Threatened "outing" of Senator protected by 1st Am? Or
unprotecte d extortion?
schweber at polisci.wisc.edu
Tue Jan 31 10:03:50 PST 2006
I hate it when I agree with Mark. Seriously, it makes my feet itch and I
break out in hives. (If I cannot depend on designated others to be always
and perfectly wrong, how can I maintain my certainty in my own perfect
And yet . . .
I say it's blackmail -- a threat to reveal damaging personal information
unless the victim acts or refrains from acting in accordance with the
instructions of the party making the threat. I haven't checked any
criminal statutes, but I am willing to bet that in at least some
jurisdictions the laws are sufficiently broadly worded that this action
could be prosecuted as a crime.
I think that outing is a cruel practice under any circumstances. That does
not mean that it is never justified. Where an elected official seeks
office by presenting him or herself as a paragon of personal moral virtue,
and makes homosexuality in others a sign of a lack of such virtue, then the
cruelty may be justified as a classic application of Thomistic just war
principles. (Did I just cite a Christian saint?! What is happening to me
But threatening such a revelation in order to compel an action is
blackmail, and when the action in question is a vote cast by a
representative it is doubly repulsive, as a matter of democratic as well as
Dept. of Political Science
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