On Richard Nelson's Gay Rights Editorials

Oct 5, 2008

Murray, KY – I find Richard Nelson of the Family Foundation's recent editorials about gay rights particularly offensive. After contacting WKMS I was invited to write a rebuttal, but calling this a rebuttal gives Nelson's words more legitimacy than I care to offer.

In Swingtown, a recent editorial, Nelson says that without the opposite sex requirement in marriage there's no logical basis against polygamy, open marriage or incest. The same argument was used to defend laws against interracial marriage and was sunk in 1967 when the last state anti-miscegenation laws were overturned. The main flaw of this argument is that there is no logical connection to begin with between the opposite sex requirement and the bans on polygamy, open marriage and incest.

Honest debate and disagreement are fine, but Nelson's sly and persistent denigration of gays and lesbians is not acceptable. When Nelson claims in his latest piece that the CBS program Swingtown , a sensationalistic drama about open marriage in the 1970's, could be the poster city for gay marriage, he is unfairly conflating gay marriage with adultery and degeneracy. Incidentally, As of the day I write this, the show has no gay characters.

Whatever the show's merits or lack thereof, Nelson's characterization of it is misleading. Nelson presents the show as if it were a commercial to promote drug use, pornography and wife-swapping, and claims that Today's cultural elite hope Swingtown, which also refers to the mid-70's as a watershed when the cultural and moral tide turned, serves as a catalyst for the tide to turn again .

Surprisingly, Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times, certainly a publication of Nelson's cultural elite , has a darker and more critical view of the era portrayed in Swingtown . She writes that the show pokes at the invisible rifts and emotional costs that come with unfettered liberty; in other words, all the consequences that were ignored by self-affirming manifestos that became best sellers in the '70s, like I'm OK You're OK' and Fear of Flying.'

In an earlier piece, titled Murray State Opens Door to Radical Sexual Politics, Nelson warns that by including the phrase sexual orientation in the non-discrimination policy, MSU has extended protection to those whose sexual orientation might be toward children, animals, or objects This is a completely ridiculous statement that only serves to backhandedly associate gays with pedophilia, a connection not supported by any legitimate research. Nelson cites Robert Knight as the source of this expansive definition of sexual orientation . Knight is delicately identified as a nationally recognized cultural researcher , though he is actually an anti-gay activist who has written and directed a video about recovering from homosexuality called Hope and Healing .

Digging into these two articles about gay rights, the core of Nelson's position seems to be that homosexuality is fundamentally degenerate and bad, though it takes many words and much innuendo for him to say so. This I have to reject outright as simple bigotry. Whatever our positions are on these issues, we should all agree that arguments should be judged by their logic and the weight of their evidence, and that bigotry should not have a place at the table.