NOM: Marriage Equality Could Lead to Acceptance of Pedophilia

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday August 19, 2011

The National Organization for Marriage has smeared gay and lesbian families once more with a blog post written by the homophobic group's president, Brian Brown, who suggested that one consequence of allowing committed same-sex life partners to formalize their relationship with civil marriage might be the court-sanctioned approval of pedophilia.

Brown attempted to build his argument around a nonexistent connection between gays and sexual predators that target children. An Aug. 19 Favstocks posting reported on the Brown-authored blog, noting that it started off talking about a publicity tour to promote the restriction of marriage to heterosexual couples only.

The blog then referenced NOM's "marriage pledge," to which several GOP contenders for the Republican nomination in next year's presidential election have signed on. Among them are anti-gay pols Michele Bachmann, and Mitt Romney, a Mormon. NOM has strong connections to the Mormon Church, and was a pivotal player in the deeply divisive 2008 campaign to pass Proposition 8 in California. The Mormon Church funneled an unprecedented amount of money and manpower into the state in support of the anti-gay measure, which yanked then-existing marriage rights out of the hands of gays and lesbians. The measure passed by a razor-thin margin, but was then found to be unconstitutional in federal court. That finding is now under appeal.

The marriage pledge in question asks candidates to promise to undertake a number of anti-gay actions if they should be elected to the presidency. Among them is an investigation into claims of intimidation and harassment by the GLBT community. The anti-gay right has made repeated claims that gays have targeted donors to ballot initiatives like Proposition 8 for retaliation and harassment. But similar conduct on the part of individuals acting out of anti-gay animus, as well as violent street crime targeting gays, has not been similarly addressed by fringe right anti-GLBT groups.

Brown's blog then turns to a conference of mental health experts on the theme of "Pedophilia: Minor-Attracted Persons and the DSM: Issues and Controversies." The conference took place in Baltimore on Aug. 17.

"The DSM is the diagnostic manual that defines mental illness," Brown's blog noted. "You probably recall that a key moment in the gay rights campaign was the 1973 decision by the American Psychiatric Association, the organization that produces the DSM, to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses."

Having made that observation in lieu of determining any rational connection between the subjects of pedophilia and gays, Brown then made a leap of logic, going on to write, "Enquiring people want to know: Will pedophiles become 'minor-attracted persons' in our culture? Will courts which endorse orientation as a protected class decide down the road that therefore laws which discriminate against 'minor-attracted persons' must be narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest?"

Attempts to portray homosexuality as intrinsically entwined with pedophilia have been a favored tool of the anti-gay right since at least the 1950s, and gained a peak of prominence in 1977, when Anita Bryant launched the infamous "Save Our Children" crusade in response to an ordinance in Dade County, Florida that sought to protect GLBTs from discriminatory treatment.

However, the overwhelming majority of pedophiles self-identify as heterosexual. Moreover, pedophilia does not entail a sexual attraction based on gender, but rather on a prepubescent stage of physical development. Gays and lesbians, on the other hand, are sexually and romantically attracted to adult members of their own gender.

Even though pedophilia and homosexuality have no direct or causal link to one another, the anti-gay right has made a career of hammering on the insinuation that gays prey on children. Another common motif is the claim that gays "recruit" children into their ranks, although no scientific evidence exists to suggest that heterosexuals can be "turned" gay. Indeed, a growing body of evidence suggests that homosexuality is an innate and congenital aspect of gays and lesbians, and cannot be "cured" because it is not a pathological condition. Rather, a sexual orientation toward one's own gender seems to be part of the natural variation in human sexuality.

But the distinct issue of gays and lesbians seeking to marry same-sex partners in a civil ceremony and receive the plethora of rights that marriage bestows has been perpetually muddied by claims that civil marriage violates religious tenets, even when the individuals marrying belong to a different, or to no, faith tradition.

Moreover, anti-gay groups have issued an array of bizarre and unproven assertions about marriage equality. In addition to attempting to link homosexuality and pedophilia, anti-gay groups have posited that marriage equality would lead to legalization of group marriages, the marrying of close relatives, and weddings in which one "spouse" might be an animal or inanimate object.

Such claims involve an enormous simplification of the legal terms and definitions in play, and ignore the fact that marriage equality for gay and lesbian families is an entity in its own right, with no relation whatever to other marriage issues. But Brown's blog entry glossed all of that over with glib generalizations about Biblical morality.

"When you knock over a core pillar of society like marriage, and then try to redefine Biblical views of marriage as bigotry, there will be consequences," Brown's blog posting declared. "Will one of the consequences be a serious push to normalize pedophilia?"

