Would Anthony Weiner Have Gotten Away With It If He Were Gay?

The Internet is buzzing with news of another sex scandal involving Anthony Weiner (a.k.a. “Carlos Danger”), the former congressman who resigned in 2011 after reportedly exchanging lewd messages with women online. His web history has certainly been called into question as Weiner powers through the mayoral race in New York City, but one thing nobody’s addressing is his sexual orientation.

That’s a mistake, according to Michael Brown, a columnist for the Christian site Charisma News. In a column titled “The Most Selfish Thing In The World,” Brown compares the Weiner scandal and the fate of another sex-scandalized politician, Eliot Spitzer, to stories of powerful men who abandoned their families to start gay relationships. His hypothesis? Men who run away with other men are praised for their “honesty” and “boldness,” while men who have affairs with women are shunned. Effectively, he says Weiner is only being punished because he’s straight.

Anthony Weiner speaks at a press conference yesterday, with wife Huma Abedin at his side

Here’s his snarky introduction to the story of Eric Myers, a married man who became somewhat famous after he left his family without notice, disappeared for 16 years, and started a life with another man:

How do you intentionally go missing for a period of 16 years, letting your wife and five kids think you’re dead, only to reappear and share your story on ABC’s 20-20? It’s simple. You turn up gay with your lover.

While Myers was away, his family suffered a great deal of emotional trauma — understandably so. Brown chastises him thoroughly for inflicting undue pain and, while it’s not his place to judge, it’s true that such an experience would be tragic for any family. And when Myers revealed himself after almost two decades of absence, he publicly owned up to what he did, in spite of Brown’s disapproval:

As for Eric, who recently chose to emerge from his secret life “since living in disguise is a ‘horrible prison’,” he now confesses that “I cannot say anything to deny that this is the most selfish thing in the world,” explaining — as if the thought would have crossed anyone’s mind — “I will never be painted as a saint.”

And, perhaps finding the ugliness of his actions too much to own up to, he states, “But no one is all good, and no one is all bad,” an unnecessary caveat if ever there was one.

Brown takes serious issue with this explanation and compares it to a more famous case of a man leaving his wife for another man:

What about his coming to terms with his homosexuality? Wasn’t that a valid excuse for leaving his wife and children?

After all, wasn’t New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey hailed for his courage when he announced that he was gay, confessed to an affair with another man, and resigned from office, all with his faithful wife at his side?

Within a year, he and his wife were separated and he was living with his partner Mark O’Donnell, only to commemorate his supposed bravery and grace in his book The Confession, billed as being “among the most honest political memoirs ever written.”

Is it not courageous to admit your mistakes? Affairs might be frowned upon in many circles, as (unfortunately) is homosexuality, but it undoubtedly takes some guts to stand up in front of the world and admit that you messed up — especially in a way that so many consider taboo.

But that’s not fair, cries Brown:

Somehow, I don’t recall former Governor Elliot Spitzer or former Representative Anthony Weiner getting the same treatment as did McGreevey. But after all, they didn’t fool around with other men. Their indiscretions were with other women, a fact they are constantly reminded of as they run for mayor of New York City.

A decade before McGreevey’s announcement, Dr. Mel White — a husband, father, grandfather, seminary professor, pastor, member of the religious right, and ghost writer for Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Billy Graham — shocked the evangelical world by leaving his wife and declaring his homosexuality, taking up residence with his partner Gary Nixon.

White has been hailed as a bold spiritual pioneer, becoming one of the nation’s leading gay activists, even challenging Rev. Falwell in an open letter, calling on him to renounce his alleged religious bigotry.

Um, yeah, because Jerry Falwell‘s anti-gay stances are motivated by religious bigotry, as is so often the case. But people like White change. Sometimes it takes a tumultuous separation or some other personal crisis to get there, but those experiences can and do change some people for the better.

That’s not an option in Brown’s mind, though. Apparently “moral character” is good or bad, all or nothing, and there’s no in-between. Gays, in his mind, apparently have it easier than straight people when it comes to admitting your affair to the world:

As a heterosexual, I don’t claim to understand the inner turmoil that Myers or McGreevey or White lived with, but I do understand this: The commitment to love your wife and your children trumps your sexual desires and romantic attractions, and to destroy your family for the sake of those desires is, indeed, “the most selfish thing in the world.”

But in today’s upside-down society, that selfishness is “understood” and even commended if you’re gay.

