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On friendship

by Jeremy Hooper

Picture 19-44Gay columnist John Corvino has caused quite a stir with the latest piece that's he penned for 365Gay. The topic? John's friendship with Glenn Stanton, one of Focus on the Family's most familiar anti-gay names:

EXCERPT: Glenn Stanton is a friend of mine. He’s also badly wrong about same-sex marriage, and I tell him so—frequently, publicly, and sharply.

Glenn works at Focus on the Family, a premier organization of the religious right. He and I regularly debate same-sex marriage at campuses around the country.

Glenn has written about our relationship in the January issue of
Christianity Today, where he describes us as “highly unlikely but dear friends.” It’s a good description
FULL: Corvino: Friends with the enemy [365Gay]

Now, I wanted to bring this piece to your attention for two reasons. One, because it's a very interesting and provocative article that sparks debate. So I genuinely think you should go check it out and participate in the discussion. But also, on a more-self-serving note, it's come to this writer's attention that at least one person has tried to link John's piece to a commentary that I penned for The Advocate a few months back. That's completely unfair and I will now tell you why:

-It's true that in the Advocate piece, I spoke about how tackle bigotry rather than its purveyor. This is true and I stand by it 100%. I could not care less about the personal lives of any of my opposition -- it's only the message that concerns me. This means that I don't use words like "bigot" or "hatemonger," because I think that distracts from the issues at hand. This also means that I rarely speculate about any of them being secretly gay or any of that. I made a choice to take on the message, and I stick to that.

-But that being said, I have never become "friends" with anyone who fights against gay rights for a living. Honestly, it's not something I am personally comfortable with doing. I don't feel like I could ever classify someone who stands against my love and love as a "friend." Respect plays a huge role in my friendship value system, and I've never encountered a professional anti-gay activist who I feel extends fundamental respect to a gay person. So while I deal with my opposition diplomatically and cordially, frequently engage them in frank but firm conversations about our issues, and have been invited by some of them to take friendly steps, it's highly unlikely that I'm going to use the "f" word when dealing with them or their work. Well, not the six-letter one at least.

-It's especially annoying to be falsely ascribed as being a "friend" with anyone at Focus on the Family. I have written over 375 staunchly critical posts about the organization and their work, several about Glenn Stanton. Because of their persistence and particularly targeted brand of persecution, FOF staffers would be among the hardest for me to be ever refer to as "friend," no matter how cordial they may be.

So yea, I just wanted to clear the air on that. There is a big difference between fairly dialoguing with your opposition and getting your nails done together. Regardless of how you might feel about any of these stances, you at least owe it to all involved to represent the situation accurately.

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Your thoughts

First let me say on the issue of gay rights I see your point of view - it would be very hard for me to be friends with someone who actively fights against my right to be treated as an equal in the US.

That being said I agree with John Corvino when he says:

“Do I worry that our mutual graciousness makes it too easy for him to feel “open-minded” and “tolerant” while maintaining an anti-gay stance? I would, were it not for the fact that I remind him regularly of how wrong and hurtful that stance is. In my view, such reminders have more weight coming from a sincere friend than a hostile enemy.”

I have a FRIEND who is a hardcore evangelical Christian – but because of our friendship (and a lot of debates) he changed his vote of Yes on 8 to No on 8. So sometimes problematic friendships can be beneficial to both parties

Posted by: Alonzo | Dec 15, 2008 3:46:27 PM

Corvino is a self-hating fool. It's one thing to be friends with a christian, but to be friends with a member of focus on the family? Come on! He is aiding and validating the enemy.

Posted by: TheRadicalRealist | Dec 15, 2008 6:42:05 PM

How is someone who in commited SS relationship - writes for 365gay.com and fights "frequently, publicly, and sharply" with someone who works for Focus on the Family over the gay rights issues self-hating?

As for him "aiding and validating the ememy" that's the same thing that's being said about Glenn Stanton on Christianity Today's website.

Posted by: Alonzo | Dec 15, 2008 7:12:47 PM

How is Corvino possibly "aiding and validating the enemy"? That's a ridiculous claim. Look, I would have a big problem trying to be friends with someone like Stanton myself but I applaud Corvino for the effort. I do not see where he has sacrificed anything in his own struggle for full equality in the process. How can we ask others to recognize our humanity if we are unwilling to do the same for them? Besides, if James Carville & Mary Matalin can fall in love and not kill each other while being married I suppose that Corvino & Stanton can be friends. Unlike Corvino, and even Stanton's particular faith, I chalk this up as an example of God working in mysterious ways...

Posted by: John | Dec 15, 2008 9:05:31 PM

It was good: already read and commented. Being straight and new to this long, long debate I don't know much of background, but found these two paragraphs by dbzeag particularly pertinent.

1)Agreeing to disagree is good for understanding multiple sides and to see different viewpoints, but only if you are on equal ground. A gay man vs. an anti-gay man are not on equal fighting grounds as the anti-gay already has full rights and privileges. That person can never and will never see life through your eyes and your struggles because he has never experienced it.

2) And after 6 years of country-wide touring, debating and answering questions with hundreds and thousands of people and neither of you have changed your viewpoints? How productive was that time? Did your presentations and bouts spawn more discussion back on that campus the next day? I would be very surprised if anything changed except to see the same people bicker about the same things, keeping the same viewpoints because that is exactly what they saw on stage the night before.

I personally feel Jon Stewart and Keith Olbermann did more in their 20 minutes on TV that it seems like Corvino has done in 6 years...if it is just same o same o.

As for being 'friends' ..I would think longterm acquaintances is more like it.

Posted by: LOrion | Dec 15, 2008 10:03:31 PM

Corvino’s “sin” was in giving credence to the notion that professional resistance (Glenn Stanton, FOF, et al) to the gay rights/gay marriage movement boils down to nothing more than mere disagreement -- which is exactly the frame they wish to promote.

It’s like saying “My car thief friend and I have a disagreement on the meaning of ownership” while there’s an organized campaign to teach the nation that stealing people’s cars is a good and moral thing that “God” wants you to do.

If your friend is a crook, then the only “disagreement” you have to speak of is whether or not they understand that they’re a crook.

Corvino reduced the issue of the calculated political move on the parts of anti-American dominionists who are using lies, INTENTIONALLY, to get their way, down to nothing more than a simple disagreement.

It’s loverly to know that they get along (congratulations Corvino, you’re a better man than I), but to then completely ignore the blood on Stanton’s hands, is unacceptable in the worst way.

Posted by: Emproph | Dec 16, 2008 8:26:40 AM

I'll accept that John and Glenn are pals, but I have no idea why they call their shows "debates".

Debates, by their nature are finite. They may not resolve anything, but they certainly don't get played out again and again in front of different audiences. Debates typically have a winner, official or otherwise. Perhaps the first handful were actual "debates" but at this point, it's "theatre". Warning Quotes very much intended.

Posted by: Jason D | Dec 16, 2008 11:39:38 AM

Tangental, I wanted to write to commend you for your stance of attacking the message but not the messenger.

Too many in our community are quick to toss out personal pejorative at the slightest sign of disagreement, and I think that's one of our most unfortunate characteristics as a community.

Keep up the good work,

Posted by: Steve | Dec 16, 2008 2:10:30 PM

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