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08/28/2013

Latest 'ex-gay' claim: Wayne Besen 'may be responsible for countless HIV infections'

by Jeremy Hooper

Three years ago, during an O'Reilly Factor appearance challenging the then-Pope's decree against contraception, indefatigable debunker of "ex-gay" myths Wayne Besen pointedly and proudly encouraged responsible condom use. Wayne said at the time that he probably had and might possibly again have sex with someone who he later finds out is HIV+, but that he is thankful he knew enough to practice safer sex and responsibly use condoms (Wayne has since married; he and his husband are both HIV negative).

Here is the pertinent part, cued to the right spot:

To those of us who understand safer sex practices, Wayne's words served as a responsible counter to the then-Pope's truly dangerous words telling people (and especially young people) that condoms are evil. Wayne is basically saying that you, if sexually active, should take responsibility for yourself and your health, regardless of what you think you know about your partner. It is proactive advice for sexually active people. There is nothing controversial in what Wayne said.

But enter the "ex-gays." Christopher Doyle, self described "former homosexual" and president of the fringe Voice Of the Voiceless organization, is now telling his supporters that Wayne Besen is negligent and "may be"—as in, "I'll stop at 'may be' to avoid being sued"—"responsible for countless HIV infections." And of course Doyle is getting a defamatory assist from social conservatives like Matt Barber:

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 At 8.45.15 Am
Anti-Ex-Gay Activist Wayne Besen May Be Responsible for Countless HIV Infections [V of the V]
Screen Shot 2013-08-28 At 8.42.27 Am

This is truly galling. Wayne (who, in full disclosure, is a friend) has dedicated his life to fighting the demonstrated harms that stem from the "ex-gay" movement. That is the obvious reason why Doyle and Barber want to discredit Wayne: because Wayne is their biggest side-thorn. Wayne drains the snake oil which, by extension, dries up their fundraising. To be clear: These folks are not the biggest fans of Mr. Besen.

But still, to literally suggest that your political opponent, who has done nothing more than encourage safer sex practices, "may be" responsible for countless HIV infections? That goes beyond standard commentary and goes right into the realm of personal defamation. It probably stops short of libel, thanks to that aforementioned "may be," but the claim is nothing short of unethical.

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