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05/21/2008

Some gays are destroying marriage (equality)

by Jeremy Hooper
"the gay community shouldn't be celebrating."

"This decision does next to nothing for California gays and lesbians, and causes real harm to people who believe in the "old" definition of marriage. It's nothing to be proud of."

"Sure, gays and lesbians may get a lift in self-esteem from having their relationships declared 'equal' by four jurists, but does an ego boost really outweigh the real harms caused by last week's decision?"

"This new ruling doesn't only harm traditionally religious people. It poses a serious danger to the well-being of children."

If we told you that the above comments were flawed in their merits, most of you on the pro-gay side of things would probably agree. But what if we told you that these quotes are not from one of the typical far-right opponents who attack gay equality, but rather from an -- wait for it, wait for it -- OUT GAY MAN?!

David-Bianco-150X150Yes, that's right -- in a new piece, openly gay writer David Benkof (who blogs at a site called GaysDefendMarriage.com) is lashing out against the California Supreme Court for coming to the "radical" conclusion that tax-paying gay and lesbian couples are entitled to the same parity as their heterosexual counterparts. In fact, David has gone so far as to say to the LGBT community:

"I call upon my fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual people to vote in favor of this November's California Marriage Protection Act, which is the only way to reverse the unfortunate decision."

No, this is not a joke. He's not a clever satirist; he's a conservative gay (and Orthodox Jew) who truly feels that marriage should remain one man, one woman. And he genuinely wants LGBT people to go to the polls and vote discrimination into their governing document. Check out his full piece at link:

For better or worse, a bad ruling [Philly Inquirer]

You know, we are always respectful of the fact that our community is not a monolith, and we're always welcoming to those on the more conservative end of the spectrum. However, when you go so far as to solicit votes for such a cruel amendment or to say that gays and lesbians who employ fertility methods are "manufacturing a tragedy" and engaging in a "selfish act of cruelty" (actual quotes from Benkof's blog)? Well, at that point you've lost both our ear and our respect!

**By the way, we have dialogued with someone who is quoted in the article. He confirms our suspicions that Mr. Benkoff has completely misrepresented/decontextualized his words.

**Well he might identify as a gay writer and part of the LGBT community, but it seems his opposition to marriage equaliity runs a little deeper than political conservatism. Even though it's not disclosed, it seems that David has no need for same-sex marriage in his life, because he himself does not engage in same-sex couplings!!! More on David's "unorthodox" gay views: Gay Jewish writer gives up sex with men [SoVo]

space gay-comment gay-G-A-Y-post gay-email gay-writer-jeremy-hooper


Your thoughts

The lengths Log Cabinettes will go, just to get a pat on the head from those with a seething hatred towards openly gay people.

Posted by: Scott | May 21, 2008 12:29:10 PM

i have a copy of the interviews in question. and it does seem that way. mr. benkof did (in trying to fit his column in the space alloted in the newspaper) took some of the things said and put them in a totally different context.

Posted by: a. mcewen | May 21, 2008 12:30:30 PM

Jeremy Darling, I vote that you go head to head with David Dumbkof; after all, what you do is engage these lost children in discourse. Go get him.

Posted by: ZnSD | May 21, 2008 12:31:54 PM

It's true, we can't intuit a person's stances and opinions simply from their race, sex, orientation, etc. On the bright side, while David Benkof's sexual orientation doesn't prevent him from launching the same kind of unsupported rhetoric that we hear from the right (phantom threat to traditional marriage anyone?), the fact that he's a fellow 'mo doesn't lend said rhetoric any more credence.

I say that because you just know somewhere there's a social conservative eager to hold this guy up and claim, "see? one of your kind agrees with us! Ergo, ipso facto, we must be right!"

Posted by: zortnac | May 21, 2008 1:02:17 PM

To: Scott

Not all Log Cabin members, or allies who are not actual members share his view.

I did donate and volunteer with Equality California to fight the initiative.

The only problem is we have many traditionalists in society where, we will enter a dangerous slope in civil liberties where our opponents will use the argument where if a speaker says if same sex marriage is not really marriage or is a sham in public they could get in legal trouble. I dont think we should silence our opposition with intimidation, we will just have the same restrictions on freedom of speech like the UK and Canada.

However county clerks should be required to officiate marriages of same sex couples because its a public accommodation issue.

That is the only thing I hold troubling with the marriage equality effort.

I think the best way to show straight America and moderates who could side with us is, showing a video of a couple after one partner dies and how the other partner has no legal standing and why an institution of same sex marriage is vital for our society. Same sex couples deserve the rights and respect just like straight couples.

I am supporting the opposition to the California initiative because if they win, they will use it as ammunition for more ballot initiatives against the LGBT community.

Posted by: Matt from California | May 21, 2008 1:05:32 PM

"I say that because you just know somewhere there's a social conservative eager to hold this guy up..."

