02 December 2005

By Nick Street

The Christian conservative press doesn’t have a lot to say about the recent roundup of marriage-minded gays in the United Arab Emirates. This is surprising, because the Christian conservative press usually has plenty to say about gay marriage.

Many mainstream media outlets like The Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, The Boston Globe and Yahoo News picked up the story Jim Krane wrote for the Associated Press. But the Christian Broadcasting Network, Chuck Colson’s Breakpoint Web site, and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family are mum on the events in the UAE. Why the uncharacteristic circumspection?

The conservative Islamic government of the UAE is considering forced hormone injections for some of the 22 men who were arrested during a raid at a hotel in Dubai, and all of the men face the prospect of compulsory psychiatric treatment, five-year jail terms and even lashings. In its response to the arrests, the U.S. State Department called on the UAE to stop any forced hormone and psychiatric procedures and comply with the standards of international law in its treatment of prisoners.

The basic assumption underlying the UAE’s treatment of gays — that homosexuality is a dangerous psychological disorder — also informs the social and political agendas of the biggest players in the Christian conservative press. This pathologizing of homosexuality runs counter to the prevailing wisdom of the American Psychiatric Association, which removed homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders in 1973. Editorial opinion at CBN, Focus on the Family and Breakpoint consistently challenges the psychiatric association’s decision.

Thus, the arrests in the UAE put Christian conservative media activists in an awkward position. Speaking out against the UAE’s theocratic government would force them to qualify or even contradict unequivocal statements they’ve made in the past. But condoning brutalities like forced medical procedures and lashings would surely squander the political capital Christian conservatives have won in recent years.

So for once, Pat Robertson, Chuck Colson and James Dobson are silent on the topic of gay marriage.

Nick Street is a writer living in California.