Congressman Bauman Is Arrested for Liaison with Teenage Boy Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Republican representative Robert E. Bauman, a board member of the American Conservative Union and an outspoken advocate of traditional values, was arrested and charged for soliciting sex with a sixteen-year-old male prostitute. His arrest shocked his constituents and colleagues and led to the end of his career in politics.

Summary of Event

In the fall of 1980, the conservative Christian backlash against the gay and lesbian rights movement was in full swing in the United States. November would see Ronald Reagan Reagan, Ronald [p]Reagan, Ronald;and Religious Right[Religious Right] , backed by the Religious Right, elected president by a landslide. On Capitol Hill, being antigay was the accepted de facto political position, and prominence in conservative groups was a stepping-stone to political advancement. [kw]Bauman Is Arrested for Liaison with Teenage Boy, Congressman (Sept. 3, 1980) Bauman, Robert E. Congress, U.S.;Robert E. Bauman[Bauman] Roman Catholic Church;and homosexuality[homosexuality] Bauman, Robert E. Congress, U.S.;Robert E. Bauman[Bauman] Roman Catholic Church;and homosexuality[homosexuality] [g]United States;Sept. 3, 1980: Congressman Bauman Is Arrested for Liaison with Teenage Boy[01900] [c]Law and the courts;Sept. 3, 1980: Congressman Bauman Is Arrested for Liaison with Teenage Boy[01900] [c]Prostitution;Sept. 3, 1980: Congressman Bauman Is Arrested for Liaison with Teenage Boy[01900] [c]Sex crimes;Sept. 3, 1980: Congressman Bauman Is Arrested for Liaison with Teenage Boy[01900] [c]Public morals;Sept. 3, 1980: Congressman Bauman Is Arrested for Liaison with Teenage Boy[01900] [c]Government;Sept. 3, 1980: Congressman Bauman Is Arrested for Liaison with Teenage Boy[01900] [c]Politics;Sept. 3, 1980: Congressman Bauman Is Arrested for Liaison with Teenage Boy[01900]

Robert E. Bauman was riding the tide. A seven-year veteran of the U.S. House of Representatives, Bauman’s political history was staunchly conservative and Christian. He was a founding member of the American Conservative Union in 1964 and was director of the conservative lobbying group Young Americans for Freedom. He and his wife worked together for numerous conservative political causes, and they outwardly presented an ideal picture to conservative voters. Bauman, a Roman Catholic, served in the Maryland state senate from 1971 to 1973 and was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1972, beginning his term in 1973. He was up for reelection in 1980 when scandal derailed his career and life.

The gay and lesbian rights movement was well established in Washington, D.C., by 1980, and it showed no signs of leaving town just because a conservative Republican was about to win election to the White House. One of the most popular gay bars in the city was Chesapeake House, operated by John Rock. When Rock opened the bar, he initially featured female and male strippers, but by 1980 he focused on entertainment for gay men.

Bauman allegedly frequented the bar and picked up lovers there. Around six months before the scandal broke, his wife found his gay porn magazines and confronted him. He began counseling with a priest and believed he was on the road to “recovering” from his sexual orientation. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had been following him. On September 3, 1980, he was arrested for oral sodomy with a sixteen-year-old male prostitute he had picked up in the District of Columbia. In his autobiography Gentleman from Maryland: The Conscience of a Gay Conservative (1986), Bauman points out that the FBI had been investigating several members of Congress at this time, and that only he was charged. He believes his behavior came under attack for political reasons, even though he admits that his arrest was justified. Bauman was formally charged on October 3.

In his autobiography, Bauman discusses his trysts. He explains that his conservative background caused him to try to repress his homosexuality. Married and with four children, he also drank heavily, then went to confession to purify himself for church. He hoped that if he could control his political career, his personal life would not matter. He marketed himself as pro-family, which meant antigay, but eventually his behavior caught up with him.

