In recent news, whether debating gay marriage in North Carolina, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Tennessee, or the continuing controversy in Troy, MI an often repeated, but outdated and invalid view that gays die sooner than straight people or that being homosexual is a “dangerous lifestyle” has been brought up again and again.
In North Carolina, the late State Senator Jim Forrester used this in the debate concerning a state constitutional ban on gay marriage. Forrester claimed that gays “have shorter lifespans” than non gays. Originally, he attributed this to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. However, his source was the writings of Fred Turek, an anti-gay activist. The troubling thing about this was that Forrester was a medical doctor before serving in the North Carolina Senate. In one of his last interviews his anti-gay bias trumped his lack of “continuing medical education,” by not having a current medical study to back up his assertion. Many anti-gay pundits turn to the work of Paul Cameron to say that the average “gay lifespan” is 43 years. Shortly after the interview, Senator Forrester died.
In another interview, Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield, also spoke with Michelangelo Signorelie, about the “Don’t Say Gay” bill he is sponsoring in the Tennessee legislature. If passed, this bill would prohibit teachers from answering questions from students about homosexuality, and would only allow teachers and school staff to discuss heterosexuality with students. Therefore, if a student reached out to school staff about bullying, for instance, teachers would not be able to reassure gay students that being gay is okay. In the same interview he showed his complete ignorance about HIV/AIDS, giving such misinformation as that HIV/AIDS is only a homosexual disease, but statistical information shows that worldwide, more heterosexuals than gay people have HIV/AIDS.
In local news, the mayor of Troy, Michigan claimed in a meeting with high school students that psychologists would say that “that the homosexual lifestyle is dangerous.” Jeff Watrick writing in Mlive.com pointed out that the American Psychological Society dropped the labeling of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. However, as we can see in the remarks of Mayor Daniels, science and public discourse have a major disconnect.
After almost 40 years since the actions by the APA, and 18 years after Paul Cameron’s work has been discredited, why does this view persist? First, Cameron’s work has allowed some to justify their own beliefs without investigating his statistical methods or credentials.
However, his methods and credentials both merit scrutiny. In 2006, Jim Burroway, writing for Box Turtle Bulletin, did an in-depth review of Cameron’s writings. Burroway has also written about Cameron’s relationship with professional associations. In 1983, the APA dropped Paul Cameron’s membership, “for lack of cooperation with the Committee on Scientific and Professional Ethics and Conduct.” This was followed in 1984 by the Nebraska Psychological Association distancing itself from Cameron through a resolution. Apparently, Cameron felt he could no longer publish as a psychologist, and he began referring to himself as a sociologist. In 1985 and 1986, the American Sociological Association stated that Cameron was not a sociologist and his work was not valid interpretations of sociological research.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has also looked at Cameron’s work. David Holthouse, writing for the Center, points out that Cameron publishes many of his papers in Psychological Reviews, which then charged authors $27.50 per page to publish articles without standard peer review.
It is not known if Janice Daniels was directly referring to the work of Cameron when she opined that “the homosexual lifestyle is dangerous.” However, his flawed and biased works have formed the basis for misinformation and have been used to argue against LGBTQ equality.