The recent flap over the “South Carolina is so gay” British ad campaign has left the heads of LGBT citizens in the Carolinas spinning.

What the hell happened and how’d it happen so fast? One minute, South Carolina’s going about its “Dixie”-whistling ways and the next it’s busting out with Barbra Streisand show tunes and musicals. Then, out of nowhere, the politicians take over and the Pink Palmetto is slammed back in the closet.

The story broken by Q-Notes — that the directive to do away with the “So Gay” campaign came straight from the office of Gov. Mark Sanford — puts a continued national spotlight on the Palmetto State.

Rumor has it that Gov. Sanford is on the short list in the Republican veepstakes. His name keeps popping up in GOP circles and his small government, anti-tax, libertarian-esque record would compliment Sen. John McCain.

Good stances on taxes and small government, though, don’t make good leaders. Sanford’s hostility toward LGBT citizens and his reluctance to deal with our existence are key character flaws. If Sanford hopes to be McCain’s V.P. (a pie-in-the-sky dream after his abysmal, Miss South Carolina-style performance on CNN), let’s hope he quickly learns the value of appreciating and valuing all of his constituency — gay or straight.

Only $5,000 was going to be spent on the U.K. advertising campaign. That small amount of cash out of the overly abundant $10.5 million tourism advertising budget could have translated into hundreds of thousands, if not millions, more tourism dollars from gay travelers from across the pond.

But money isn’t the only concern. What happens when a gay British couple spends those thousands of dollars buying airplane tickets for themselves and their kids, reserving a hotel room and taking that taxi to the colonial inn at the Charleston Battery? Who’s going to help that gay family when the radical Christianist at the receptionist’s desk tells them, “Fags can’t stay here,” and they’re forced to leave?

What’ll happen when the state finds they’re losing hundreds of thousands of dollars each year because LGBT Europeans and their friends and allies have started a boycott of South Carolina? What happens when Sanford and his Republican cronies find out their sister to the north is getting all that cold, hard tourism cash?

South Carolina won’t be feeling quite so gay then.

The debate over the London gay Pride advertising has opened a deeper chasm in South Carolina politics. How are LGBT people valued and treated in the Palmetto State? Why aren’t there any laws protecting citizens and travelers against the discriminatory actions of their fellow citizens, employers, restaurant owners and inn-keepers?

Anti-gay state politicians — who might as well be card-carrying members of the radical right — have declared over and over that this isn’t about discriminating against gay folks. It’s just about not wanting to push a political agenda, they say. Unfortunately, anything gay, for them, will always be “pushing an agenda.” Every time we ask for everything they’ve already got, we are somehow “shoving it in their faces” and asking for “special rights.”

Now that Sanford’s sealed tight the Palmetto closet door, South Carolinians can go back to whistling “Dixie.” Maybe Jesse Helms’ hate-filled soul can find a place to rest in one of those gigantic antebellum mansions.

Here’s to hoping McCain passes over Sanford. When he’s ignored and shoved into a closet, maybe he’ll have a little taste of what he so easily accomplished with his “personnel and policy change” directive.

If there’s one thing this country doesn’t need, it’s another backward, prejudice-laden politician like Mark Sanford. John McCain can do better than some anti-gay, incoherent two-bit governor of the one state in this nation eternally synonymous with the legacy of Old South bigotry and rebellion.

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Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.