To beat the drum against marriage equality, Maine's Bob Emrich—one of the co-heads of the 2009 campaign to overturn marriage equality in the state and the chair of the effort to stop it there this year—placed an Op-Ed in the Bangor Daily News in which he pretended his interest is solely in policy as it pertains to child welfare. Only thing? Those of us who have an interest in holding commentators accountable know a completely different side of Bob Emrich—one that is fully committed to telling society that gay people can and should "change." Let's examine.
Emrich says, beginning in the second line of his BDN commentary:
The debate is not whether same-sex couples should be able to live as they wish or love whom they choose. But marriage is about far more than what adults want for themselves. It’s about what children need.
Marriage provides in large part a mechanism to provide for the next generation. It is society’s bond with children. It says to children that we as a community have recognized a structure, the institution of marriage, that is uniquely focused on connecting children to the people responsible for bringing them into the world — their parents. Indeed, marriage is our only institution that is focused on children in this way.
Were it not for the interests of children, society (read, government) would have no interest in marriage at all. Adults do not need a social institution to “recognize” their relationships. Adults are able to reach their own agreements, to negotiate their own relationship terms and to decide for themselves how they will handle their relationships. But children are not so fortunate.
Straight marriage is society’s bond with children, and gay marriage doesn’t fit [BDN]
Bob's message to the locals who may be reading is that he is someone who is simply focused on how the government recognizes this particular institution. He says that "same-sex couples should be able to live as they wish or love whom they choose," because he knows that the vast majority of Mainers—even Mainers who are not necessarily in support of marriage equality at this time—support the LGBT people in their communities, in their families, in their workplaces and in their social circles. Emrich also knows that the bright lights of a campaign are rolling around soon, thus he sees a need to play the pragmatic public role that he knows will play better in both punditry and polling.
The problem is that it's a complete and utter ruse. For staters, this very same Bob Emrich has said that marriage equality is a "direct challenge to the righteousness and wisdom of God" (words delivered to a national pastor webinar). He has also claimed that the Maine lawmakers who passed marriage equality in 2009 were mocking God: "It was the most shameful, most embarrassing thing for my state that I have seen. I listened to Senator after Senator stand up and mock God, mock the word of God, mocking the people of God…I was so angry hearing the way they were speaking about my God" (audio from FRC's 2011 Watchmen conference). This shows that there is a deep and disconnectable religiosity attached to his—one that positions support for same-sex couples as an affront to God. This is not a minor point, one that simply does not fit with his claim that he believes gay people "should be able to live as they wish or love whom they choose."
Then there was the time back in 2009 , while the debate over the so-called "Kill The Gays Bill" was being debated in Uganda and worldwide, Emrich -- who had just returned from one of his many trips to the African nation -- sent an email to his supporters wherein he pushed an article that praised a "brilliant MP" for coming up "with a Bill against homosexuality." The bill Emrich referenced/supported was the same one that calls for the death penalty as punishment for being gay in some cases. So according to Emrich, Maine's same-sex couples can love whom they choose, but Uganda's should be jailed - or worse.
But perhaps more pertinent here is the unassailable FACT that Bob also routinely proves that his advocacy goes beyond marriage and into "changing" gay people.
Emrich has written things like: "Those who want to redefine marriage want us to believe that we show love and support for homosexual family members by encouraging them to remain in their sin. Christian people will remember that true love and support helps people overcome, not surrender." He also runs an official YouTube channel where he pushes several different videos that encourage gay people to "change" their orientations. Oh, and just this past spring, Emrich encouraged his Facebook supporters to learn from a video in which the pastor (Mark Hartman) claims that the "perverse lifestyle" of homosexuality constitutes a "struggle" and "choice" from which gay people need to be "reserved."
This is not a body of rhetoric that tells LGBT people that this man is supportive of us being "able to live as [we] wish or love whom [we] choose." He has come right out and admitted that he wants us to "overcome." That goes waaaaaaaaay beyond marriage policy and instead cuts right into LGBT people's cores. And if those are the stated beliefs, then those in the media who cover Bob Emrich and his work need to help flesh out the honest record that Mr. Emrich has himself put on the record!
Bob's voice is very prominent in the state of Maine. Our accountability efforts must be just as bold.