Silence == consent

Update: This is Sophrosyne’s description of this post at the Virginia Blog Carnival:

“David over at Equality Loudoun has a post discussing the civility of the Virginia Marriage Amendment debate in relation to a purported lack of condemnation of a recent act of vandalism in a Loudoun community (which appears to be motivated by the victims’ sexual lifestyle).” [Emphasis mine]

At least she posted it.

It has not escaped our notice that not one of the blogs that regularly editorialize in support of the Marshall/Newman amendment, not a single one, has condemned the vicious hate crime perpetrated against members of our community in Loudoun. Nor has any elected official who supports the amendment condemned it – including Attorney General Bob McDonnell, who had the perfect opportunity Tuesday night when one of the NoVA Town Hall activists raised the issue of civility. It’s been over a week now.

After making cynical requests for civility in the debate over Marshall/Newman, and after repeated claims that they are not anti-gay**, leaders of the primary outlet for pro-Marshall/Newman propaganda have openly endorsed an association between Marshall/Newman opponents, the GLBT community, and pedophilia.

Several NoVA Town Hall contributors have endorsed this post, insisting that it makes a valid argument to which Marshall/Newman opponents are obligated to respond. In reality, it only posits a moral equivalency between the loving, committed partnerships of gay adults seeking some measure of legal protection for their families, and the sexual abuse of children by criminal predators.

Endorsement of this moral equivalency is tantamount to endorsing hate crimes against the gay community.

Since I know that this statement will be excoriated by these same contributors as hyperbole and “name-calling,” (pot, kettle?) let me save them some time by explaining why this is true.

Monsters who prey on children are, reasonably enough, subject to prosecution and punishment under our system of criminal justice.

Healthy adults occupied with building a life with the partner of their choice, regardless of gender, are not. Only an insignificant lunatic fringe still believes it should be otherwise.

Social conservatives may dislike the manner in which the few remaining state laws that criminalized consensual sexual relationships were voided, but even Über-conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas described them as “uncommonly silly.” Virtually all Americans agree with that assessment. [I will here make only the obligatory, cursory Bob McDonnell reference.]

There is no such consensus, for obvious reasons, on the sexual exploitation of children. Only an insignificant lunatic fringe would argue that engaging in sex with children is moral, or that children can give consent to a sexual relationship with an adult.

These two things are like night and day. Or, if you prefer, like apples and road apples (hat tip to my beloved).

Since consensual adult relationships are not subject to criminal prosecution, endorsing such a moral equivalency must be understood as an invitation to the frustrated lunatic fringe to mete out extra-legal punishment to those they wrongly view as “deviant.”

None of this should be interpreted as the suggestion that anyone’s right to freedom of speech should be abridged. We all have that fundamental right, regardless of how obnoxious, laughable, or factually inaccurate our speech may be. This does not mean, however, that speech does not have consequences, and those consequences are brought to bear in the arena of public opinion.

Sometimes the failure to speak has consequences, too.

I would think that, of all the people who would want to go on record as condemning acts of violence and intimidation against the gay community, it would be the vocal proponents of the amendment who want us to believe they are not motivated by anti-gay animus.

I find it remarkable that the proponents of Marshall/Newman would be so self-righteous as to complain about the use of speech like “bigot” and “homophobe,” while remaining silent about a hate crime perpetrated on the gay community right in their own backyard. In case anyone somehow doesn’t know what I am talking about: 170 trees and shrubs ripped out or cut down. Gasoline poured all over the yard, around the house and over the well. “FAG” spray painted all over the property.

There is no indication that this specific crime was directly motivated by the debate over Marshall/Newman, or by the demonizing propaganda – like the moral equivalency discussed above – peddled by its proponents. However, these two men were targeted because they are gay. The context in which this crime was committed is a climate created by increasingly hysterical and dehumanizing portrayals of GLBT people.

The failure to swiftly, publicly, and in no uncertain terms condemn this monstrous behavior is not only a moral failure, but also, I believe, an enormous public relations one. It would behoove Marshall/Newman supporters to correct it.

**We are fascinated by this. Why would those who devote all of their spare time to finding ways to interfere with the lives of gay people, and justify this activity by claiming that there is something wrong with gay people, then object to the observation that they are anti-gay? We think it must be because they understand that it’s wrong. If they didn’t understand that being anti-gay is morally wrong, they wouldn’t become defensive about it.