He's already been on some conservative radio shows, zortnac. And yes, you're right -- his sexual orientation lends no more legitimacy to his claims. I suspect that it's his Orthodox faith that more readily shapes his opinions.

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 21, 2008 1:06:16 PM

"we will enter a dangerous slope in civil liberties where our opponents will use the argument where if a speaker says if same sex marriage is not really marriage or is a sham in public they could get in legal trouble. I dont think we should silence our opposition with intimidation, we will just have the same restrictions on freedom of speech like the UK and Canada."

This is absolutely false, Matt. Nobody is trying to silence speech. That is a non-issue used for distraction.

Oppose the initiative because it is wrong and thoroughly un-American! No qualifiers.

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 21, 2008 1:10:29 PM

while i respect the viewpoint of gays who dont want marriage, i think this man is crazy to suggest we vote against the option.

Posted by: queerunity | May 21, 2008 2:29:27 PM

Is Benkof or Bianco (or whatever his name is today) truly an out gay man? It looks like he has transitioned himself into an out ex-gay man - and, it is not at all uncommon for those wishy-washy types to come out with guns-a-blazin' at anything same-sex union related.

Posted by: | May 21, 2008 3:13:14 PM

Anon: he still identifies as part of the LGBT community, even if he has stopped having sex with men.

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 21, 2008 3:15:10 PM

Ah! Another "celibate" gay man! You can probably understand his anguish. Having to be celibate would be enough to piss the Pope off! Oh . . . wait . . .

Posted by: Dick Mills | May 21, 2008 4:51:04 PM

Yeah, judging by the article, he seems to be going down the path to Ex-gay Junction. Judging solely from what was conveyed in the article, he seems to be searching for some happiness in his life that having "internet-hookups" and "doing the gay urban male thing" have not relinquish. In the end, I see it as simple clear-cut way of blaming the "gay lifestyle" for one's own unhappiness. So now he's juxtaposed to a conservative Judaic set of beliefs hoping to fill that missing void while disconnecting himself from the "evils" of gay relationships.

Sounds very typical, ... just another ex-gay trophy.

Posted by: MidtownFreak | May 21, 2008 6:47:37 PM

A few clarifications:

1. I am not a member of the Log Cabin Republicans, although I am an LGBT Republican. Because Log Cabin has betrayed conservative principles in favoring the redefinition of marriage, I wouldn't be comfortable supporting an organization dedicated to a cause I abhor.

2. I am happy to show anyone the longer interviews, which take up several times the space of my entire piece. I had to cut things down as much as possible. I am certain that the quotes I use fairly reflect my interviewees' beliefs. One of them, Michael from Seattle, corresponds with me several times a week. If he thought I was misrepresenting him there's no way he'd stay so friendly. If any of my subjects feels s/he was misrepresented I invite them to contact me. I'd be happy to rework the quotes in a way they are comfortable with in advance of the column's upcoming appearances in major daily publications in Delaware and Wisconsin. I don't know what else I can be expected to do.

3. As for why gays should vote for the Marriage Protection Act, my next op-ed makes a very strong case what LGBT people should do precisely that, and even lobby in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment. Anyone who wants to see a draft can E-mail me.

4. I am certainly not ex-gay. I have spoken publicly about how I reject much of the philosophy behind the ex-gay movement, particularly its supposedly Jewish but actually not very Torah-true branch, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH). Of course you like to say I'm ex-gay because the movement is discredited and it makes me look bad. It's no better than if I called you a pedophile and suggested you support NAMBLA. It's an ad hominem attack with no evidence that distracts us from the important subject at hand - marriage. Oh, and nobody who knows me thinks I'm wishy-washy. Go visit www.GaysDefendMarriage.com and you'll understand why.

Posted by: David Benkof | May 21, 2008 7:12:14 PM

David: I've already seen the full question and answer session you held. And while I haven't had a chance to go over it with a fine toothed comb, what I did find particularly disingenuous is the way you tried to make a certain quote look like it applied to religious freedom when it was specifically about public accommodations. And I happen to know for a fact that the quoted feels similarly.

But the question I really have: I know you don't identify as an "ex-gay" and never implied that you did. But how can you identify as a member of the GLBT community if you specifically reject sex with men? I think this is a significant point, and one that should be mentioned in columns or public appearances wherein you present yourself as part of the community.

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 21, 2008 7:24:08 PM

Jeremy,

It is perfectly possible to be LGBT and reject sex. There are a whole slew of "Side A" gays over at the Gay Christian Network that do just that.

But, unlike Mr. Bekhof, they do not seek to deny civil (ie not religious) equalities to their fellow gays who disagree about the moral prohibitions of same-sex unions.

In other words, they are far far less arrogant and obnoxious than Benkof. (I base that judgment on previous interaction with Mr. Benkof at XGW).

