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What would a Rekers defamation suit bring about?

Timothy Kincaid

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.

Comments

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Johnson
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

I say “Bring it on, George”. A “defamation” trial of this sort warrants Popcorn and a Big Gulp. And have the Courts ever ruled that calling someone “gay”(in this case, supported by clear evidence) defamation?

Richard W. Fitch
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

As much as I hate to see this circus taken into a court of law, perhaps the outcome – most likely NOT favorable to the plaintiffs – may be worth the otherwise wasted time, cost and energy it entails.

Ben in Oakland
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

It would be truly devastating to have that clown be gay. eeeeewwwwwww.

maybe would call him a rekersexual.

Lindoro Almaviva
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

Bring on the suit!

jOHN
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

I can see it now a court room filled with T-Shirts that say “I AM NOT A REKERSEXUAL”

Or with the Summer Gay Pride Season coming up the streets will be filled with them!

Jason D
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

I think the case would be thrown out as a federal judge ruled years ago that calling someone gay isn’t defamation, Howard K. Stern (Anna Nicole’s old beau) tried suing over this years ago:

http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2009/08/13/Judge__Gay_Claims_Not_Defamatory/

jOHN
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

…or how about Rekersexual Massage Oil…

Ben in Oakland
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

I think there was a more recent ruling, Jason, a few months ago.

Chris McCoy
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

Ben in Oakland

I think there was a more recent ruling, Jason, a few months ago.

A US District Judge ruled in April.

“Given the decision in Lewis and the recognized evolution of the societal landscape, it appears unlikely that the New Jersey Supreme Court would legitimize discrimination against gays and lesbians by concluding that referring to someone as homosexual ‘tends to so harm the reputation of that person as to lower him in the estimation of the community as to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him,'” wrote Pisano, quoting Gray.

Coxygru
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

How about a law suit brought *against* Reeking Reekers for willful harm inflicted to LBGT families in Florida, Arkansas, et alia?

Burr
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

If the definition of gay revolved around penetration then there would be a whole lot less qualified gays.

B John
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

Coxygru, I’ve contacted my Florida House Rep and Senator, and asked they call for an independent investigation of the Attorney General and Rekers for conspiracy to commit fraud. I pointed out the fact that Rekers had already provided testimony in another case determined by the judge to be incompetent and non-scientific, yet McCollum insisted on hiring him and then doubling his pay.

As to the overall message of this post. Bill Clinton said it best, “I did not have sexual intercourse with that woman.”

Fg68at
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

This would be a real interesting case.

And he had not said, that he had no SSA. :-) A good question for the next reporter?

David C.
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

“What would a Rekers defamation suit bring about?”

I have a one word answer for that question: Discovery.

Readers of course know I am not speaking of the cable channel.

DN
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

This may be a dumb question, but I’m no lawyer so bear with me :)

Is there currently a legal framework (in some or all jurisdictions) as to what the definition of “gay” is? Could this set a precedent? Is there any chance that after a parade of witnesses for and against Rekers, the court could determine that:

a) sexual orientation exists outside of sexual activity

and

b) sexual orientation is immutable.

Again, not a lawyer, but seems to me that kind of precent would really be beneficial in marriage equality cases. If orientation is disconnected with behaviour and is not changeable, seems to me that’s a pretty solid argument that straight-only marriage violates the 14th amendment.

John in the Bay Area
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

If Rekers wants to try and convince a jury of 12 people that he is not gay, good luck to him.

Paul in Canada
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

This twisted ‘reasoning’ is typical of the evangelical christian. I was raised as such and I can attest that it is predominant in every interpretation of scripture as it applies to ‘christian living’ (James Dobson-FOTF par example). It is a way of ‘justifying’ a particular intepretation of ‘justified by grace through faith’.

In other words, interpreting how and why one is ‘saved’ by the grace of God is dependent on how you define the impact of salvation. In evangelical circles – it is by carefully thought out rules that dictate behaviour. Thus, liberal rules allow liberal behaviour, conservative rules (more strict, confining and well defined) allow less freedom.