What Brown doesn’t understand here is that the human experiences of longing, loss, desire, and confusion don’t depend on sexual orientation. Any number of factors could drive a person to leave one partner for another, and it’s nobody’s job to judge them. People get hurt in these situations, and that sucks — but the instigators in question are absolutely not treated any better if they leave heterosexual relationships for same-sex ones.

If Weiner or Spitzer had been involved in gay sex scandals, they wouldn’t be any better off politically. Considering the percentage of society that still frowns upon same-sex relationships, it’s certainly the contrary. It’s pretty low to suggest otherwise.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.

  • The Captain

    The main problem here is Brown is comparing apples to oranges. Homosexuals for a very long time have been forced by societal pressures into the closet and into marriages with opposite sex people in order to “fit in”. They are somewhat given a pass (that can also be argued) when they do come out with an affair because they have been living a fake marriage to begin with. The heterosexual people he mentioned where not struggling with any outside pressure to be heterosexual (or not gay) and are just dicks.

    What he should have done is compared heterosexuals that cheated on their spouse with opposite sex partners, to homosexuals people who cheated on their spouse with someone of the same sex. That is the only comparable situation here.

  • onamission5

    Last time I checked, straight people in general are not raised in a society which is openly hostile and sometimes quite aggressively dangerous toward them because of their sexuality, do not struggle for years and even decades to come to terms with their orientation, are not subject to risking loss of their entire support structure should they come out of the closet, and have plenty of blanket social approval to be who they are publicly, so there is very little risk of them ending up in a marriage which goes against their sexual orientation, trying to make it work because society (and their religion, maybe) says to, and then finally having to be honest with themselves at great personal risk that being married to a same sex partner just isn’t who they are.

    I have much sympathy for families whose spouse or parent have left them, I understand it’s traumatic regardless, but to compare it to a heterosexual person cheating or leaving a marriage, its really not the same. Context matters.

  • Smiles

    “…are just dicks.”
    This is also why no one cares about a book they might write…no story, just being over-powered and selfish. On the flip side, the story a closeted gay politician might have an interesting story to tell.

  • Michael Harrison

    Personally, I found the Mark Sanford scandal to be romantic. Anthony Wiener was spamming penis pics, which is generally considered creepy.

  • BloodyConfusion

    Am I the only one that just doesn’t care? Why is this news?

  • Priscilla Troop

    This sort of reminds me of an issued raised by a soldier a couple weeks ago in a SHARP briefing. His issue was that same sex couples are now recognized by the military and just have to file out a form and they receive the same benefits but aren’t recognized as ‘married’ so if one cheats, there’s nothing the military can do about it but if he wanted to have extramarital relations, even if his wife knew and agreed to it, he would be violating the UCMJ. That might seem silly but ‘infidelity’ is rampant in the military and if we’re gonna raise the issue about whose permitted to do have consensual sex with another person (homosexuality) why are men and women who are polyamorous not given the same leeway and generally made to feel like they can’t talk or be open about it. He does have a point even if it is far fetched.

  • Nate Frein

    The simple answer is to remove the ridiculous infidelity prohibitions from the UCMJ.

  • Matt D

    When Mr. Brown stops representing a book that used to inform society it’s ok to hate gays, he’ll see fewer bad decisions made.

  • Stev84

    1. With the repeal of DOMA, the implementation of domestic partnerships benefits has been put on hold
    2. Even if they had been granted, it’s not the same benefits as with married couples (e.g. no healthcare or monetary allowances)

  • Stev84

    Or at least change them so that if you aren’t cheating (i.e. lying to your partner) it’s not a crime. But given how puritanical the US is, neither is going to happen any time soon.

  • Semipermeable

    Yes, this exactly. Many of these marriages took place in a time when there really was no safe alternative.

    Also, these sham marriages have also been encouraged by the anti-gay counseling and an affair of some sort seems more or less inevitable.

    I am much more sympathetic to the above situations then to Wiener’s behavior.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    So long as these people are competent to do their jobs, I don’t care what happens in their personal lives. It amazes me to watch the public so often reject capable people because of irrelevant incidents.

  • UWIR

    “What he should have done is compared heterosexuals that cheated on their spouse with opposite sex partners, to homosexuals people who cheated on their spouse with someone of the same sex.”

    I was going to say the same thing (presuming that by the second part, you meant “homosexuals who cheated on their same-sex spouse with someone of the same sex). Except that there aren’t really very many politicians who are in same-sex marriages to begin with, let alone any cheating with with someone of the same sex.

    There’s also the fact that leaving your spouse seems to be more acceptable than cheating on them, at least in the long term. People occasionally mention Gingrich’s indiscretions, but it isn’t a major scandal, because he married his mistress.

