About the worst thing said about gay men, an allegation that is regularly dragged out by certain religious-right organizations, is that they molest children at rates vastly higher than their heterosexual counterparts.
It is as devastating a charge as one can make in a country where jailed pedophiles, known in prison parlance as “short eyes,” are frequently murdered by self-righteous fellow inmates.
But it is also completely false, a demonizing construct long ago debunked and denounced by virtually all relevant scientific organizations and serious researchers.
That’s why the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the leading opponent of same-sex marriage but also a group that prides itself on keeping its criticisms of homosexuality both civil and factual, does not employ the accusation.
Or does it?
Last Nov. 15, the Ruth Institute, a project of the NOM Education Fund, published the first eight paragraphs of an essay by anti-gay activist Michael Brown that asked what topic even far-right radio host Rush Limbaugh might be afraid to bring up in the face of “political correctness.”
The part of the essay on the Ruth Institute website didn’t say what that topic was, but gave a “Keep Reading” link to a site run by an openly gay-bashing hate group, the American Family Association.
There, it took readers another three paragraphs to get to the red meat: “Could it be that the [Penn State] sex abuse scandal involved a man allegedly abusing boys, meaning that the acts were homosexual in nature? And could it be that even Rush Limbaugh didn’t have the guts to address this? (Contrary to the protestations of some, a man who is sexually involved with boys is a homosexual pedophile; a man who is sexually involved with girls is a heterosexual pedophile.)”
Brown was clearly suggesting that accused pedophile Jerry Sandusky, Penn State’s assistant football coach until the scandal broke, was a gay man. But actually, as is well known, that’s false.
Anti-gay activists claim that all men who molest male children are homosexual. But researchers long ago established that there are two types of molesters: fixated and regressive. Fixated molesters — the stereotypical pedophile — typically molest children of either sex, but have no sexual interest in any adult and can’t be considered heterosexual or homosexual.
Regressive molesters are attracted to adults, but may “regress” to children under stress; most of them have been found to be heterosexual in their adult relationships. That’s why the American Psychological Association has officially concluded that “homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men.”
To NOM’s many critics in the LGBT community, this is par for NOM’s course. For more than a year now, gay rights activists have alleged that NOM is playing a shell game, avoiding the most egregiously false defamations of gay people on its own website, but linking directly to others who don’t.
The charge had enough impact that Maggie Gallagher — who co-founded NOM in 2007, is past chairwoman of the board, and remains a key NOM spokeswoman — felt forced to respond.
In a Dec. 9 post entitled “A Link Is Not An Endorsement,” Gallagher said such an argument “would lead to the absurd conclusion” that NOM agrees with the editorial positions of The New York Times or The Advocate, an LGBT newspaper.
She didn’t mention the fact that the anti-gay article “leaders” on NOM’s site are almost always presented without any hint of criticism and, to all appearances, do seem to be endorsed by NOM. Some are simply republications of essays without any introductory commentary, while others feature laudatory introductions.
Gallagher added a noteworthy comment to her recent post: “I would like to say personally that nothing in any argument I’ve ever made on gay marriage rests on the idea that same-sex couples harm their children at any higher rates than anyother family form. (If there is data that shows this, I’ve never seenit.)”
Gallagher may be entirely sincere, but sometimes it’s hard to tell. NOM seems hard-pressed to avoid talk of pedophilia as it campaigns against gay marriage.
Just this Dec. 7, for instance, NOM’s Ruth Institute posted a gushing recommendation for a book titled Same-Sex Marriage: Putting Every Household at Risk, a jeremiad by Mathew Staver, head of the anti-gay Liberty Counsel. “Anybody who cares about the future of our society should read this book,” NOM said.
The 2004 book that NOM says “gives you real answers” isn’t further detailed on the NOM site, but it is jam-packed with precisely the kind of misinformation that Gallagher suggests she abhors. Perhaps most remarkably, the book claims that “29 percent of the adult children of homosexual parents had been specifically subjected to sexual molestation by that homosexual parent, compared to only 0.6 percent of the adult children of heterosexual parents… Having a homosexual parent(s) appears to increase the risk of incest with a parent by a factor of about 50.”
Staver’s citation for this hair-raising claim is remarkable — a debunked 1996 article co-authored by Paul Cameron, an anti-gay ideologue whose fraudulent studies have been denounced by the American Psychological Association, the American Sociological Association and many others. The reality, says the American Academy of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry, is children of LGBT parents “are not more likely to be sexually abused.” Adds the American Psychological Association: “Fears that children in custody of lesbian or gay parents might be at heightened risk for sexual abuse are without basis in the research literature.”
Again and again, NOM seems to come back to pedophilia. Last June 8, it posted a video of U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) at the Eagle Forum Collegians 2011 Summit, countering arguments for same-sex marriage by warning that it would open the door to all kinds of marriages, including pedophilic unions.
“For instance, if you just care about somebody and you have a committed relationship, why not allow one man and two women, or three women, to marry? … Why not allow group marriage?” she said. Then Hartzler got to her punch line: “Why not allow an uncle to marry his niece? Why not allow a 50-year-old man to marry a 12-year-old girl if they love each other and they’re committed? So, pretty soon, if you don’t set parameters, you don’t have any parameters at all.”
And last Aug. 18, in a “Dear Marriage Supporter” open letter, NOM President Brian Brown wrote about a highly controversial group of scholars and others working to de-stigmatize those attracted to children who do not act on their impulses. “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,” he said. “Will one of the consequences be a serious push to normalize pedophilia?”
That hardly seems likely, although just five days after Brown’s post another NOM blogger suggested that the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision, decriminalizing gay sex, would “lead to the normalization of … pedophilia.”