It was a slap in the face.” Steven Levine is remembering that day
in 2006 when President George W. Bush took the stage
in a small-town school gym in Indiana. It was October 28, right before the midterm elections, and Levine was a 22-year-old White House advance aide. He’d been camped out in Sellersburg all week, working to get the details just right for Bush’s campaign rally. The flags hung just so, the big presidential seal on the podium. Then Bush started talking, his standard stump speech about taxes and supporting the troops. But a new applause line took Levine by surprise. “Just this week in New Jersey,” the president said, “another activist court issued a ruling that raises doubt about the institution of marriage. We believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman, and should be defended. I will continue to appoint judges who strictly interpret the law and not legislate from the bench.”
The crowd loved it. Levine was crushed.
He was gay and working for a Republican and convinced it was possible to be both at the same time.
Like dozens of other gay colleagues in the Bush White House, many of them closeted, Levine had been sure that Bush himself was personally tolerant even if the GOP was not—and uncomfortable with gay-bashing as a way to win elections. But this was a rebuff, and it was hard not to take it personally: “To be working extraordinarily hard with all of your energy, working through many nights for somebody that you believe in, and to hear that person that you work so hard for come out against something that you are.”