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On divorce, valid questions, and Bob Emrich

by Jeremy Hooper

Under normal circumstances, few of us in the organized marriage equality movement would concern ourselves with others' divorces, separations, annulments, or generalized strife. However, when we are talking about someone on the organized opposition side who quite literally collects a paycheck and/or political fame by focusing, in large part, on "acceptable" marriage patterns as part of the supposed public good, the discussion about whether to focus on that person's own marital experience completely changes. After all, if we were discussing just about any other kind of self-declared advice-giver whose questionable record comes to light -- a financial expert who's sinking in debt; an environmental activist who drives a hummer; a reality TV producer who only lets her kids watch "Masterpiece Theater" -- we'd have no problem asking the pertinent questions. So when we have people who are quite proudly saying that marriage is a certain thing and working to shape shared government policy around those notions in a way that denies certain citizens of their equality under state (most gay citizens) and federal (all gay citizens) constitutions, it would seem more than fair to look at these people's own experience living up to that supposed "is."

It's in this spirit that I give you the following.

I received a tip that Bob Emrich -- the "ex-gay"-supporting, Uganda-traveling, Maine pastor who was instrumental in repealing marriage equality in his state and who has now joined the Family Research Council in part to work on national marriage policy - is being less than honest about his own marriage patterns. That tip, in full:

I noticed your story today at http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2011/10/a-values-bus-whos-who.html, and I once more saw Bob Emrich. Oooooo. You see, I know Bob. Or, at least I knew Bob, very well. I could go into all the minutia, but the upshot is that I was in Bible school in Canada back in 1981. Bob was an alumnus from that school, and pastored a church in Monticello, Maine, just across the border. I spent hundreds of hours in his home enjoying his hospitality and that of his wife Sara and his three children. I taught a youth group (tweens) in his church. They were originally from Oregon, having had a sort of hippie experience there. I found them to be good friends and quite hospitable indeed.

Fast forward thirty years, and I was aghast in 2010 to learn that Bob was heading up the hating in Maine. Imagine my surprise to learn Mrs. Bob’s name: Deborah. And, I said, “What?” You’ve got to be kidding me? I was immediately concerned – what had happened to Sara? She was so sweet. Had she died of cancer or something? No. She had not. Sara is still alive and kicking. And is not married to Bob.

I don’t give a crap about whether or not others’ marriages survive other than my general goodwill towards them. However, the hypocrisy that Bob exhibits by violating all his own marriage “rules”, including pastoring a church while divorced, is just astounding. (Remember – I attended the same Bible school he did, so I know what their views are on that stuff. Their own views on the subject are that divorced men may not pastor churches.)

I’m writing to tell you this because I’m probably one of the only gay people – if not the only one - to personally have been close to Bob and his family who ever escaped that religious system and came out. His divorce defacto destroyed one more traditional marriage than my marriage to my partner of twenty years did. Score: One-Naught.

You, as a blogger in our community who writes about people like Bob, need to know this about Bob Emrich. You need to know he’s divorced because it breaks his own rules. He destroyed his own marriage with no help from anyone gay.

What a hypocrite.

To reinforce: I, like this tipster, would not normally care about the state of one's home. If fact, in terms of personal welfare, I wish all of the parties the best, even despite Mr. Emrich's work against my own welfare. And I also don't care about the details even a bit (for instance: I don't care who "destroyed" a marriage or if that's even what happened).

But considering the mission Mr. Emrich has taken on marriage as a very public battle and is now working for one of this nation's top "warriors" in the fight to stop LGBT rights including and exceeding marriage, the history is itself quite pertinent. In an ideal world it would't be, but in the contrived "culture war" world that our opposition has created, it most certainly is. And that's all I care about: The generalized life skills, insight, and honesty that Mr. Emrich does or does not bring to his very public portrayal.

And it all gets even more pertinent when one considers the following. Here is a 1984 Bangor Daily News piece which quite fully mentions his Emrich's first marriage -- something he himself chose to publicize at the time:

Screen Shot 2011-11-04 At 10.15.48 Am

[SOURCE: Google News Archive]

But now check this out: When Emrich was speaking to reporters like Kennebec Journal's Susan Cover on the subject of his work taking away same-sex couples' nuptial rights, Emrich gives no mention of his first marriage, instead acting like he moved to Sangerville and fell in love:

From there he moved to Sangerville and attended the University of Maine to get a degree in education and history. He used his degree to get a teaching job in Guilford, where he taught social studies for about nine years.

In Sangerville, Emrich met his future wife.

"She made a cup of coffee," he said. "It was the worst coffee I ever drank in my whole life. It was so nice of her to make the coffee for us, I was polite and tried to drink it anyway."

They married in 1991 at a church in Veazie.

Maine's repeal effort gets a new public face [Kenebec Journal/Press Herald]

This is the man who TOOK AWAY SAME-SEX COUPLES' RIGHT TO MARRY EVEN ONCE on a campaign built around sloganeering about marriage being ONE MAN, ONE WOMAN FOR LIFE, and yet he gets to publicly hide his own complexities which bely this movement's trite talking points? He gets to use words like "traditional marriage" without noting his own traditions? To publicly knock my marriage to one man while glossing over his own patterns? NO! Sorry. He doesn't!

I'll close by saying yet again (because it can't be repeated enough): I don't want to have to talk about stuff like this. But I am not the one who forced the issue.

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