When life isn’t black or white, when issues are complex, like sexuality (and sexual orientation) the rules that dictate behaviour become more complex, twisted and illogical. Thus, Rekers bizarre explanation of ‘sex’.

Bottom line, behaviours reflect the rules that reflect what you base your faith upon. This obscure and illogical approach to doctrinal interpretation is yet another reason so many of us have flooded the pews, and for many, lost their faith.

What is sad, is that they really, really do believe this crap.

Candace
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

But this is how it WORKS for “struggling” gay christians: as long as they deny, deny, deny that they’re gay, then they’re not gay. They can hit the glory hole on the way home from church but as long as they “struggle” with what they did, they’re not gay. They can masturbate to gay fantasies, fall in same-sex love, have gay sex all day long…. but as lng as they “struggle” with what they did, they’re not really gay.

This is how the “ex gays” can claim to no longer be gay: they can do any gay thing they want, but they must “struggle” with it. Fundie christians will buy this bullsh*t all day long. “He’s not really gay, look at him crying at the altar, struggling with his homosexuality.”

But the minute that a gay christian stops “struggling,” they’re a militant homo activist– bound for hell and also bound for the church EXIT sign.

As long as Rekers can claim to be “struggling” with his “unwise decisions” (of hiring gay hookers to massage his penis) then by fundie definition, he isn’t gay.

Except that he is gay, and the rest of the entire world knows it.

Steven B
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

So if, like Matt Staver, Rekers understands homosexuality to be defined by behavior, and Rekers was on the board of NARTH, can we conclude that NARTH as a group also holds this view? Is all the talk about reparative therapy really only about controlling unwanted behavior?

Candace
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

Of COURSE NARTH understands homosexuality as behavior. To them, sexual orientation is what we DO, not what we ARE. Everything revolves around our sex acts. Homosexuality is 100% about sex, sex, sex. Therefore, a celibate ex-gay is a cured ex-gay.

I have NEVER met a homosexual who had become heterosexual. I’ve met bisexuals who chose to engage only in hetero sex (for the time being) and gays who chose to become celibate, but never a homo who became a hetero.

Of course this ignores the fact that if a gay person never, ever, had a gay experience and remained celibate their entire life, they’d still be gay. It ignores the fact that we fall in love with people of our sex. It ignores the fact that we are attracted to and desire same-sex partners… all of which can be done without engaging in a sex act. One does not need to be having sex with a person to fall in love with them.

But, really, who cares what NARTH thinks? Their “therapy” doesn’t work, or Rekers (and thousands of other gay people who have tried to change orientations) would be able to become heterosexuals. NARTH deliberately uses skewed research to advance their agenda, misrepresents facts, lies, and emotionally, physically and spiritually tortures the unfortunate gay individuals who fall into their clutches.

I’m a proud, happy gay woman. NARTH preys on gay people who hate themselves…. and baby, that ain’t me. And I’m not unique.

NARTH can go peddle their snake oil somewhere else, thanks but no thanks.

Paul in Canada
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

Exactly! Having gone through their ex-gay counselling and subsequently embracing who I am, and now in a committed same-sex relationship for nearly 20 years, the family and friends who still cling to their evangelical christianity are confronted with…… “hmmmm, now what? He’s happy, well adjusted and living a ‘normal’ life. God hasn’t smittem him for the evil force we thought he was….”

OMG! What, if not the latest Reker-scandle will it take to open their eyes to the fact that they are, indeed, blind!

Paul in Canada
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

Exactly! Having gone through their ex-gay counselling and subsequently embracing who I am, and now in a committed same-sex relationship for nearly 20 years, the family and friends who still cling to their evangelical christianity are confronted with…… “hmmmm, now what? He’s happy, well adjusted and living a ‘normal’ life. God hasn’t smittem him for the evil force we thought he was….”

