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Marc Fisher

When Sexuality Undercuts A Family's Ties

By Marc Fisher
Sunday, February 13, 2005; Page C01

Maya Keyes loves her father and mother. She put off college and moved from the family home in Darnestown to Chicago to be with her dad on a grand adventure. Even though she disagrees with him on "almost everything" political, she worked hard for his quixotic and losing campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Now Maya Keyes -- liberal, lesbian and a little lost -- finds herself out on her own. She says her parents -- conservative commentator and perennial candidate Alan Keyes and his wife, Jocelyn -- threw her out of their house, refused to pay her college tuition and stopped speaking to her.

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Maya, 19, says her parents cut her off because of who she is -- "a liberal queer." Tomorrow, she will take her private dispute with her dad into the open. She is scheduled to make her debut as a political animal, speaking at a rally in Annapolis sponsored by Equality Maryland, the state's gay rights lobby.

She plans to talk about "what it was like for me growing up as a liberal queer in a very conservative household. I've known so many other people in a position like mine, where their families really don't want much to do with them. Maybe I can help by talking about it."

During his failed campaign last fall against Barack Obama (D) for the Illinois Senate seat, Alan Keyes lashed out at Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Vice President Cheney. Keyes told a radio interviewer that Mary Cheney was a "selfish hedonist." Then, without having been asked anything about his own family, he volunteered that "if my daughter were a lesbian, I'd look at her and say, 'That is a relationship that is based on selfish hedonism.' I would also tell my daughter that it's a sin and she needs to pray to the Lord God to help her deal with that sin."

Maya heard the comments and recoiled. "It was kind of strange that he said it like a hypothetical," she says. "It was really kind of unpleasant."

Alan Keyes (R) has made a career as a controversialist, an eloquent and passionate defender of traditional values and conservative thinking. He has run for the Senate three times and the presidency twice. Like his daughter, he took time away from education because of his politics, leaving Cornell University as a freshman after getting into a heated dispute with black students who had taken over the student center.

Maya is also an eloquent iconoclast, at once an adult and an adolescent, testing society's limits even as she expects her parents to give her the love and support they always have provided.

Her parents have known that Maya is a lesbian since they found a copy of the Washington Blade, the gay weekly, in her room and confronted her at the end of high school (she went to Oakcrest School for Girls, a Catholic school in McLean run by the church's highly devout Opus Dei movement.) Ever since, Maya says, her parents have told her that her sexuality is wrong and sinful.

"As long as I was quiet about being gay or my politics, we got along," she says. "Then I went to the Counterinaugural," last month's protests in Washington against President Bush. "My father didn't like that."

Maya returned from the demonstration to find that she had been let go from her job at her father's political organization.

She says she was told to leave her father's apartment and not to expect any money toward attending Brown University, where she was admitted but deferred matriculation to spend a year teaching in southern India. "In my father's view, financing my college would be financing my politics, in a sense," Maya says, "because I plan to be an activist after college."

She wrote to her parents to tell them about tomorrow's speech, but says she got no response.

After I contacted Alan Keyes's office, press secretary Connie Hair called back with a prepared statement from him: "My daughter is an adult, and she is responsible for her own actions. What she chooses to do has nothing to do with my work or political activities." End of statement.

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