A Baptist congressman and co-sponsor of a proposed constitutional amendment banning homosexual marriage has withdrawn from his re-election campaign after allegations that he used a telephone dating service to arrange liaisons with gay men.

U.S. Rep. Ed Schrock, a 63-year-old Republican from Virginia Beach, Va., announced Monday he would not seek a third term, citing unspecified allegations that he said would prevent his campaign from focusing on “real issues.”

Schrock, one of 127 congressmen who signed on as co-sponsors of a federal marriage amendment proposed by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., was accused on BlogActive.com of making several calls to an interactive telephone service used by men to meet other men.

The Web site is maintained by Michael Rogers, a gay activist who says he “outed” the conservative congressman for hypocrisy because he voted against gay rights. Schrock, who voted for the Federal Marriage Protection Act and supported ending the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward homosexuals, received a 92 percent rating from the Christian Coalition and a zero from the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights lobby.

According to news reports, Schrock isn’t saying whether the allegations are true. Rogers has an audio clip on his Web site that he says is a tape recording of Schrock using the telephone service seeking a male partner for sex, presumably a couple of years ago.

“In recent weeks, allegations have surfaced that have called into question my ability to represent the citizens of Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District,” Schrock said in a statement reported by the Associated Press.

“After much thought and prayer, I have come to the realization that these allegations will not allow my campaign to focus on the real issues facing our nation and region,” the statement said. “Therefore, as of today, I am stepping aside and will no longer be the Republican nominee for Congress in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District.”

Schrock met with the Republican National Committee to discuss the charges and initially said he was going to fight back, but he later had a change of heart because he “didn’t want to drag his family through this thing,” according to an unnamed aide quoted by CNN.

One columnist said rumors about Schrock being bisexual or gay have been “bubbling on the back burner” of local politics for a couple of years. The allegations made rounds on the Internet after BlogActive.com named him Aug. 19, but media did not report them until Schrock announced his retirement.

According to Schrock’s congressional Web site, he and his wife, Judy, are “active members of Atlantic Shores Baptist Church,” an independent Baptist church in Virginia Beach. The church’s pastor did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Schrock is also a graduate of Alderson-Broaddus College, a school in Philippi, W.Va.,
which is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches, U.S.A.

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, whose Regent University and Christian Broadcasting Network are located within Schrock’s district, said he is “deeply saddened” by Schrock’s decision to leave Congress and hoped he would “reconsider this abrupt decision in his life.”

GOP leaders chose state Del. Thelma Drake to replace Schrock as their candidate in the November election. Despite her late entry, she is expected to prevail in the heavily Republican district, which is home to the world’s largest Navy base.

Gay-rights activists are divided over the practice of “outing” officials who vote against gay rights. Some say it invades their privacy and is counterproductive.

Rogers defended his actions on his Web site, however, quoting a columnist from the Web site About.com.

“If an important member of PETA, actively involved in popular efforts to ban the sale of meat, was known to grab a Big Mac a couple of times a week, would it be wrong to publicize that fact?” the article asked. “I don’t think so. By making a political issue out of what others eat, they are no longer entitled to the same privacy about what they eat. By politicizing the issue, their real beliefs about it become a matter of public interest.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Rogers added. “And that is exactly what this is about.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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