Tangled webs of adultery, sexuality and deceit are soap opera material, but for New Jersey’s Governor Jim McGreevey they are reality.
New Jersey lost more than 900 people on Sept. 11, 2001. On McGreevey’s first day in office in January 2002, he appointed Israeli Golan Cipel the $110,000 per year job of New Jersey Homeland Security Director in spite of Cipel’s non-citizen status, which made him ineligible for security clearances and intelligence from federal officials. So much for homeland security. Subsequently Cipel was appointed special counsel and held jobs with politically connected public relations firms.
Fast-forward two years. Last month, 47-year-old McGreevey announced his resignation after revealing his extramarital affair with 35-year-old Cipel before Cipel could make the relationship public upon suing McGreevey for sexual harassment. The multifaceted circumstances allow for a few interpretations for the resignation; the governor’s sexual orientation, corruption, threat of a lawsuit, or all of the above.
“It’s about cronyism and abuse of power,” wrote USA Today. It’s also about a stigmatized gay and lesbian community. Governor McGreevey’s resignation implies that sexual minorities cannot effectively handle positions of authority. High profile heterosexual politician Bill Clinton’s affair was made public, yet he still completed his term. But his homosexuality and Cipel’s bizarre actions complicated McGreevey’s situation.
McGreevey told his current wife, Dina Matos, and his ex-wife, Kari Schutz, his secret shortly before he made the announcement public. Even his best friend of 15 years, New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority president George Zoffinger didn’t know McGreevey was gay until the day the governor announced it. It’s unnerving that the twice-married McGreevey, who has a 2-year-old daughter with Matos and an 11-year-old daughter with Schutz, considers himself gay instead of bisexual. His marriages appear to be a façade for the indignity he felt because of his sexual orientation.
Meanwhile Cipel continues to insist he isn’t gay, saying McGreevey coerced him into sexual encounters that he was afraid to decline because of the governor’s position of authority. Cipel’s accusations reinforce stereotypes of gays and lesbians as unstable and unfaithful. The public relations executive has since dropped the harassment suit and returned to Israel faster than a reality television star can use up their 15 minutes of fame.
It’s about a potential role model for the gay and lesbian community that will never be. Educated at a community college, Catholic University, Columbia, Georgetown and Harvard, McGreevey will not be remembered as an Ivy League graduate, the mayor of Woodbridge or New Jersey’s senator. He will be remembered as the corrupt, adulterous gay governor. When he resigns Nov. 15, Senate president Richard J. Codey will assume the position. New Jersey is one of eight states that does not have a lieutenant governor; the State Constitution requires Codey to retain his Senate president position while he serves as governor.
Critics believe New Jersey should alter its succession process via a lieutenant governor or attorney general. “Then what, exactly?” asks former acting governor, John J. Farmer, Jr. in an Aug. 29 New York Times article. “Then Golan Cipel ends up sitting on a shade tree commission in Mahwah instead of advising the governor on homeland security in Trenton?” The outcome would have been the same; a disgraced governor, a disgraced state, a disgraced gay and lesbian community.
Stephanie Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.