A North Dakota lawmaker who voted against a bill that would protect LGBT residents from housing and employment discrimination has been outed publicly by a man who told the press the politician had sent him a photo of his penis and sexually explicit messages through the gay dating app Grindr.
The legislator, Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, 52, confirmed sending the pic and messages such has "What's up tonight sexy?," under the alias Top Man! to 21-year-old Dustin Smith, who had forwarded them to local news site The Forum. The outlet posted a news story about it on Monday.
"That's what gay guys do on gay sites, don't they?" the outlet quoted Boehning as saying on Saturday. "That's how things happen on Grindr. It's a gay chat site. It's not the first thing you do on that site. That's what we do, exchange pics on the site."
Boehning, who the site reported had confirmed that he is gay but also attracted to women, said the disclosure of the photos was part of an attempt to retaliate against him for his vote against the anti-discrimination bill and that a fellow state representative had tried to blackmail him, according to The Washington Post. He did not name names.
Smith told The Washington Post that he had first recognized Boehning as a member of Grindr after seeing his photo in a Forum story that identified members of the House of who voted against the bill, which would have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation. He said it was never his intention to out a fellow gay man and that he had messaged Boehning before going to the media, telling him, "Lol Doesn't the hypocrisy bother you?"
"I just felt like this story had to get out," he told The Washington Post. "A [representative] had voted against a bill for the LGBT community and here he was talking to me on Grindr."
"I'm not trying discredit him in any way," he added. "I'm just trying to point out the hypocrisy of it. He lives in a state where he represents constituents who don't agree with his lifestyle. But he has to lie to them about his lifestyle and his personal beliefs to get elected."
The bill did not pass and marked the third attempt in six years to prohibit anti-gay discrimination. Boehning said he had problems with the bill's language, which would protect people who are "perceived" to be gay, and that he had voted against his own self-interest because his south Fargo constituents would want him to. He added that he would vote against the bill again, The Forum reported.
"We've got to look out for employers in the state as well," he told the outlet. "Being who I am in the legislature—it doesn't matter what I am. Whatever you have in the closer, it's going to come out."
"This is news to most of us, and what Randy does in his private life is his own business and he's a good legislator," The Forum quoted House Majority Leader Al Carlson, also a Fargo Republican, as saying on Tuesday.
"I have not talked to Randy. When he gets back, I'll talk to him about the circumstances and see if there's anything legislatively that we need to address, because that policy will not exist, where somebody blackmails somebody else for a vote in this place," he added. "You shouldn't have someone trying to wreck your personal life because of some vote that they want you to take."