The Favstocks article pointed out that material for "the conference NOM is referencing does not mention the word 'marriage' even once. It doesn't mention anything about the government recognizing particular relationships. The event has literally nothing at all to do with the push for marriage equality," an observation that dovetails with the fact that pedophilia has literally nothing to do with homosexuality.

NOM Stance Built on Shifting Sands -- or A Foundation of Hate?

In years past, NOM has declared that gays are free to live as they see fit, as long as they refrain from attempts to "redefine" marriage. NOM has never explained by what authority it seeks to curtail the rights of any given segment of society, relying on nebulous references to the Bible and "morality" to suggest that the organization is responding to the dictates of a higher power.

But an Aug. 18 posting at purported to trace the group's anti-gay activities back to a definite source: Anti-gay sentiment. The article took note of another NOM blog, one that was critical of Michele Bachmann for sidestepping questions about GLBT legal and civil equality during a recent appearance on "Meet the Press."

That blog linked to a column by National Review Online contributor Kathryn Jean Lopez, Equality Matters noted. In her column, Lopez envisioned her ideal exchange between Bachmann and "Meet the Press" host David Gregory, an exchange in which Bachmann would be free to spout homophobic utterances with no regard to her national image.

Riffing on actual speeches that Bachmann delivered in the past in which she referred to gays as being "enslaved" by homosexuality, Lopez imagined Bachmann firing off a response to Gregory on national television in which she declared, "We're living in a culture that is enslaved."

Lopez's daydream of Bachmann's ideal commentary continued, "We're tripping over the alternatives as we seek instant gratification instead of genuine love. I said what I said about homosexuality, and if I were running to be pastor-in-chief I'd be talking to you about it every day, along with the fact that all too often we have no clear vision of what love truly is."

The column's reference to the president of the United States as "pastor-in-chief" seemingly overlooks the First Amendment's provisions that the government may not impose a faith tradition on the country's citizens.

"According to Lopez, Bachmann's 'personal enslavement' comments weren't just right, they didn't go far enough," the Media Matters posting summarized. "Bachmann should have gone on to assert that gay people, including the loving, committed gay and lesbian couples seeking legal recognition of their relationships, are pursuing 'instant gratification' and 'have no clear vision of what love truly is.' "

Indeed, similar accusations have been leveled against gay and lesbian families for attempting to secure equitable rights and recognition for their families, with anti-gay groups and pundits accusing gay parents of being "selfish" and "hedonistic" for wishing to undertake the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood and to gain the legal tools that heterosexual couples are given upon marriage in order to accomplish the task.

The column went on to offer plaudits to anti-gay politician Rick Santorum, who has become synonymous with his own far-fetched comparison between devoted gay couples and "man on dog" sex. Lopez linked to an article from 2003, also posted at National Review Online, by a former NOM chairman Robert George.

George's article, "Rick Santorum is Right," lionized Santorum for his argument that consensual intimate relations between adults of the same gender work to "undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family."

True to form, the article drew in a host of sexual practices unrelated to the innate personal characteristic of being gay or lesbian. The article argued that if (heterosexual) marriage is not regarded as the sole framework in which sexual activity can be undertaken in a legitimate manner, then the only guiding principle for acceptable sexual interaction would lay with whether those involved in any instance of sexual contact mutually consented.

"If this is true, then not only sodomy, but also fornication, adultery (e.g., spouse swapping, 'swinging'), polygamy, group sex, prostitution, adult brother-sister or parent-child incest, and (depending on one's views about the rights of animals and their capacity to consent) bestiality are protected as specifications of the constitutional right of privacy," George argued, before going on to offer the unproven assertion, "If consent provides the standard of inclusion within the right of privacy" then all of the other sexual activities he had enumerated "must all be admitted."

George also ventured to suggest that allowing American adults to engage in consensual sexual practices as they saw fit constituted not a freedom or a choice, but rather an "ideology." Moreover, George claimed, that newly defined ideology was "deeply hostile to the idea of marriage as uniting one man and one woman in a permanent bond of the type that is per se suitable for the generation, nurturance, and upbringing of children."

Missing from the essay, however, was any indication that marriage between two individuals of the same gender might be understood as natural to gays and lesbians and desirable to society as a stabilizing influence, even though George himself wrote in the course of his argument that, "We need policies that uphold and strengthen marriage, not those that further erode it in our law and culture."

Also missing from the argument was any explanation as to why, if all forms of sexual contact outside of heterosexual marriage are detestable and dangerous to society at large, marriage equality for gays and lesbians has been the focus of ballot initiatives, while divorce, adultery, and premarital sex have not been placed before voters as issues upon which the people should vote.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.