What would a Rekers defamation suit bring about?
May 13th, 2010
Dr. George Rekers is threatening to sue “media outlets” for defamation, and Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver has pledged to support him. But what exactly does he mean?
We have been told the following:
1. Rekers found Jo-Vanni Roman on RentBoy.com, a site designed to facilitate gay male prostitutes and their prospective johns finding each other.
2. Rekers contracted for Roman to accompany him to Europe. In addition to ‘luggage lifting’ services, the contract required that Roman spend a designated amount of time with Rekers and also “will provide George Rekers a massage for at least one hour each day of the trip in their shared rooms using the same procedures (“Lucien”) provided to George Rekers in Florida.” Roman has clarified the massages were nude, were sexual in nature, and that the procedures involved genital contact.
Interestingly, Rekers does not dispute – or even address – these details. He seems relatively unconcerned about providing clarification about the particulars of the massages or the origins of their first communication. Instead he has focused his attention, his objection, and his denial around one statement.
Rekers’ first mention of a defamation suit was on the 6th, right after the Miami New Times reported that Roman told them that Rekers “is a homosexual.”
“If today’s news story in the Miami New Times is accurate,” said Rekers in an e-mail to me, “I have been advised to retain the services of a defamation attorney in this matter, because the fact is that I am not gay and never have been.”
You may note that Rekers was not threatening defamation based on prior reporting, but on what had been claimed that day.
Then on the 11th, he reiterated his threat with a statement to NARTH.
“I am immediately resigning my membership in NARTH to allow myself the time necessary to fight the false media reports that have been made against me. With the assistance of a defamation attorney, I will fight these false reports because I have not engaged in any homosexual behavior whatsoever. I am not gay and never have been.”
Considering the earlier accusations that the Miami New Times was engaging in “false impressions” and “misleading innuendo” and “incorrectly implying”, I think that a pattern has developed which helps clarify exactly what Rekers fears the most.
Dr. George Rekers does not want to be thought of as a homosexual.
He so objects to this that he is willing to file a defamation suit against anyone who claims, implies, or gives the impression that he is. And Liberty Counsel is willing to back him.
But why would Rekers and Staver focus solely on the identity and not on the facts as known? That is because Dr. George Rekers – and Liberty Counsel – define homosexuality differently than you or I.
We accept the concept of sexual orientation. We allocate people into categories based on the sex towards which their attractions point. If a person is primarily attracted to persons of the same sex, we identify them as homosexual. It’s just a matter of fact, and folks have little to no say in the matter.
But to Rekers, a homosexual is defined by his behavior. Those who engage in homosexual acts are homosexuals, and if one chooses to resist temptation, then one is not homosexual.
And Rekers seems to define “homosexual behavior” differently from most of us. It appears to me that he has established a line beyond which he will not go. Erotic massage is not “homosexual behavior”, while oral or anal sex clearly are. This way of thinking is evidenced in his statement to blogger Joe.my.god.
If you talk with my travel assistant that the story called “Lucien,” you will find I spent a great deal of time sharing scientific information on the desirability of abandoning homosexual intercourse… [emphasis added]
I suspect that Rekers believes himself to be truthful when he says that he did not engage in homosexual behavior and is not a homosexual. Under the definitions he and his community use, he may have submitted to his weaknesses, but he did not cross his line in behavior and he is actively choosing not to be a homosexual.
So if Rekers does sue, this will be a fascinating case. It will go far beyond the questions about who did what to whom, where, and in what state of undress. Rather, this case would hinge on the question, “How do you define homosexuality?”
If “homosexual behavior” is limited to insertive penile contact, and if “homosexual” is one who chooses to live a life centered around one’s same-sex attractions, then Rekers has a basis for his objections. But the court system is not an adjunct of the conservative evangelical Christian movement, and it is not subject to the carefully crafted language that allows Rekers a level of deniability.
Going forward with a defamation lawsuit is very risky for Rekers and Staver.
Defense will call witnesses from the mental health professions who will inform the court about modern thinking on matters of sexuality. They will witness that it is reasonable to use the term “homosexual” to describe a man who is erotically aroused by same-sex contact. They will provide testimony of Rekers’ behavior, of the sexual nature of his contact with Roman, and possibly even a record of his activity on the RentBoy site.
Rekers and his counsel will be left trying to defend their own peculiar definition of homosexuality, and arguing that the media be punished for not adopting their language. This would be a hard sell.
And, in the process, Dr. George Rekers runs the risk of having a court declare him to be homosexual. And that would be truly devastating for the anti-gay movement.