According to The Huffington Post, an elected state representative in Alabama is openly threatening to use rumors she’s heard to stifle the participation of her legislative colleagues in the debate over same-sex marriage.
Representative Patricia Todd admits that she has no firsthand knowledge that any of her colleagues have been unfaithful to their marital vows, but she’s willing to spread rumors she’s heard — if it will help to advance the cause of same-sex couples.
As originally reported in the TimesDaily of Florence, Ala., Todd wrote on Facebook: “I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about ‘family values’ when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have. I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet out.”
I understand Todd’s desire to expose hypocrisy. Individuals whose lives are marked by infidelity should not be the standard bearers in the conversation about marriage. However, I contend that threatening to repeat potentially slanderous innuendo that was overheard in the proverbial locker-room of the Alabama State House is not the way to proceed. I know this from experience.
There was a time when “outing” gays was used as a weapon to shame, humiliate and yes, silence people. I know of at least two people who if they read this will accuse a paper with which I’m affiliated of outing them nationally after they came out in public events which we were covering. I have seen the pain in their faces when they have recounted to me how that felt. For those who trumpet having knowledge gained by experience, the threats made by Todd evidence that she intends to apply the negative learning of “outing” to her political adversaries seem just mean.
What Rep. Todd is threatening would almost certainly damage individuals, families, and the relationships among lawmakers in the state they all serve. It also suggests that same-sex marriage advocates are willing to apply the adage that “all is fair in love and war” or in this case, all is fair in the war on love.
So, if Rep. Todd follows through with her threat she may open herself up to a legal charge of slander and/or libel. Slander is derived from the Latin for scandalous and if you’re saying defamatory things about someone that are beyond your ability to prove (which Todd admits is the case), the offended party can sue you for slandering their name and reputation. The same applies to libel if you put those comments in print — which today includes the internet. The rules related to slander and libel change depending on the public nature of the person you are insulting or intentionally seeking to harm, but the mud-slinging match that would ensue among Alabama lawmakers seems predictable.
Is mud all there is to the making of an argument for same-sex marriage? Does Rep. Todd have no positive argument for how same-sex marriage in her state would advance the cause of “Family Values?”
It is no secret that I advocate for the preservation of marriage between one man and one woman. And, I’m also on record for saying that I do not expect a nation governed by the U.S. Constitution to follow the same rules as the Church — which I expect to be governed by the Bible. So the debate in a state legislative house is different than the debate in the sanctuary, though there are meaningful points of comparison. Not least of which should be truthfulness, mutual respect, and civil discourse.