Published in: March-April 2013 issue.


From the Sometimes-these-things-write-themselves File  A 911 call came into the call center in Springfield, Illinois, from a man saying in a muffled voice: “I’m stuck in a pair of handcuffs and I’m going to need help getting out before it becomes a medical emergency.” Turns out it was Father Tom Donovan of the St. Aloysius Church—who would have guessed? When the police arrived they found the Father not just handcuffed but gagged as well. And yet, the room didn’t appear to be a crime scene; there was no evidence of a break-in or theft, nor was any reported. Just how the Father ended up in this predicament remains a mystery—“a matter of privacy,” in the words of diocese spokesperson Kathie Sass. Meanwhile, Father Donovan has been granted a leave of absence for “personal reasons.” Very personal reasons.

Porn and Tolerance  A recent paper published by the Witherspoon Institute, a Christian organization with ties to the Family Research Council (FRC), argues that watching porn causes straight men to support marriage equality. The study’s author, Mark Regnerus, a controversial sociologist at the University of Texas, stated that “young adult men’s support for redefining marriage may not be entirely the product of ideals about expansive freedoms, rights, liberties.” No, indeed! The culprit is instead “regular exposure to diverse and graphic sex acts.” But, you ask, what’s the link—other than the fact that both are things that Regnerus and the FRC dislike? Why blame porn for men’s newfound tolerance of same-sex marriage? Regnerus’ answer is that porn “reinforces the idea that people can share their bodies but not their inmost selves” by having sex with no thought of procreation. Honestly, we thought even the Pope has pretty much given up this bromide when talking to adult audiences. The idea that sex isn’t always, or usually, or ever, about making babies occurred to men a long, long time ago, and pornography—which also has a venerable history—had nothing to do with it. To get real about it for a moment: men who admit to watching porn are probably just more tolerant in general on matters social and sexual. But let’s go with Prof. Regnerus’ causality and accept that watching porn is making men more tolerant. These days, you have to be a pretty nutty professor to interpret this as other than a good thing.

requip_1mgRope in a Role  A French court has upheld a damage award to a heterosexual man who became a gay sex addict after taking the drug Requip (made by GlaxoSmithKline) as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease. The court in the northern city of Rennes even increased the settlement awarded to Didier Jambart to almost 200,000 Euros. Similar cases have been observed of obsessive or addictive behaviors in patients taking ropinirole for Parkinson’s, such as that of Pete Shepherd of Hull, England, who became a gambling, sex-addicted cross dresser after taking the drug Cabergoline. In the case of Mr. Jambart, the damage award was so high because his Requip-induced frenzy had led to extended priapism and risky sexual activities. So now the search is on for a drug without the sexual side effects of ropinirole, and undoubtedly something better will soon come along. Still, given these precise side effects, one can’t help wondering whether Requip and Cabergoline might yet have a future as drugs of another kind, for another purpose altogether.

Long Day’s Journey  We’ve had our share of homophobic clergymen getting arrested for soliciting sex with a male escort or anti-gay politicians downloading kiddy porn, so by now you have to do something pretty extreme to merit a BTW. Try this one: there’s an organization for attorneys in New Hampshire called the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) whose mission is “advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.” In other words, they’re a group of Christian lawyers who do everything they can to stop or subvert GLBT rights in New Hampshire and beyond. Last November, a prominent member of the group, attorney Lisa Biron, was arrested by the FBI for taking an under-age girl to Canada and inducing her to engage in sex while being filmed. Ms. Biron is now awaiting trial in Manchester on five counts of sexual exploitation of children. Mind you, this is a respected attorney who took the time after the 2012 election to write cogent memos to county clerks in Washington, Maryland, and Maine urging them not to issue marriage certificates to newly eligible gay couples if it contradicted their religious beliefs. And to think that by night she was actively engaged in the production of child pornography. One wonders: what will be her defense? Your honor, at least it wasn’t gay pornography.

The Civil Route to Rights  Two civil lawsuits have recently been filed that could point to novel ways to combat some of the more egregious abuses of GLBT rights:

1. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), along with two allied law firms, has filed a suit against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (jonah) and its founder, Arthur Goldberg, for peddling “conversion therapy services” purported to change a person’s sexual orientation. The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, charges that the defendants violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Act through fraudulent and deceptive claims that they could cure clients of their homosexuality. The brief describes how the plaintiffs—four young men and two of their parents—were lured into jonah’s services through deceptive commercial practices. Describing the program as “fraudulent” and “a racket,” the brief cites the lack of evidence supporting conversion therapy and the abundance of research pointing to its dangers. Then, too, the plaintiffs couldn’t help but notice that when they reported no change in their sexual orientation, the counselors blamed them for a lack of commitment and induced them to intensify the treatment and (of course) their monetary outlay. Depending on the outcome of this case, which seeks unspecified damages, the whole ex-gay industry could be in for a bumpy night.

2. The saga of Uganda’s “kill the gays” bill continues. It all began when a group of American evangelicals led by Scott Lively traveled to Uganda in 2002 and met with leaders there to urge them to introduce a bill that would outlaw homosexuality, with penalties to include the capital punishment for homosexual behavior. The Ugandan legislature took up the cause, and a bill inspired by the Americans’ visit has been working its way through the legislature. Back in the USA, a Ugandan GLBT group has sued Lively for “crimes against humanity” in a Massachusetts federal court, and the trial has begun. The action is being brought under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows American courts to hear human rights cases brought by foreign citizens for conduct committed outside the U.S. The lawsuit alleges that Lively’s actions have already resulted in the persecution, arrest, torture, and murder of homosexuals in Uganda due to the anti-gay hysteria that they fomented “with warnings that homosexuals would sodomize African children and corrupt their culture.” The charge of “crimes against humanity” is a strategy that invokes the Nuremberg Trials and others in which parties and politicians are accused of the most heinous of crimes against whole categories of people. Whether or not it flies in this case, this suggestion alone could be enough to give pause to future Livelys contemplating a gambit in the political arena when propogating their brand of hatred abroad.