For many of those men and other gay Republicans in political Washington, reconciling their private lives and public roles has required a discreet existence. But in the last week, the Mark Foley scandal has upset that careful balance.
Since Representative Foley, Republican of Florida, resigned after it was revealed that he had sent sexually explicit electronic messages to male pages, gay Republicans in Washington have been under what one describes as "siege and suspicion."
Some conservative groups blamed the "gay lifestyle" and the gathering force of the "gay agenda" for the scandal. Others equated homosexuality with pedophilia, a link that has long outraged gay men and lesbians.
Conservative blogs and Web sites pointed out that gay staff members played principal roles in investigating the Foley case, suggesting that the party was betrayed by gay men trying to hide misconduct by one of their own. Some gay activists even began circulating a document known as The List, a roster of gay Congressional staff members and their Republican bosses.
"You can see where it would be easy for some people to blame gays for something that might bring down the party in Congress," said Brian Bennett, a gay Republican political consultant. He was a longtime chief of staff to former Representative Robert K. Dornan, Republican of California, who regularly referred to gays as Sodomites.
"I'm just waiting for someone in a position of authority to make this a gay issue," Mr. Bennett said of the Foley case.
The presence of homosexuals, particularly gay men, in crucial staff positions has been an enduring if largely hidden staple of Republican life for decades, and particularly in recent years. They have played decisive roles in passing legislation, running campaigns and advancing careers.
Known in some insider slang as the Velvet Mafia or the Pink Elephants, gay Republicans tend to be less open about their sexual orientation than their Democratic counterparts. Even though the G.O.P. fashions itself as "the party of Lincoln" and a promoter of tolerance, it is perceived as hostile by many gay men and lesbians. Republicans have promoted a "traditional values" agenda, while some conservatives have turned the "radical gay subculture" into a reliable campaign villain. And there are few visible role models in the party; Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona is the only openly gay Republican in Congress.