Sen. Tom Coburn has a column up in The Advocate about health care. His argument is asinine (the private health care system is great for people with HIV, particularly the individual market, that we should further empower it), but that's not really the point.
Tom Coburn had a 0% rating from HRC in 2008 and 2006. Yeah, I know there are problems with that scorecard, but you don't get a 0% just for voting against ENDA to force trans-inclusion or for having serious objections to a specific bill HRC supports. You get that sort of score because you're an unserious homophobe.
Tom Coburn has lovely thoughts about lesbians:
In the tape released by the campaign of Brad Carson, the Democratic candidate, Coburn says a campaign worker from Coalgate told him that "lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that's happened to us?"
And Tom Coburn wants us to worry about "the greatest threat to our freedom," which is the "gay agenda":
The gay community has infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country, and they wield extreme power ... That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today. Why do you think we see the rationalization for abortion and multiple sexual partners? That's a gay agenda.
Tom Coburn employs a chief of staff who has some of the wingnuttiest ideas about what turns people gay:
I had a very good friend who was in the homosexual lifestyle for a long time and then he had a religious conversion in the eighties. And he bought a old motel and turned it into a hospice for some of his former associates who were dying of AIDS. He helped, he helped almost 300 men die. This man was a real hero. But he knew that he wasn't as healed as he thought he was. He was able to resist temptation. He was able to resist sin. But he wasn't healed enough to take on the responsibilities of marriage. And he was a brilliant man in the sense that he knew himself. And he knew his limits. And he and I had good conversations about, about the malady that he suffered. And one of the things that he said to me, that I think is an astonishingly insightful remark. He said, "all pornography is homosexual pornography because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards. Now think about that. And if you, if you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he's going to want to go out and get a copy of Playboy? I'm pretty sure he'll lose interest. That's the last thing he wants." You know, that's a, that's a good comment. It's a good point and it's a good thing to teach young people.
His name is Jim Johnson. He's a friend of mine. He ran an organization called Beyond Rejection Ministries. And I consider him one of the most heroic men I've ever met. But all pornography is homosexual pornography because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards. And that in fact is what it does. I know couples now who are struggling with the husband's addiction to pornography. It's a terrible thing. And that's what happens. And, you know, if it doesn't turn you homosexual, it at least renders you less capable of loving your wife. And it's something you need to be healed of.
In 1997, Tom Coburn introduced a law, which thankfully went nowhere, that would have nationalized the way Medicaid is run related to HIV/AIDS. You know, the exact opposite of what he's arguing in The Advocate. That's just one of the smaller problems, since he also wanted to ban anonymous HIV testing:
A federal mandate requiring states to report the identities of everyone testing positive for HIV would eliminate anonymous testing options, including newly-approved HIV home sample collection kits. States and local communities have adopted a broad range of testing options to encourage people to come forward to be tested without fear of loss of privacy. A 1996 study of 2000 individuals tested at anonymous test sites in California found that 80% said they would not have consented to be tested if their names were to be "confidentially" reported to the state health department. And when Oregon state switched from "confidential" names reporting to anonymous testing, the number of individuals seeking testing increased significantly. Studies have documented higher rates of testing and higher rates of positive test results at anonymous testing sites.
He also wanted to make it legal for health care workers and funeral homes to refuse to serve HIV-positive people:
The HIV Prevention Act allows medical professionals to refuse treatment to a patient unless the patient is tested for HIV.[...] Testing does not establish the current HIV status of the patient because of the window period between infection and development of antibodies. The best approach to preventing HIV transmission from patient to health care worker or vice versa is through adherence to universal precautions. The American Hospital Association and the American Nurse's Association both oppose blanket screening because it does not provide meaningful protection for health care workers.
His bill would have also significantly increased the amount of testing Ryan White CARE Act money had to go to without increasing overall funding, thus driving money away from meds for poor people (which contradicts, again, his entire complaint in The Advocate):
It provides no new money to finance any of these initiatives. It has only a nonbinding resolution to protect the confidentiality of test results. It provides no non-punitive HIV prevention measures, such as prevention campaigns directed to gay men. It makes no provision for following testing and notification with health care. It provides no money, for example, to make protease inhibitors available to those who test positive. (Protease inhibitors are still unaffordable and inaccessible for the majority of those with HIV.)
Tom Coburn receives huge amounts of money from health care and health care related industries, providing him hundreds of thousands of great reasons to lie to prevent health care reform:
Tom Coburn lied in Congress in order to disparage condoms:
During his 40-minute slideshow, Coburn avoided any spiritual overtones and spoke in his usual brisk clinical way. Still, Smith detected bias, taking issue, for example, with Coburn's contention that condoms are only 69 percent effective in preventing HIV; Smith says the latest studies show condoms to be 99 percent effective.
But Smith did give Coburn credit for saying during the question-and-answer portion, "Condoms do reduce the risk of transmission, and they work very well against HIV. If you decide to do any risky sexual behavior, use a condom." Being a family doctor adds a dose of realism to his view; Coburn mentioned that he recently delivered a baby to a 12-year-old.
He is, more generally, an anti-sex nut:
During his time in the House during the late 1990s, and then as co-chairman of President George W. Bush's Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS, Coburn (who is an antiabortion obstetrician from Muskogee) spearheaded a campaign to undermine public confidence in condom use. The campaign culminated with a press release he headlined, "Condoms Do Not Prevent Most STDs." When Coburn ran for the Senate in 2004, he campaigned on a hardcore antiabortion platform, declaring in a debate against his Democratic opponent, Brad Carson, that he favored the death penalty for "abortionists."
Unrelated to LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues, Tom Coburn is a known liar (this Rachel Maddow clip has a lot more about his fundamentalist wingnuttiness):
Finally, Tom Coburn is a breath-takingly immature human being:
As a congressman in 1997, Coburn protested NBC's plan to air the R-rated Academy Award-winning Holocaust drama Schindler's List during prime time. Coburn stated that, in airing the movie without editing it for television, TV had been taken "to an all-time low, with full-frontal nudity, violence and profanity." He also said the TV broadcast should outrage parents and decent-minded individuals everywhere. Coburn described the airing of Schindler's List on television as "...irresponsible sexual behavior...I cringe when I realize that there were children all across this nation watching this program."
So why does The Advocate represent him as some kind of honest expert on the subjects of HIV/AIDS, health care policy, and LGBT health care issues? We know that he doesn't much like us, that he sees HIV as an ideological playground, and that he lies when he wants to push his agenda forward. Here's all that The Advocate says about him:
Tom Coburn, M.D., is the Republican junior U.S. senator from Oklahoma.
My argument here isn't that The Advocate should only allow people who toe the LGBT ally-line to publish columns in their magazine. But since there's already plenty of homophobia in the mainstream media, they shouldn't give that sort of rhetoric a bigger platform. Especially when it's coming from someone particularly dishonest with plenty of reasons to lie to the LGBT community about health care. Many people in the community might not be following the health care debate, and might not know who Tom Coburn is, and The Advocate did a disservice to those readers who rely on LGBT media to at least present fair, knowledgeable, and generally pro-LGBT analysis.
More to the point, while he doesn't have to be an "ally" to have something interesting to say to us, when we get to the point where a person is fantasizing about schools being afraid of lesbian orgies and secret networks of homosexuals being the biggest threat to "our freedom," that person has lost the privilege of addressing the LGBT community as anything but an enemy.