  • Priscilla Troop

    Actually they partners in same sex couple relationships have been able receive health care since last February but I don’t know about BAS. I only brought it up cause everyone at the briefing laughed at the comment. I agree with the first 2 relies, they need to do away with the restriction.

  • Pseudonym

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this piece. Apart from what Camille said, two things stand out for me.

    One of my best friends came out at the age of 40. He had a wife and three children. They did decide it was best to separate, and as he pointed out to me at the time, he did this because he loved (and still loves) her and his children.

    Separation and divorce is never a good thing, but it’s sometimes the least worst.It’s an unfortunate situation, but that really is the least worst thing to do.

    Brown has quite a good a point hiding under the bigotry, and it’s a point that deserves mention. Let’s go with the two scenarios in the piece. In Scenario A, a male public figure with a wife and family is caught having an affair (or similar) with another woman. In Scenario B, a male public figure with a wife and family comes out as gay.

    In Scenario A, the media and public opinion concentrates on him (and what a bad person he is), and also on the (apparently wronged) family. In Scenario B, the media and public opinion concentrates on him and pretty much ignores the family.

    That is a double standard. What’s up with that?

    My first comment is that the wife and children are not public figures, and as such, it’s unsurprising that we don’t know how to treat them when they are thrust into the spotlight. Straight people who are married to straight people can work out what it’s like to be in Scenario A (even if they’ve never actually been in that scenario), and so find it easier to empathise. The same is not true of Scenario B.

    My experience (which is admittedly limited) is that women whose husbands come out generally find it to be something of a relief. If you’re in a relationship which is dysfunctional in some way, you’re always tempted to wonder to what extent you’re to blame. This kind of a resolution has something of a “well that explains a lot” vibe to it.

    Oddly enough, I think Brown’s own attitude is precisely part of the problem. Though he didn’t say this, he is playing into the trope that women cannot strong, independent people with thoughts of their own, and so the very idea that a wife whose husband comes out as gay might actually find this as an ambiguously good thing is impossible for him.

  • Stev84

    Nope. The DOD only had some leeway with benefits that aren’t explicitly restricted to spouses by law. Healthcare was categorically barred by DOMA.

    You are confusing this with the time these plans were announced, which was in February. But as usual, they took their sweet time with implementing it. They originally planned to give some benefits by August or so, but with the repeal of DOMA that was scrapped. Now they have to hurry to implement that instead. For example, for some idiotic reason you can’t enter a same-sex couple into the personnel database (as if anyone would have tried that under DADT), so they have to update stuff.

  • revyloution

    Slightly off topic:

    How ironic, that the party of ‘keep government out of my bedroom’ won’t elect Weiner because of his sexual behavior, where the party of ‘family values! and lets pretend gays don’t exist’ goes and reelects Mark ‘I’m hiking the Appalachian trail’ Sanford.

  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    I don’t necessarily have problems with the infidelity clauses in the UCMJ, primarily because I see them used most often when it’s one Soldier sleeping with another Soldier’s spouse. In organizations that are designed to go into combat armed with large numbers of deadly weapons and munitions the command has an incentive to deter behavior like this to preserve good order and discipline. And that doesn’t even touch on another reason to keep it: to deter people who hold clearances from engaging in extramarital affairs that can then be used as blackmail material by a foreign power to gain access to state secrets.

    I’m not saying the rule doesn’t need some reforming (it does) but there’s a valid reason to keep it.

  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    It’s going to take a lot of work to build structures up within the DoD to allow for gay marriage and to repair the damage DADT and DOMA did, and this captures one of the problems we have to deal with. I think we’ll do it, but in the case of the UCMJ changes have to go through Congress. That means the House of Representatives. I doubt any changes in the UCMJ paving the way for marriage equality will pass.

    I think the DoD is doing all it can, but legislative deadlock bars a lot of options.

  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    The read I get is that a loyalty of people dislike Weiner because this kind of behavior is on par with his attitudes and performance in Congress, which was a lot of self-centered grandstanding and self-aggrandizement.

  • Nate Frein

    The problem with soldier readiness has to do with an organization that by it’s nature draws from primarily conservative young men, who are encouraged to marry early, right before the military then separates the couple for months or years at a stretch. Having nasty UCMJ penalties isn’t going to fix that problem.

    The problem with clearance is tied to the fact that we make a big deal over affairs. Half of all couples will experience infidelity, but we make such a big fucking deal over it that it creates the problems that you cite as grounds for blackmail.

    We need to get over cheating as a relationship killer.

