Op Ed: Wes Goodman Should Have Resigned but not for Sleeping With Men

Illustration by MJ Eckhouse. Pixabay/Joshua Rothaas (CC-BY-2.0).

Ohio State Representative Wes Goodman (R-Cardington) has resigned after someone informed the House Chief of Staff about an “inappropriate” incident between Goodman and another man in Goodman’s office.

We know basically nothing about the incident. It could have been a kiss on the cheek or it could have been a mini-rave. There just aren’t many details available, which may be for the best. Even other lawmakers don’t know much about what happened between Goodman and this unidentified man.

What we do know is that the activity was consensual. This is important, because conflating this affair with the other recent, high-profile sexual misconduct cases would be a mistake. An extramarital affair isn’t ethical by any stretch, but comparing this to other politicians being exposed for sexual assault and pedophilia is incorrect. Consensual sexual activity is not resignation-worthy, though, in this case, it may be divorce-worthy.

While the incident provoking his resignation was consensual, not all of Goodman’s encounters have been, apparently. After the initial story broke, the Washington Post reported that Goodman fondled a sleeping 18-year-old at a conservative fundraising event in 2015. And a Republican operative accused Goodman of targeting young men who saw him as a role model to help further their careers, and intimidating those men into staying silent about his predatory behavior, according to cleveland.com

However, the House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, who encouraged Goodman’s resignation, claimed through a spokesman that he had no knowledge of these additional accusations and that Goodman was asked to step down because his actions didn’t align with the socially conservative platform of Ohio Republicans.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe wholeheartedly that Goodman should have resigned. Where I disagree is that he resigned over this incident, rather than his inability to properly serve his constituents.

Goodman has posted photos supporting an anti-gay group called Focus on the Family. His website, before it was taken down, advocated for “natural marriage,” a dog-whistle homophobic term. He’s a member of the NRA. He was endorsed by Ohio Right to Life and is affiliated with a pro-life pregnancy center (businesses which often pose as abortion clinics to trick pregnant people into listening to anti-abortion propaganda) called Voice of Hope. He sponsored a bill to urge the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. All of these policies are bad for Ohioans and any one of them is grounds for resignation. If he resigned because he’s bad at his job, that would be one thing, but he shouldn’t have to resign over his sexuality.

This happens A LOT. There’s an entire documentary about homophobic politicians who’ve been caught with their pants down with the people they publicly shame and legislate against. The documentary, “Outrage,” is available on Netflix. Since it was released in 2009, it’s missing a few names. Among those are Randy Boehning, a North Dakota state legislator who was caught sending unsolicited private pictures to a man on Grindr in 2015 and Steve Wiles, a North Carolinian politician who supported the state’s marriage ban a decade after working as a drag queen in a gay club. Ranker even has a top 16 list of anti-gay activists who were caught in same-sex relationships. For Goodman’s sake, we can only hope that there’s never a Roy Zimmerman song written about him.

While it can be nice to watch powerful anti- people fall, we should be extremely careful with the precedents we’re setting here. If Goodman had been caught with a woman in his office, would he have been reported? If he’d been reported, would he have resigned? Probably not. He might have been embarrassed but he would likely have continued as a lawmaker. We shouldn’t embrace the idea that having consensual sex with a person of the same sex is grounds for removal from office. And neither is the idea that a person’s sex life is more indicative of their ability to serve the public than their policies.

As a disclaimer, it is definitely inappropriate for any person to have sex in their office, around their coworkers, outside of a marriage where they vowed to be loyal, etc. Those are all issues that Goodman will have to work out with the people in his life. However, it’s important that we take a look at exactly what caused him to step down, because it seems unlikely for a lawmaker to resign over a simple affair.

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