Disturbing news out of my home state of Wisconsin: Yesterday in the central Wisconsin town of Waupaca, 71-year-old former bus driver Delton Gorges was sentenced after being convicted on multiple counts of sexual assault of a child. Waupaca County Circuit Court Judge Philip Kirk made the following remarks from the bench while delivering the sentence:
I was looking for it here, Mr. Gorges, in one of the three reports I got, I couldn’t find it, but it described you as, or your self-description, as a heterosexual. That’s about the only piece of information in these three reports that I would correct as patently incorrect. Listening to all this stuff, it seems to me that… if you give [a] $10 bill to somebody and you buy $4 worth of goods, you ask for 2 threes back or one six. I think you were born gayer than a sweet-smelling jock strap, and I think that if anyone believes that in the last 10 years or 15 years, all of a sudden you developed an interest in homosexuality and young boys, then, uh, I must have looked ravishing in my prom dress this year. It is just wrong.
I don’t even know where to start with this one. “Gayer than a sweet-smelling jock strap?” Judge Kirk doth protest too much, methinks. The image is so vivid that I can’t help but wonder how often visions of sweet-smelling jock straps sassily sashay through his honor’s subconscious. How many hours of research went into his sweaty, stereotype-filled statement?
Kidding aside, Judge Kirk’s homophobic comments were unprofessional and inexcusable. In addition, they show that the spurious conflation of homosexuality and pedophilia remains so thoroughly embedded in popular culture that even an ostensibly well-educated circuit court judge has internalized the myth. As Equality Matters points out, this roundly-discredited meme is “one of the most cherished smears” of anti-gay groups like NARTH, the Family Research Council, Porno Pete’s AFTAH, and the American Family Association (and even the Vatican!). We at Truth Wins Out are all too familiar with these organizations — we spend a huge amount of time fighting back against their pernicious propaganda, so we find it incredibly disturbing that Judge Kirk would use the bully pulpit of the bench to spread their lies, regardless of whether or not he intended to do so.
Finally, many have rightly pointed out that Judge Kirk went on to make seemingly sympathetic remarks about the plight of gay people forced by society to remain closeted. That’s all well and good, but in our fervent search to find a silver lining, let’s make sure we don’t forget the facts: Delton Gorges is a convicted child molester. Homosexuality and child molestation are not connected. Kirk should never have linked the two in the first place. Saying that his later, friendlier remarks somehow mitigate the earlier, offensive ones, or taking them as evidence that Judge Kirk “means well,” makes just about as much sense as putting lipstick on a pig or gold plating on a pile of dung.