Schlafly's Son: Out Of The Gop Closet

Long before "family values" became an election year mantra for the Republican Party, Phyllis Schlafly was a frontline soldier for the conservative social agenda. The founder of the influential Eagle Forum has waged war against abortion, the equal rights amendment, sex education in the public schools and so-called alternative lifestyles. At the GOP convention in Houston last month she supported the party platform's condemnation of same sex marriages and gay civil rights. But last week her 41 year-old son confirmed that Schlafly's own family life has been something less than the Ozzie and Harriet ideal so righteously extolled by conservatives. In an interview with the San Francisco Examiner, Schlafly's son acknowledged that he was gay.

However, John Schlafly, an attorney who lives with his parents in Alton, Ill., emerged from the closet with indignation not for conservatives but for other gays. He steadfastly defended the Republican platform and his mother, who he said was "not a monster." He told The Washington Post that "a band of screechy gay activists and Washington based pressure groups" had hysterically overreacted to events in Houston."The truth is: family-values people, of which my mother is a part, are not out to bash gay people," said Schlafly, who was "outed" earlier this month by QW, a New York-based gay weekly. He even had praise for former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, who encouraged GOP delegates to wage a "cultural war" on homosexuals.

Gay leaders lauded Schlafly's coming out but offered no support for his politics or for his defense of his mother. "While his is an important step, I have to respectfully disagree with his defense of the indefensible," says Urvashi Vaid, president of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Phyllis Schlafly is not a disinterested bystander. She is one of a handful of leaders of the far right."

Schlafly stopped short of supporting her son's sexual orientation last week. " I love my son," she told the Post. "But all my children are adults and lead their own lives." She also scoffed at suggestions that she's a hypocrite, calling herself "the most tolerant person in the world." She said her political enemies were trying to exact revenge by exploiting her son. " I think it's obviously a political hit to me, the whole story," she said. " I was extremely successful in Houston and a lot of people are unhappy about that." While anti-gay and "family values" rhetoric raged in Houston, Republicans have softened some of their stronger attacks after polling data warned that i was alienating moderates.

While the GOP may be backpedaling, Phyllis SchlafIy isn't likely to follow. In an interview with NEWSWEEK editors and reporters in Houston last month, Schlafly was asked whether she could ever ally herself with uncloseted gay conservatives who agree with her on the issues. " If they get elected to some position, that probably is not a problem. Or if I don't know about it, it isn't a problem. I'm certainly not going to seek them out." Now Phyllis Schlafly doesn't have to look much farther than under her own roof.