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.


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