epidemic ravaging a community with no public voice? Or, is one’s sexual orientation private and therefore should never be published on?


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