As for Mr. Benkof's identity, he previously said that he had "changed sexual identity" and was now a bisexual looking for a "woman with whom I can bring pleasure and joy, and with whom I can have a nice-if-not-spectacular bedroom life and create a beautiful Jewish family." While he does not define himself as "ex-gay", it would be difficult to distinguish his self-identity (bisexually attracted seeking a heterosexual family model and hostile to gay equality) from that of many ex-gays.

I fear that Mr. Benkof's self proclamation of LGBT is a matter of convenience - something he touts to claim authority within his anti-gay rants.

Posted by: Timothy Kincaid | May 21, 2008 8:01:45 PM

Timothy: I think we're essentially saying the same thing, I just kept it simple since it was late and I was hungry. :-)

Of course you can be a gay (or straight, bi, or whatever) person who rejects sex. However, if that is your choice, it is a qualifying point that I think is important to any story you might write on the subject. It does change things. And I don't think it's fair to present yourself as an anomaly within the gay community simply on the basis of your conservative outlooks when there are bigger differences going unacknowledged.

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 21, 2008 8:24:01 PM

Hi David,

If no one else has done so, I wanted to thank you for responding to Jeremy and our comments. It isn’t very often that the subjects of posts grace us with their feedback, and it is appreciated.

I, by the way, was the one who suggested that ex-gays are wishy-washy. I hit the post button before realizing that I hadn’t put in my contact info. And I didn’t mean any thing personal (especially since you are not ex-gay). It’s just that anyone who can change their sexual orientation at will (to me, at least) has to be somewhat wishy-washy. God knows that I would never be able to accomplish that.

And, I would like to see the draft of your article, if you could send it to my email address at the bottom of the post. I have to tell you though, that you will need to be a pretty good salesman to convince me that I shouldn’t support same-sex marriage.

But, again, thanks for your earlier response.

Posted by: Dick Mills | May 21, 2008 9:23:47 PM

Did I read in the body of the article that David Benkof is an Orthodox Jew? Leviticus 19:27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. The fact that David doesn't have long hair and a beard is an abomination!

Posted by: Dianne | May 22, 2008 2:10:15 PM

David,

Like I thought to myself when Dr. Laura spoke of her so-called gay friends, I wondered what kind of self-respecting non-heterosexual would ever consider socializing with the likes of you. Note the use of the term self-respecting. If there's anything I will officially chastise the gay community's infamous promiscuity for, it's that in their anonymity someone actually had sex with you. How awful.

Your face should be plastered on every billboard in every gay mecca of every major city, along with Bruce Carroll Jr's, or at least above your local gloryholes. Very cliche of you, a self-proclaimed fundie, to have had the cake for so long and been eating it too. Pardon the cake reference, my darling zealot.

Keep thinking you're some sort of ascetic bisexual, and not just a reactionary crave-crate of contradictions who feels their latent spirituality should cast them in the position of legislative messiah. There's a long line for that, pal, longer than the one for people checking into Exodus. I hope the woman you marry knows of all the times you came within a noise hair of AIDS.

Regressive moralists with delusional mid-life epiphanies come in all shapes and sizes, but you're from a particularly sad stock. I really hope there's enough room in the big tent for your antithetical psychosis.

Posted by: Chris | May 22, 2008 2:11:07 PM

Speaking of, the Neo-cons have really got this diversity thing down as of lately. Is this the GOP or the ACLU?! Moar like USSR, mirite?

I would love to get a glimpse of Pat Buchanan's grimace when he first found out Log Cabinets, zionists and global interventionists were gaining prominence within the right wing. Then there's those obnoxious libertarians. You guys are more inclusive than a Sprint Nextel ad!

Posted by: Chris | May 22, 2008 2:28:32 PM

G-A-Y wrote: "And while I haven't had a chance to go over it with a fine toothed comb, what I did find particularly disingenuous is the way you tried to make a certain quote look like it applied to religious freedom when it was specifically about public accommodations." Please E-mail me with the specific quote and how it is disingenuous. My piece is still slated to run in several more metropolitan dailies, and if someething is inaccurate, unfair, or misleading it's important to me that I correct it.

You say: "But how can you identify as a member of the GLBT community if you specifically reject sex with men?" It's funny, I keep hearing LGBT people insist that being gay is not about sex. If that's true, I see no inconsistency in my identifying as gay or bisexual and not having sex. As for your recommendation that I mention my celibacy whenever I discuss gay issues, many gay people have said just the opposite. For example, a Dan Savage fan wrote at The Stranger: "what kind of jackass "announces he's going to stop having sex with men", as if anybody gives a flying f**k?" And another reader at the same blog criticized me for being "someone who seriously thought it was newsworthy to mention he's 'given up gay sex.'" Personally, I don't think either side is right. Usually there's no need to discuss my sexual habits, but sometimes it is relevant, at which times I mention it.

