Antigay Groups Defend Rekers
May 13 2010 5:25 PM ET
Two antigay groups have come to the defense of George A. Rekers, more than a week after he was caught employing a young gay escort on a European trip.
Officials with the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, which purports to conduct research on treatment for those who “struggle with unwanted homosexuality,” told The Advocate that NARTH stands behind Rekers’s research, even though he resigned his membership in the group Tuesday in order to “fight the false media reports” against him.
“Good, peer-reviewed science speaks for itself,” NARTH spokesman David C. Pruden said in an e-mail response.
Pruden also said that NARTH never pressured Rekers to resign from the organization, where he served on the board and the scientific advisory committee. “We didn’t need to,” he said. “[Rekers] very graciously suggested it from almost the first press report.”
On Wednesday, Mathew D. Staver, founder of the conservative Christian legal group Liberty Counsel, said his organization would back Rekers in potential lawsuits and that the University of South Carolina professor emeritus “would have a great case to file a defamation action.”
Rekers has vigorously defended himself against allegations that he received sexual massages from Jo-vanni Roman, a 20-year-old escort who advertised his services on RentBoy.com, during a 10-day trip to London and Madrid. Rekers claims that he is not gay and did not know Roman was an escort until midway through his travels.
"I think that it's the classic [tactic]: If you can't destroy the message, you destroy the messenger,” Staver told The Washington Times. “I think this is a personal attack designed to cast aspersions on his character and reputation.”
The two groups’ support for Rekers is an about-face after antigay organizations, including the lobbying group Family Research Council, distanced themselves following May 4, when the Miami New Times broke the story.
Pruden denied news reports alleging that NARTH was also quietly purging Rekers from its ranks by systematically deleting his work from the organization’s website. The research in question includes a 2004 statement in defense of an Arkansas law that bars gays and individuals living with gay family members from adopting children that is no longer found on the NARTH site.
“Without judging anyone else, let me say that I do know that if being stupid or even a hypocrite eliminated someone from public involvement, almost all of us who were honest would have to live alone in a cave somewhere,” Pruden added. “I know I would.”
Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, a national group critical of so-called reparative therapy, was skeptical of NARTH’s assertion that Rekers resigned his membership voluntarily, however. “I suspect NARTH was waiting to see if Rekers could wiggle and weasel his way out of [the scandal],” Besen said. “He failed, so this week we may see more groups running away.”