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22 Responses to Silence == consent

  1. David says:

    I think there are people who genuinely believe that they can hold views about GLBT people being inferior, or broken, or confused – and teach that to their children – without contributing to the maintainance of inequality and the harm it does. They struggle with this, because they truly do not have animus. They don’t want to hurt anyone.

    What I am talking about here are people who do have animus, they do want to harm us, and they think the ultimate solution to the fact that they have this animus is for us to not exist. These are people who genuinely believe that having to share the planet with us is a violation of their rights. That goes far beyond a failure of moral responsibility, and its logical conclusion is hate crimes, terrorism, and extermination. The failure of moral responsibility belongs to those in the first group – it is a failure to see this as the logical conclusion, and say never again.

    There are people in both groups who support the amendment. Only they know which one they are in.

  2. Eve M Barner says:

    I submitted this letter to the editor of the Easterner earlier this morning.

    To the Editor:

    There is no excuse for the invasion of private property or the destruction that occurred at the home in Aldie last weekend. Reports that derogatory slogans were used to vandalize the property make the crime even more personal and despicable.

    Some have been quick to link this crime to supporters of the marriage amendment. We who believe marriage is between one man and one woman join other members of the community in strongly condemning violence, vandalism, hatred and all sorts of property damage. No one should be treated like that.

    The person(s) who committed this crime should turn themselves in and face their punishment. Their behavior is appalling and cowardly.

    All of us should agree that discussions of public policy should be conducted in the marketplace of ideas ““ never through criminal behavior. Further, I would ask both sides in the debate over the marriage amendment to treat each other with respectfully, to refrain from personal attacks and to remember that we are neighbors here in Loudoun.

    I am particularly mindful of Jesus’ call to love our neighbors. Surely our neighbor includes anyone who has been victimized by crime. Surely, our neighbors in Aldie need the support of the entire community at a time like this.


    Eve Marie Barner
    Ashburn, VA

  3. David says:

    Thank you, Eve.

    It’s particularly important that people hear these words from vocal supporters of the Marshall/Newman amendment. I’m glad that you recognize this.

  4. Roci says:

    I normally do not post about property crimes or vandalism. It would be out of place for me to do so now just because the victims were appearently gay.

    I have seen this kind of bahavior before and it is seldomly attributed soley to anti-gay bias. The terms sprayed on the mailbox may have been intentionally selected for effect, but were not likely the motivation.

    I would be looking for a small group (3-4)15-22 year-old males. Unemployed, living at home, uneducated. Known to the victims. Likely living nearby or has come into contact with the victims on a routine basis elsewhere. Someone with a grudge. Anti-gay bias is not enough to explain it.

    Is one of the victims a schoolteacher at local high school?

  5. David says:


    With a hate crime there is generally some other trigger involved that the perpetrator uses to justify the action.

    What makes it a hate crime is the fact that it is directed, by the use of an epithet, not just at the individual but at the entire community of which the individual is a member. Vandalizing someone’s property just because the perpetrator is angry with them doesn’t have that effect, even though the perpetrator may subjectively feel “hate.”

  6. Roci says:

    Short of capturing the perpitrators and getting an honest answer from them, you don’t really know that they were motivated by anti-gay bias.

    It could just as easily be anti-vegitation hatred. (admittedly, poor example)

    I suspect you are very likely to find that this person has a deep personal grudge against the victims that is unrelated to his sexual preference. He is throwing in the offensive grafitti specifically to be offensive and cause deeper wounding. The desire to cause the wound is important because it leads you to the perpitrators and focuses proper attention on correcting their future bahavior.

    Example: Is the offensive language alone a criminal offense in Louden county? I’m not from there but I would guess the answer is no. Is the vandalism and property damage alone a criminal offense? I would guess yes. If the perpitrators are caught, they will be required to pay restitution to the victims for the property damage. But what can be done to them to change their offensive but not illegal bahavior? Make them go to consideration of others classes at the local community college? All that does is teach them than anti-bigotry education is a punishment. They will also learn that they can publicly call the victims whatever they like, as long as they do no property damage next time.

    This is the weakness of all “hate crimes” laws.

    Sorry, I just don’t get that whole “directed at the whole community” thing. I have never found this to be practical. Real offenses are normally reality based, identifiable and very personal.

