FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Former U.S. Rep. Robert Bauman, a Republican who represented Maryland’s mostly rural Eastern Shore district from 1973 to 1981, was known at the time as a champion of conservative causes.
Today, more than 30 years after a gay sex scandal led to his ouster from office, he lives in the upscale gay enclave of Wilton Manors, a small city located just outside Fort Lauderdale.
In an interview with the Washington Blade on the eve of Florida’s Republican presidential primary, Bauman said he remains committed to conservative and libertarian principles but has shunned politics since 1982.
“I think both parties are miserable,” he said. “I don’t know what they stand for any more.”
Bauman added, “I think they mirror each other. I think they are both completely enthralled to Wall Street and the banks. I think they are controlled by the people that contribute money to them. And that goes for Obama and it goes for Gingrich.”
“The only thing you can say for Romney is that he’s rich enough that maybe he won’t be influenced by that,” said Bauman. “I hate to say it, but I think he’s probably the least influenced by them because of his religion.”
Bauman, an attorney, said he voted earlier this month for GOP presidential contender Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas, as a “protest vote.” He said Paul’s outspoken call for reforming the nation’s politics and economic policies represents a refreshing alternative to the other candidates, even though Bauman acknowledges some of Paul’s proposals are unrealistic.
When asked about former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, the fourth remaining contender in the GOP presidential race, Bauman shrugged and said he considered him “no better or no worse” than Romney or Gingrich.
Bauman noted that some people he knows who share his disappointment over the current state of U.S. politics no longer vote because they believe it “lends credence” to a lousy system.
“I don’t feel that way. I’ll keep fighting until I go,” he said.
In October 1980, then-U.S. Rep. Robert Bauman was widely believed to be the most conservative member of the House of Representatives.
Admirers and critics alike recognized him as an articulate and formidable opponent of the Democrats who controlled both Congress and the White House at the time.
But later that month, his status as a champion of conservative Republican causes and an admired husband and father of four children came crashing down. News surfaced that the FBI and D.C. police accused him of soliciting sex from a 16-year-old male prostitute who apparently used fake identification to land a job as a stripper in a D.C. gay bar called the Chesapeake House, the place where Bauman met him.
Just four weeks before Bauman was expected to win re-election to a fourth term in Congress by a lopsided margin, he pleaded “no contest” in federal court to a misdemeanor charge of solicitation for prostitution. Under a plea bargain arrangement for first-time offenders, authorities called for a sentence of just six months probation, with no jail time, after which the charge was dropped.
As an interesting aside, Bauman said he was represented in court by Baltimore attorney Tom O’Malley, the father of Maryland’s current governor, Martin O’Malley.
Following what Bauman has called a grueling four-week climax to his election campaign, in which longtime supporters turned against him, he lost his race for re-election to Democrat Roy Dyson.
At the urging of loyal supporters, Bauman threw his hat in the ring for a comeback in the 1982 election. But he was immediately challenged in the Republican primary by a former state senator who seized on the sex scandal that led to Bauman’s defeat two years earlier.
“It was almost totally a personal campaign based on what happened to me,” Bauman said. “And with three of my kids still living with me and my wife and I separating, I just said to myself, that’s enough, and I withdrew. And I almost won the primary six weeks after I withdrew. My name was still on the ballot.”
His opponent in the primary lost overwhelmingly to Dyson in the November election.
“So that was my last activity in politics,” Bauman said.
Over the next four years Bauman started a private law practice in Washington; worked briefly as a lobbyist for the newly created Gay Rights National Lobby, the forerunner to the Human Rights Campaign; and wrote a book called “The Gentleman from Maryland: The Conscience of a Gay Conservative.”
The book, published in 1986, has been praised by conservatives and liberals as an honest and painful account of Bauman’s struggle with his sexual orientation and alcoholism.
Shortly after his book was published Bauman moved to Florida to take a job as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs office outside St. Petersburg. He said he left that job about a year later after deciding he was no longer interested in working within the federal bureaucracy.
He next went to work as a freelance writer and attorney for a libertarian-oriented publishing company called Agora Publications. In 1998 Bauman helped to found a subsidiary to the company called the Sovereign Society, which publishes email newsletters and books specializing in legal tax avoidance through the use of offshore investing.
“I write for them on a regular basis for their daily e-newsletter that goes out to more than 335,000 people,” he said. “And I write books. I’ve written five or six or more books on offshore financing and on places to invest off shore – asset protect –all of the things that Newt Gingrich has been railing against for the last few days,” he said.
Bauman takes strong exception to gay activists who accused him of pushing for anti-gay policies during his years in Congress. He said that with the exception of one vote — for a 1970s era amendment introduced by Rep. Larry McDonald (D-Ga.), which prohibited the U.S. Legal Services Administration from taking on gay rights cases — he never took a public position for or against gay rights.
“I was a closeted homosexual. Taking on gay rights issues was the last thing in the world I wanted to do,” he said.
Now, Bauman said he fully supports civil rights and full equality for gays and transgender people. But he said he isn’t ready to support legalization of same-sex marriage, a position he acknowledges will upset gay activists.
“I have never supported gay marriage,” he said. “To me, marriage is between a man and a woman. I don’t think you can replace centuries of religious tradition when it comes to marriage. It does not include two people of the same sex.”
He said he does support legal recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships, saying same-sex couples joined in that form of legal relationship should be given all of the rights and benefits of marriage.