  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    I agree with you completely, but I see two issues:

    1) Regardless of the background of Soldiers, we’ve also got to deal with the aftermath. Here’s a good example: I was in a unit (and I won’t name-names) where one of the sergeants was sleeping with his supervisors wife. Not just sleeping with, but it was obvious he was doing it purely out of spite because he hated his supervisor. So yes, the deterrent failed. But when that became public that sergeants presence in the unit became hugely toxic. That sergeant became a detriment to readiness. It was also obvious that sergeant was NOT of the right character for military service. We got rid of that NCO via the adultery article.

    2) Whether it is true or not that we treat infidelity too strongly we still have to work now. Those attitudes won’t change overnight and we need tools until then to deal with it.

    EDIT: Fucking smartphone! Posted before I was done!

  • Nate Frein

    So charge him with conduct unbecoming, as it was clear and demonstrable that he was acting deliberately against good order.

    That he used infidelity as the tool doesn’t mean that infidelity was the problem.

  • Anna

    In Scenario A, the media and public opinion concentrates on him (and what a bad person he is), and also on the (apparently wronged) family. In Scenario B, the media and public opinion concentrates on him and pretty much ignores the family.

    I really haven’t noticed a difference. For example, when Ted Haggard had his gay sex scandal, he and his wife were all over the media together. They did interviews and appeared in a documentary about their experience. A lot of closeted men have their wives by their sides. Even when the marriage ends, the women are given interviews and publicity. McGreevey’s wife wrote a book and also appeared on Oprah Winfrey and Good Morning America. Those are just the two that come to mind right away, but I’m sure there are other examples.

  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    Conduct unbecoming, the way it is written, isn’t really applicable unless tied to another article (hence adultery).

  • Nate Frein

    So fix that

  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    Sure. As I said I’m all about overhauling it so long as provisions are in place to allow for the maintenance of good order and discipline. But let’s face it, that isn’t happening any time soon, and units have to live with what they’ve got now. So those tools will kept getting used.

  • Nate Frein

    Yeah, exactly. The military needs a scalpel, but they have a hammer and they’re gonna give up that hammer when you pry it out of their cold dead hands.

    Just another reason why I give soldiers no more respect than any other career.

  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    Actually changes to the UCMJ have to go through Congress. That’s the problem. Do you see the current House green-lighting that kind of change?

  • Nate Frein

    No, but the problems have been systemic for long enough that “I was just following orders” no longer applies.

  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    So what, the DoD is supposed to just go and do their own thing?

    The military follows orders from their elected civilian leadership. So long as the order isn’t illegal we follow it regardless of what we think about it. The opposite course opens some very dangerous doors.

  • Nate Frein

    And civilians choose whether or not to serve. The abuses of the military-industrial complex have been going on long enough that anyone signing up or re-upping are just as morally accountable as the civilian leadership that’s misusing them.

    The United States Military is not currently serving the interests of the nation, it’s serving the interests of the oligarchy. That is why I do give them no more respect than I give any other American.

  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    Or the US electorate could vote in new people. Like is supposed to happen.

  • Nate Frein

    Because servicemembers are mindless automatons to the will of their superiors?

    Yeah, no.

    I ain’t stopping anyone from joining. I just don’t see the difference between ya’ll and Blackwater right now. You wanna keep playing shill for the military-industrial complex, go right ahead. Just don’t expect me to shake your hand.

  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    I assure you, I’m not doing this for your hand shake.

  • Nate Frein

    I don’t really care why you’re doing it. Don’t change that what you’re doing isn’t really doing much for the country.

  • Darrell Ross

    I totally agree. This is sensationalist bullshit. I am not bothered by Weiner’s sexting – that is a private matter. I am more concerned with his ability to govern.

  • J.R. Robbins

    What we have here is a christian writer defending this mayor’s perverted infidelity. Defending it because the guy was heterosexual. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, from Pat Robertson on down, christians do not condemn men who cheat on their wives.

  • Ewan

    What’s wrong with the structures that are already there to handle marriage? One of the things that’s so handy about treating people the same is that you can, you know – treat them the same.

  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    Read the original post this is replying to.

  • Stev84

    The way it works now, the politicians take their orders from the military. Whatever the generals want, politicians will fall over themselves to do whatever the military commands. Judges are the same and refuse to get involved in even the most trivial military cases (at the extreme you now have the Feres doctrine applied even to medical malpractice cases in state-side hospitals. Something that isn’t any different from a civilian hospital).

    Just take the current whining by military brass over taking away their ability to make decisions about when to initiate courts martial. They want to preserve their ridiculous power and immediately most politicians caved in to that demand.