Conservatives were shocked by Bauman’s arrest. Known as the House watchdog for his ability to stall Democratic measures, he had been a conservative his entire life, starting down his chosen path in military school, where he had vowed to himself that he was not gay. He continued to deny his homosexuality into adulthood and throughout his political career. As a member of the House, he voted for three bills containing antigay legislation, and he cosponsored the Family Protection Act Family Protection Act of 1977 (1977), antigay employment legislation. The few constituent letters he received in support of gay and lesbian rights were answered with a Roman Catholic, antigay response: condemnation of homosexual acts though not the individuals practicing them (“love the sinner, not the sin”).

Bauman pleaded no contest to charges of solicitation of a minor and was convicted of a misdemeanor. He made a statement to the press that he was fighting the demons of homosexuality and alcoholism, and he spent the next three years undergoing psychiatric treatment. He remained in the 1980 political race, ultimately losing by only 2 percentage points, one of only four Republican representatives to lose their seats that year. Because the loss was so close, he attempted to return to Congress with a run in the 1981-1982 Republican primary but withdrew from the race after realizing he would always face attacks for his criminal past and his homosexuality. His wife eventually requested an annulment, and it was only after the annulment was granted that Bauman started to admit his homosexuality to himself. That was in 1982.

Impact

Bauman was clear about his not choosing to be gay. In fact, he fought against his sexuality for much of his life and came to terms with his sexual orientation only after years of psychotherapy. His case is an argument for those who insist sexual orientation is a matter of biology, rather than choice. He agreed that he was forced out of the closet and hoped his case would draw attention to the roughly 10 percent of the U.S. population that is gay or lesbian and that gays and lesbians can be conservative as well as liberal. In 1985, he attempted to found a gay Republican congressional group that would have been a predecessor to Log Cabin Republicans, but his efforts failed because most gay Republicans at the time were too afraid of exposure to join such a group.

Bauman’s critics believe that his being “forced out” of the closet takes away from the value of his candor in his autobiography, in which he recounts his journey through alcoholism and into accepting his homosexuality. Bauman, however, did not use his arrest and subsequent outing in the media to transform into a liberal or abandon his Catholicism. Some say his autobiography outed liberal gay representative Barney Frank, but Frank had been out to his friends and close associates for some time and came out publicly without losing stature once Bauman’s book broadcast the information.

Indeed, in his book, Bauman addresses his own situation uniquely. He began to speak out for gay rights, having experienced some of the prejudice that comes with being gay. His positions were not popular with fellow conservatives, but in spite of this, he refused to change his politics. He could no longer claim to be a traditionalist conservative who supports a hands-off government in most respects except “enforcing” public morality. However, he remained basically conservative, especially in financial issues. After the scandal, he began to write books on financial issues and to work for the group Sovereign Society, which is dedicated to conservative money issues. He remained Catholic as well, in spite of Catholicism’s staunch antigay position. Bauman, Robert E. Congress, U.S.;Robert E. Bauman[Bauman] Roman Catholic Church;and homosexuality[homosexuality]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bauman, Robert. The Gentleman from Maryland: The Conscience of a Gay Conservative. New York: Arbor House, 1986. Bauman discusses his homosexuality and addresses the conflict between his expressed antigay views and his later coming out, and his change in perspective on gay and lesbian rights.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Danforth, John C. Faith and Politics: How the “Moral Values” Debate Divides America, and How to Move Forward Together. New York: Viking Press, 2006. Argues the Republican Party must move away from fringe issues to unite. Contrasts with the views of the Religious Right-dominated party that brought Bauman into office.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gunderson, Steve, and Rob Morris, with Bruce Bawer. House and Home. New York: Dutton, 1996. Discusses the outing of Republican representative Gunderson of Wisconsin. Examines his political positions and his political career. Shows that scandal does not necessary follow revelations of homosexuality.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Marcus, Eric. Making Gay History. New York: HarperCollins, 2002. Includes a three-part interview with Bauman, discussing the scandal and his life as a conservative Republican since coming out of the closet.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tafel, Richard. Party Crasher: A Gay Republican Challenges Politics as Usual. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Argues that gays and lesbians do not have to be Democrats to remain loyal to both their politics and their sexuality.

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