Did lawsuit force McGreevey's coming out?

By Tim Grieve
Published August 12, 2004 11:10PM (EDT)

Although there were moments in Jim McGreevey's resignation speech that made it come off like a heart-warming tale of self-discovery, it now appears that the New Jersey governor's hand may have been forced by a pending sexual harassment lawsuit.

According to MSNBC, WABC-TV in New York is reporting that McGreevey is expecting a lawsuit by a former aide accusing him of sexual harassment. The station identified the former aide as Golan Cipel, 33. Reuters has also moved a report suggesting that Cipel is about to file suit "alleging sexual misconduct by the governor."

According to New Jersey's Star-Ledger, Cipel served as the governor's homeland security adviser until he resigned from the $110,000 job "after it was revealed that he had little experience for the post and could not qualify to receive classified briefings because he was an Israeli national, not a U.S. citizen. Under fire, he quit the governor's staff altogether in August 2002."

The Star-Ledger said that McGreevey "arranged for Cipel to get two private-sector jobs with lobbying firms and helped him get a third position working in business and real estate development. "

McGreevey only hinted at the possibility of a lawsuit in his resignation speech. He said that keeping his sexuality -- and his affair -- secret would leave him "and most importantly the governor's vulnerable to rumors, false allegations and threats of disclosure." He said the "circumstances surrounding the affair and its likely impact upon my family and my ability to govern" led him to decide to resign.

Steven Fisher, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a leader in the fight for gay rights, told MSNBC: Coming out is a deeply personal journey, and Governor McGreevey today showed enormous courage." The executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats said that McGreevey's announcement "gives us further resolve to work towards the point where sexual orientation is simply an honest component of daily life and no longer a consideration in public service."

Yet McGreevey himself hasn't always been a friend to gay causes. Earlier this year, McGreevey signed a domestic partnership law. However, as MSNBC reports, he opposes same-sex marriage and has said that allowing it would have "a detrimental impact" on the state of New Jersey. In March, McGreevey directed the state's attorney general to prohibit local officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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