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Semidefense of Matt Foreman

Semidefense of Matt Foreman


As a signatory of the "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage" document, Nation editor Richard Kim finds fault with Jamie Kirchick's assessment of the Task Force's outgoing leader.

I won't go on and on about The Advocate's decision to publish Jamie Kirchick's overheated takeout of Matt Foreman, the outgoing executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. As Matt can tell you himself, I'm one of his relentless critics, and the record of one of the gay movement's leaders is fair game for scrutiny from Left and Right alike. Look, I don't even like the guy. But it would be nice if once in a while you folks published commentary from the Left, which is, after all, the big political tent under which most self-identified gays happily and fiercely reside. But I'm an editor myself and can see why running contrarian polemics -- no matter how ill-informed and hysterically written -- would appeal to you. Hey, maybe you figured it would get a lot of hits on the web or that Andy Sullivan would pick it up for his blog or something.

But as one of the conveners of the "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage" statement, which was woefully undercovered in your pages, I have to point out a factual inaccuracy -- and then a troublesome Stalinist argument -- in Jamie's article. He writes:

"Yet even as NGLTF has officially come out in support of gay marriage, the organization's communications coordinator, several past and present board members, and the founding director of its policy institute are signatories to 'Beyond Same-Sex Marriage,' a radical document of which NGLTF's 'senior strategist' is a coauthor. Such a text plays to the worst fears of antigay right-wingers in that it decries the very notion of marriage altogether as a 'patriarchal' institution."

In fact, the "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage" statement does not decry marriage as a patriarchal institution -- though I'm sure some of us who signed the statement share that belief. It does point out, in the only instance in which the word patriarchy is used, that the right-wing, antigay coalition organizing against same-sex marriage has a larger agenda and that "coercive, patriarchal marriage promotion" is part of it.

The difference is crucial. We were making a very specific political claim about the right-wing agenda. Kirchick alleges, without citation and wrongly, that our entire document came out against same-sex marriage and advanced the notion that marriage altogether is a patriarchal institution. It does no such thing.

Which brings me to the final point. Does Kirchick think that Matt Foreman should police the constitutionally protected speech of his staff and board members? Maybe they should be forbidden from speaking or writing in public while at the Task Force? Or hey, why not just purge dissidents -- on marriage or other issues -- from the staff? Perhaps that would have burnished Matt's legacy in James's eyes. That certainly seems to be what he's calling for. I for one am glad that Matt has the fortitude to stomach contrary opinions.

I think at the very least you should print a correction about the specific factual error, and then, I think it would behoove you and TheAdvocate if you were to clarify your own opinion on the question of free speech in the gay movement. Feel free to publish this letter -- but only in its entirety -- if doing so would help you to do that.

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Richard Kim