    There are a lot of people who disagree with the homosexual lifestyle. Few of them care enough about it to even write a letter to the editor. Something else is required and essential to motivate them to expend their time and energy to select a target and proceed with a course of action. Even if that is a combination of bordom, alcohol, and complaining to the Shariff about his dog barking too much.

    In this case, this Lounden community is at risk, gay and strait, because there are 4-6 young men with too much time on their hands, insufficient moral training regarding other people’s property, and a mean streak. Such people aren’t finished yet. Their next target could be anyone, with whatever offensive language they think will meet that need inserted.

  7. David says:


    I’m happy to leave the investigation part to the Sheriff’s Office. They’ll do their job.

    Virginia doesn’t have “hate crime laws,” which is unrelated to whether law enforcement agencies identify an incident as a hate crime.

    If you “don’t get that whole directed at the whole community thing,” then what is terrorism, in your view?

    Does it make any difference to you whether someone blows up a school because they are bored or mentally ill, or blows up a school because it is filled with, say, American children? If it’s the latter, and the perpetrators announce that as their reason, doesn’t that produce a different effect?

  8. Roci says:

    You really don’t understand what terrorism is.

    It is not simply anything or anyone that makes you afraid. it is an act of war, perpatrated by citizens of one country against that of another. State sponsorship is an essential ingredient.

    There is a difference between terrorism and sociopathic behavior. Understanding that difference is essential to fighting both.

    equating all of your enemies to terrorists oversimplifies both and helps them win.

  9. David says:

    State sponsorship as an essential ingredient? No, I disagree. Timothy McVeigh and the other Oklahoma City bombers were certainly terrorists, and what state sponsored their actions?

    Lynching in the Jim Crow south certainly qualifies as terrorism, a campaign of violence directed at a particular community. What state sponsored that? Does the KKK simply represent mass psychosis to you?

    Terrorism is violence that is consciously perpetrated on a community with the intent of instilling fear and controlling the behavior of that community. Much of it going on around the world today has no connection to any state.

    If someone attacks you or vandalizes your property at random, or because they just think you’re a jerk, that may be simply sociopathic behavior. If someone attacks you as part of a social pattern, because you are gay, or because you are black, or because you are Jewish – and the only operational definition for that behavior is the use of epithets or other means of communicating the perpetrators intent – that is a hate crime. It’s not random. The communication of that intent means that any other member of the targeted group could also be a target. That’s not true of random crimes, or as you put it, “simply anything or anyone that makes you afraid.”

    Let’s also be careful not to confuse the definition of hate crimes with advocacy for particular hate crime laws. Those are two separate questions.

  10. Roci says:

    Tim Mcveigh= psychopath. Not terrorist. Saying it is so does not make it so. Using a bomb instead of a rusty knife does not change a psychopath into a terrorist. Nor does scale make the difference.

    lynching in Jim Crow south, to the extent that it happened did enjoy state sponsorship in that local law enforcement did not prosecute or investigate.

    Terrorism is violence that is consciously perpetrated on a community with the intent of instilling fear and controlling the behavior of that community. Much of it going on around the world today has no connection to any state.

    Wrong. Just because you cannot identify the state does not mean there isn’t state sponsorship. The instilling fear is always a means to a more desirable outcome. Psychopaths instill fear because they like it. Occasionally, the two paths cross. All of the known terrorist groups in the world today have traceable state sponsorship in their origin or current maintenance.

    Charles Manson = psychopath, not terrorist.
    Some of Sam = Ditto.

    The difference is more than rhetoric. It shows the path to defeating it. You cannot defeat a psychopath using counter terrorist tactics, nor terrorists with psychology.

  11. David says:

    Well, we got off on this tangent about terrorism because you stated that you didn’t understand the defining characteristic of a hate crime, which is what is relevent to the topic of this post. I more or less agree with your last statement, but the psychopath/terrorist dichotomy as you’re framing it isn’t that helpful in terms of understanding hate crimes.

    …violence that is consciously perpetrated on a community with the intent of instilling fear and controlling the behavior of that community

    is the characteristic that hate crimes and terrorism have in common. That is what differentiates a hate crime from the random act of a psycho- or sociopath, even though perpetrators of these crimes may often also be sociopaths.

