“He’s gay Oh, okay.” The Republican scandal involving Florida Congressman Mark Foley is truly a despicable and revolting episode. First, he resigned in response to an ABC story disclosing his email and internet messages to underage Capitol Hill pages. Then he said he was going into an alcohol rehabilitation program, a la Mel Gibson. Finally, he said that he was molested by a priest as a child.
While there seems to be a new, shocking revelation about Mark Foley every hour, his latest gambit is perhaps the most insulting. Foley’s lawyer acknowledged for the first time that the former congressman is gay, saying the disclosure was part of his client’s recovery.
While I certainly recommend coming out to every closeted gay person, by making his orientation a part of this sordid tale, Mark Foley puts every gay person in the crosshairs of every American who cannot distinguish between pedophilia and homosexuality. He insinuates that being gay is a sickness that requires sympathy and that explains his criminal behavior.
There is nothing more insulting to gay Americans than having the finger of blame pointed squarely at them for something that has absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation. The Republican spin machine is working overtime to distract Americans from what is really going on — another Republican scandal. (How much more can go wrong for those in control of our country?) The Catholic Church did it and now our leadership is doing it. They are making it about being gay rather than being a pedophile.
This blurring of the facts makes our community especially uncomfortable. It touches our internalized homophobia and recalls the days when homosexuality was classified as a sickness. While the world has moved beyond that misunderstanding, the anti-gay right still uses that bludgeon by deliberately confusing gay and pedophile.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a spike in support for anti-marriage amendments in the states where they are on the ballots. This is the direct effect of message blurring.
I sat on a panel many years ago with a member of The American Family Association and his tactics were clear: confuse the legal issue by creating moral approbation of homosexuality.
Here’s the truth. In 1994, a study by Dr. Carole Jenny of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center appeared in Pediatrics, a peer-reviewed journal. The subjects were 269 sexually abused children seen at Denver Children’s Hospital over one year. Heterosexuals molested more than 99 percent of the girls in the study. Of that number, heterosexual males who knew their victims molested 80 percent. Heterosexuals molested 98 percent of the boys in the study. Of that number, heterosexual males who knew their victims molested 75 percent. Got it? Gays aren’t the problem, pedophiles are, no matter what the Catholic Church or the Republican leadership say.
Now it is our turn. Every gay person has the obligation to make this critical distinction clear. Even more importantly, every friend and family member of a gay person now has the obligation to stand up for us. Go tell it on the mountain. Being gay is ok, being a criminal and preying on children is not.
Anthony M. Brown is the executive director of The Wedding Party. He currently heads Nontraditional Family and Estates Law at the law firm of McKenna, Siracusano & Chianese and is the. He can be reached at: Brown@msclaw.net