    It was the same with DADT repeal. It was all “I trust the generals and will do what they want” and “I need to listen to the military” instead of for once in their lives telling these power-hungry clowns “You are not in charge here. You will do exactly what the government tells you to do, or you can resign.” Hell, that’s a big reason how DADT was passed in the first place. A complete lack of civilian control.

  • Stev84

    Believe or not, but right now if you tried to register a same-sex marriage, the computer system will throw up an error about both people being of the same gender. Yeah, DADT wasn’t enough. They had to make extra sure to prevent anyone from registering a same-sex marriage.

    It’s still ridiculous how long it takes them to implement some simple changes when they can plan and execute to invade a country within a month.

    As for UCMJ, Art. 125 needs to be removed (because it’s outdated and unnecessary in any situation), but the case Marcum v. United State already means that people can’t be prosecuted for consensual sex as a stand-alone charge. There need to be other things go on, which is why you only see it used as a tack on charge these days in things like sexual assault.

  • allein

    At worst I think the Wiener situation shows poor judgment (especially now that he’s been caught twice) and I can understand taking that into consideration when deciding whether to vote for him or not. (I don’t know how much it would weigh on my decision, but I don’t live in NY so I don’t have to decide.) I don’t think he needed to leave his job over it the first time, though.

  • http://truth-tables.com James Hotelling

    It’s also kind of telling that he’s comparing Weiner and Spitzer, who were discovered by third parties and forced to respond to allegations, to McGreevey and White, who (from what I can tell) voluntarily risked their own careers and futures to come out and be honest. Consider the public sentiment towards Larry Craig and George Rekers, who did have same-sex affairs, were discovered by third parties, and are now laughingstocks.

    This isn’t about treating GLBT people better than straight people; it’s about how society has a little more respect for people who break out of a lie they were forced into than people who just want to get their rocks off and get caught at it.

  • Ibis3

    Yes, this exactly. Many of these marriages took place in a time when there really was no safe alternative.

    Especially for someone who wanted to live a public life–whether as a politician, actor, or athlete. Public opinion may be slowly changing but things aren’t equal even now, let alone a decade or two ago when many of these guys first got married.

  • Ibis3

    My concern would be whether he’s doing it consensually with someone receptive or is he a creepy harasser spewing unsolicited ick at people.

  • baal

    It’s somewhat hard to vote in new people these days. The districts are very gerrymandered which means 1 .incumbents usually win 2. the real fights have moved to primaries in many cases (and hence the (R)’s fear of getting primaried by a stooge Tea Party candidate.

  • Mark W.

    Spitzer and Weiner are typical over-privileged politicians, they were really sorry AFTER they were caught. Their story is so common it’s almost cliche. McGreevey and White had the courage to stick around and fess up to their inequities and had the courage to come out when it was unpopular or even dangerous for them, these guys I can respect. But Myers…Fuck him. He abandoned his wife and 5 kids for 16 years, then came back only to cause more suffering. I hope he rots.

  • Crazy Russian

    I know, right? With news like these, who needs reality shows?

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    I am gay. I do NOT have any naked or even mostly naked pics of myself on the internet. But I know a LOT of people who do. Not all of them are gay. This is a thing people do now. There are apps that are just for hooking up to have sex (several of them!) and some of the pics I have been shows on them were ummm….well let’s just say they left nothing to the imagination. More than a few straight people have such pics floating around as well. Perhaps this is why I don’t find what Weiner did to be all that horrible. This is between him and his wife. If she wants to divorce him over this or ask that he not flirt and sext and all that then that’s a matter between the two of them. But I have to ask…how is this WORSE (which it must be based on the reaction) than the countless other elected officials who have sex with prostitutes or with other people. Weiner can’t pick up any diseases with his naughty talk and picture exchange. No one is going to get pregnant. It seems rather harmless to me. Again, if he promised his wife he would do this and she wants to divorce him, that’s her right. But compared to what people actually do and no one seems to mind (David Vitter, who frequented prostitutes is still in the Senate and the guy from South Carolina who had the affair with a South American woman just got elected to the House.) this seems rather tame and frankly LAME.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    McGreevey came out just before he was going to be outed anyway. It’s always a smart PR move to get ahead of a negative story and tell it yourself in your own way (somehow the first version of a story is the one people are most likely to remember), but it wasn’t really all that voluntary.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Because our society is populated with self-righteous hypocrites. Every time there’s a sex scandal and panels of people are denouncing the person who just got caught I wonder how many of these talking heads have done the same thing or worse. Most of them, I suspect. And no one calls them on it. Ever.