  12. Jack says:

    “Why would those who devote all of their spare time to finding ways to interfere with the lives of gay people, and justify this activity by claiming that there is something wrong with gay people, then object to the observation that they are anti-gay? We think it must be because they understand that it’s wrong. If they didn’t understand that being anti-gay is morally wrong, they wouldn’t become defensive about it.”

    Please allow me to explain. “Anti-gay” we take to mean disliking or hating the individuals. That would be hating the sinner, not the sin. I believe that homosexual acts are sinful. Thus, I do not approve of granting any legal benefits to such a relationship, nor do I want my schools telling my children, “not that there’s anything wrong with that,” nor do I want homosexuals running my kids’ scout troops.

    I do NOT want you gone from the world. What I do want is for you to see it my way (as I’m sure you want me to see it yours), get help, and “go and sin no more.” It is possible to change one’s sexual orientation, with therapy. It has been done. Get help, go straight.

    It is not you we hate, it is your sin. We also hate your asking, demanding, that we condone your sin.

    Via con Dios.

  13. David says:


    Your comment comes very close to violating our posting policy (i.e., we are not interested in debating with you whether we do, or should, exist), but it is the first time we have had to make such a moderation decision, so I will use it as a teaching tool.

    Anti-gay does not mean that you hate a person. “Gay” is not a noun or a person. It is an adjective, a characteristic of a person. It is the characteristic that you say you hate.

    I do NOT want you gone from the world. What I do want is for you to see it my way..

    What you are saying is that you want gay people to stop being who we are, and instead become someone else and be who you think we should be. That is merely another way of saying that you want us gone from the world. You are saying that you are only willing to share the world with us as long as we are pretending to be someone else. That is the definition of anti-gay.

    I understand that you believe when people choose to live in a way that is contrary to their sexual orientation, that constitutes “changing sexual orientation,” but even the purveyers of such therapy themselves acknowledge that they are only implementing behavior modification, not a change in who the person is. Such therapy is deeply, spiritually harmful to a person.

    You have every right to your belief that “homosexual acts” are sinful, and to express that belief. You do not have the right to insist that everyone agree with you, and you do not have the right to share this world with only people who agree with you. The fact that we exist, and that we are whole, healthy, human beings who love ourselves, is not a violation of your rights.

    It’s not asking anything at all of you – except your understanding of where your rights end, and where mine begin.

  14. Jack says:


    Thank you. I certainly do not intent to violate your policies, only answer why we object to the “anti-Gay” label — because we do see it as an accusation that we hate the individuals. That perception may be wrong.

    I told you what I WANT, but I do not demand any of it. And I really do want it for your sake, not mine.

    Lastly, you ARE asking something of me. You ask for the benefits of marriage, and my accceptance of your behavior.

  15. Roci says:

    violence that is consciously perpetrated on a community with the intent of instilling fear and controlling the behavior of that community

    is the characteristic that hate crimes and terrorism have in common…

    So the same behavior, committed dispassionately with randomely chosen victims is somehow morally superior under the law?

    I propose that all crime victims have a constitutional right to equal protection under the law. The status of the victim should not be considered in determining which crimes the police will investigate and which criminals will be punished more harshly.

    I am glad that VA has no hate crime law for sexual preference and I wish it did not have it for the other categories of victim. All Virginia citizens have a right to expect that their government will dilligently seek out and suppress criminal behavior, regardless of ant special status of the victim.

    Having said that, I sincerely hope the police in Louden County have success in finding and prosecuting these particular miscreants. If they go looking for terrorists, they will not find vandals. If they call everyone terrorists, then the word “terrorist” becomes meaningless.

  16. Roci says:

    Silence is not Consent. Sometimes it is just spending your time and energy on more important things.

  17. David says:

    Serendipitously, I came across this blogger, Queer in Texas, who linked here. Check out the meta-geeky note at the bottom of the post. I have made a correction accordingly.

    Thanks for commenting, all.

  18. David says:

    I fixed the html. Preview function is on my list 🙂

  19. Jonathan says:


    I admire you for seeing the positive in everybody. Following the statement you quoted, JAB said:

    Don’t be surprised if the guilty are members of permanently disadvantaged “classes of persons”, as it has happened in a number of recent ‘hate’ cases.

    That’s not motion, it’s damage control.

    We’re not “permanently disdvantaged”. We’re well grounded and happy, and that seems to be a problem for JAB and the amendment support leadership.