OMG! What, if not the latest Reker-scandle will it take to open their eyes to the fact that they are, indeed, blind?

Ron
May 13th, 2010 | LINK

Mr. Burroway, you have written a superb analysis of Rekers predicament. It is extremely gratifying to read pieces like yours that go deeper than surface crap. Rekers is indeed playing a very intense mind game with himself and is the epitome of cognitive dissonance.

Michael Bussee
May 14th, 2010 | LINK

I think Warren Throckmorton said it very well on his Blog:

“If Rekers is not gay/bi and really means it then that really lowers the bar for what notgay is.”

http://wthrockmorton.com/page/2/

LOion
May 14th, 2010 | LINK

The other prospect is as Waymon Hudson mentioned on GAY STREET BEAT yesterday, and I have heard discussed by others familiar with the law. Many cases all around the country have relied on Rekers ‘expert’ testimony. If he is found to have truly been hiding his sexuality, his testimony could be found to be without merit. And there are more than just the people of FL who will want their $120,000 paid to him back.

LOrion
May 14th, 2010 | LINK

oops spelled handle wrong.

scioto
May 14th, 2010 | LINK

I believe they have a situational definition of homosexual. When it benefits them it only involves conduct, but when they want to keep someone from serving in the military, housing, or employment, no conduct is necessary.

Regan DuCasse
May 14th, 2010 | LINK

“…depends on what is…is”

He’s so going to lose this lawsuit.
And deserves to.
It’s not libel to be exposed doing exactly what you’re doing. Which has had hurtful consequences to gays and lesbians. And by that exposure are revealed to be the opposite of what you claim.
It’s not libel to be exposed as a liar.
Libel essentially requires malice based actions in which a person’s reputation is ruined by what isn’t factually true.

And, as Jim is pointing out, it’s not even his actions he’s denying, but that he’s a homosexual.
As if that’s a BAD thing. Well, it is to him and his defenders.

But even their own logic doesn’t really square with that.

Because it’s NOT a bad thing to be gay. And their interpretation of homosexuality really isn’t something the courts can interpret as such.

And if he thinks that all of his lying and hurting the gay community isn’t supposed to come back to bite his ass, in what universe is there a guarantee that’s not supposed to happen?
Or that it shouldn’t?

I find it seriously arrogant that his defenders or people like him believe that the human sacrifice of gays and lesbians is all good and lines up with ‘the social and natural order’.
And call themselves brave and courageous for ‘fighting’ people who aren’t anyone’s enemy.

But when it comes to REALLY fighting, making a sacrifice, being accountable for their actions and perhaps truly understanding what treating another the way you’d want to be treated means…
well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such whiny, victim card playing in all my life.

‘The rent boy made him do it’. ‘The reporters who exposed him aren’t playing fair and need to be sued’. ‘I’m really not a gay person, all these homosexuals are saying bad things about me’!

He’s the human sacrifice now, and he don’t like it one bit.
And what I hope for, is that he can take LU, FRC and all the others down with him.

Paul in Canada
May 14th, 2010 | LINK

“And what I hope for, is that he can take LU, FRC and all the others down with him.”

…which is why they’re all distancing themselves from him, scrubbing their websites and, I’m sure, having shredders working overtime!

Jon
May 14th, 2010 | LINK

Rekers is a public figure. So to win his case, he has to convince a judge/jury that the New Times wrote that he was a homosexual either knowing it to be false or with a reckless disregard for the truth. So he doesn’t just have to convince the finder of fact that his twisted definition of what it means to be “homosexual” is valid for him or that it’s reasonable — the finder of fact has to determine that it’s unreasonable for anyone else to use the more normal definition.

In other words, Rekers has to prove that it’s absolutely unreasonable for anyone to think that just because a man gets nude massages from a masseur, involving genital contact, that the man is homosexual.

Good luck with that, George.

TampaZeke
September 24th, 2010 | LINK

I think Candace nailed it; particularly in her first comment.

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