Diane-

Actually, I do have a beard. According to the oral law, that verse means we cannot completely remove our sideburns, and I never do.

You clearly don't understand how Orthodox Judaism works. I'm E-mailing you a detailed explanation of why "Leviticus traps" such as yours don't work on Orthodox Jews. My column on the subject won't be published until July, but anyone who wants to see it before then can E-mail me.

Chris-

Please explain why it's offensive for a traditionalist to call a homosexual a "homo," but not offensive for a gay person to call a fundamentalist a "fundie." Of course, I'm not a fundamentalist. There are less than 30,000 Jewish fundamentalists/Biblical literalists in the world today. They are called Karaites, and few of them live in the United States. For you to call me a self-proclaimed fundamentalist when you have zero evidence I ever described myself as a fundamentalist does not reflect well on your commitment to truth.

Posted by: David Benkof | May 23, 2008 3:53:09 AM

David: This portion:

**
Although California marriage-equality leaders won't say what impact they expect the new decision to have on religious freedom, activists in other states haven't been so shy.

A representative of the largest Michigan gay-rights group, known as the Triangle Foundation, and openly gay Washington State Sen. Ed Murray both told me that any person who continues to conduct himself as if what he thinks is God's definition of marriage is correct, instead of the gay community's definition, should be fined, fired and even jailed until he relents.

"If you are a public accommodation and you are open to anyone on Main Street that means you must be open to everyone on Main Street. If they don't do it, that's contempt and they will go to jail," says the Triangle Foundation's Sean Kososky.
**

You set it up as being about religious freedom, then you injected a bit of your own opinion regarding how your conversation with Sean Kosofsky and Sen. Murray went, and then you presented one truncated quote from Sean, culled from a much larger interview (portions of which I have both seen and discussed with Sean). The quote was obviously misapplied -- Sean was talking about public accommodations.

Furthermore, it's bad journalism to mention you had spoken with Sen. Murray, present your opinion of what he had said to you, but then not even give your reader one quote from him.


For more on the way you seem to have misrepresented, I will let Sean Kosofsky speak for himself:

http://thepoliticalspectrum.blogspot.com/2008/05/sean-kosofsky-responds-to-david-benkof.html

As for your identity as a gay writer even though you don't have sex with men: Calling this into question is in no way saying that being gay is all about sex! If you were a heterosexual who was claiming to speak specifically for that community yet, due to your personal faith and beliefs, rejected heterosexual sex, I would say the same thing. You presumably do not date men, which presumably means you are not looking to marry a man. In terms of your public writings on gay marriage as a self-identified gay man, this is an important distinction.

As for your quoting the opinions of two Slog readers: Both commenters were referring to your earlier announcement on the subject, when you seemed to turn your celibacy into a press event. And I would agree that ideally, nobody should give a f**k. Again, when it matters to me is when you manage to place a column in mainstream newspapers and present yourself as a member of the community to whom same-sex nuptials would be of interest, if not for your conservative political beliefs. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you have no interest in entering into a same-sex union because of your personal views, right?

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 23, 2008 8:53:18 AM

David,

Anyone who gets offended at the term homo hasn't been a homo for longer than 12 minutes. In fact, I'd rather be called a fag to my face a la WBC, then have some paradoxical ideologue droning on about redemption, the "good old days" and being unique for being a Jewish conservagay, all the while trying to speak for behalf of a gay community he has allegedly denounced and thus doesn't even belong to. Oh poor you, with your trauma and manic depression. You could've made it to this same point in your life without having to read a 3000 year old pamphlet and just taken some Prozac instead. I'm not knocking religion. I'm knocking your sudden realization and admiration of it. Get off your pedestal.

You should take the easy way out and claim you were never/have been cured of teh ghey, that it was all due to the lack of the holy presence in your life. At this stage you might consider severing all ties you had with the gay community (by which I mean the ties that come from touching men), and proceed towards your shiny new future as an ex-gay. My mistake, "moral bisexual."

Although if you really were a healthy heterosexual (without the need for reactionary ex-gay/bisexual euphemisms), you might consider abandoning the freakish concern for other people's sex lives and civil rights and worry more on living out your own very God-fearing heterosexual life.

Posted by: Chris | May 27, 2008 7:40:19 PM

Chris-

The "marriage equality" movement is not looking for the civil right for gays to marry. Gays already can marry in all 50 states and I know some who have done so happily. I plan to marry some day. The "marriage equality" movement is asking to redefine marriage, and there's no civil right to redefine marriage to match one's minority definition of what marriage is. If there was, shouldn't I also have a civil right to re-re-define marriage to match my majority definition of what marriage is? When would it stop?

Posted by: David Benkof | May 28, 2008 7:19:42 PM

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