Beyond Marriage

Does Price’s Fair-Weather Activism Demonstrate Hypocrisy, More?

In 2004, USA Today showered Joe Price and Victor Zaborsky and the lesbian couple to whom each of them donated sperm to conceive children with a splashy write-up about gay families during the run- up to the Bush Adminstration’s use of the gay marriage as a wedge issue during the Presidential election

Joe Price’s activist impulse to show his extended gay family “forging new territory” is particularly helpful to changing myths about gay and lesbian parenting.  

Portraits such as these are important to gaining full equal rights for LGBT families.  The fact that Joe Price was willing to step forward with an honest look into a happy multi-partnered family with children is more than laudable.

Two years after this, at the height of Joe Price’s gay activist profile in 2006, when he was General Counsel and Board Chair for Equality Virginia, but before the murder of Robert Wone, he had another opportunity to step forward in support of gay families.

statement was circulating by the Beyond Marriage coalition that advocated for legal recognition for alternative couples and multi-partnered family structures.  Among the different families described was this one:

Queer couple who decide to jointly create a child with another queer person or a couple, in two households.

Did Joe Price write this himself?  It is a perfectly on-point description of his USA Today family.  So it wouldn’t be a surprise for Joe Price to lend his name in support of this statement’s aims.

More than 500 individuals from GLBT, women’s, HIV/AIDS activism, at the federal, state and local levels, as well as regarded academics, artists, and educators signed their names.

Joe Price’s name was not among them. 

After the jump, a more surprising angle to Joe’s missing name.

Another of the listed relationships seeking legal recognition in the statement is:

Committed loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner.

Again, it sounds as if Joe Price could have written this line himself.  This time about his Swann Street family.  We learned about the multi-partnered and conjugal relationships from the statements that Joe and Victor gave on the night of the murder.

So, not only does Joe Price have one reason, but two living arrangements espoused by the aims of the document.  An sincere man with Joe Price’s multi-family structures, as they were, should have lent his name.

Yet, as August 4, 2006, which is the last time the on-line statement reflects names were accepted, he did not offer his name in support.

There could be a perfectly acceptable explanation as to why Price’s name is not listed.  One of them could be he was unaware of the letter.  But, this would seem doubtful for an activist who has more reasons than most of the document’s signatories to advocate for legal recognition of couples in all forms as well as multi-partnered relationships.

We know Joe Price has been occupied with other matters after August 4, 2006, but he did continue his LGBT activism by guiding the Jenkins v Miller lawsuit through the Vermont and Virginia judicial systems. Furthermore, in May of 2007, he led Arent Fox’s Continuing Legal Education class on legal issues as they pertain to gay families.  In short, his LGBT activism did not seem to slow in the months after the death of Robert Wone.

The Beyond Marriage statement was not without controversy.  The line about multi-partnered conjugal relationships has caused some heartburn for at least one of the signatories: Chai Feldblum, Georgetown Law professor, walked-back her support for the document because of this line after she was nominated by President Obama to a position on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

If Joe Price lent his name to this document and it is not yet public, then his gay activism would line squarely up with who he is as a man and the family relationships he surrounded for himself.

But if he has not, and he is fully aware of this document, does this speak to a less-than-honest approach to his gay activism and leadership?

And if Joe Price is less-than-honest about something as important as his families’ equal rights would he be less-than truthful about what happened inside his house on August 2, 2006?

— Posted by David

11 comments for “Beyond Marriage

  1. Craig
    04/19/2010 at 2:25 PM

    CD: We should have the consent motion up soon.

    A few others have popped too that we’ll get up ASAP; one that appears more interesting than the consent – another Defense in limine to exclude expert testimony.

  2. Robert
    04/19/2010 at 3:30 PM

    I am a lifetime human rights activist which has included participation in the LGBT cause since Stonewall.

    Though I might wish it were otherwise, I have had the unpleasant duty on more than one occasion of criticizing what I believe to have been misguided social movements, corrupt justice groups and dishonest activist leaders.

    I have a late friend who before he died led several LGBT rights organizations. He was also a lawyer as is Joe Price, a scholar as is Chai Feldblum and an activist as have been both Price and Feldblum.

    In the course of his leadership, my friend as well as other movement leaders, repeatedly stated that 10% of population was LGBT when he, like many of those others, knew that to be an inflated figure (i.e. a lie).

    He would ultimately admit that it was a knowing misrepresentation which was made because those movement leaders believed that such exaggerated numbers would help advance the LGBT “cause.”

    That is not the first time in history (and probably won’t be the last) that a movement’s leaders have lied to advance the cause. Many believe what I do not, namely, that the “ends justifies the means.”

    The partner of Chai Feldblum is fellow lawyer and same sex marriage expert, Nan Hunter. Hunter has not recanted the pro polyamory cum polygamy position which Feldblum and Hunter had shared.

    And I consider the position of Hunter, Feldblum and a handful of other Gay and Lesbian lawyers and activists who share the pro polyamory view to be a “breath of fresh air” in a Gay and Lesbian community which can be as biphobic as the Straight community is homophobic.

    Acquainted with Feldblum, I have thought highly of her scholarship, lawyering and activism. And I would have been happy to see her appointed to a high level position in the federal government.

    As the current ENDA debate and other similar past political conflicts have demonstrated, the Gay and Lesbian community is also even willing to do such things as throw the trans community “under a bus”
    if that is what it takes to get G&L what they want.

    Thus, I must admit that I consider Feldblum’s recent recantation to be disingenous and self-serving. I also believe that it will be harmful to the community — and Feldblum — in the long run.

    To the limited extent that I have known about Joe Price in his public or private life, I cannot say that I have ever had a great deal of admiration for him.

    But many social justice movement leaders — including some of the greatest ones — have had
    less than admirable private lives. Some have been
    adulterers, others persecutors and still others murderers.

    But none of us is perfect. As such, I do not believe that any one of us has the right to expect any of the others of us to be perfect and yet we do.

    Whenever a public figure whom we theretofore believed to have done some good in the world proves to be something other than perfect in private, we discount everything he or she may have ever done positive in their entire life.

    Unless we choose not to do so which usually has more to do with our own personal investment in the iconic status of that other than anything else.

    For example. If we want to take a public figure down a peg, we point out his adultery or closetedness for all to see.

    If we do not wish to see a public figure taken down,
    we excuse his adultery or justify his closetedness.

    Much as we convienently forget that were many an
    LGBT leader not “outed,” there is no evidence that he or she would have ever been activist in our cause in any way.

    Thus, I am not sure that it would be fair to say that
    anyone one who has not been totally moral in his private life (whatever that means) cannot have been moral in his public life or vice versa.

    Unless to be less than totally moral in any aspect of one’s life is to taint one in every other aspect
    of one’s life ipso facto which is possible.

    Thus, the fact that Joseph Price may not have been
    totally honest as a Gay activist does not determine that he must have been dishonest with Robert.

    Any more than Joseph Price having been less than totally honest with Robert would have necessitated
    that he be less than honest a Gay activist indeed.

    None of which should be taken as a justification for anyone’s being less than totally honest in every aspect of his or her life — public or private.

    Rather, it is a general observation about humanity and what what would appear to be a common tendency among people for us to expect our leaders be more moral than the rest of us.

    I think there’s an expression for that. It’s called being: “holier than thou.”

  3. Clio
    04/19/2010 at 10:37 PM

    I hate to defend Culuket, but his failure to sign this rather bohemian petition is understandable, given the context of the fight against the marriage amendment underway in Virginia at that time. This fight required a moderate, assimiliationist coalition that meant Sister Souljah-ing the queer fringes. Equality Virginia lost narrowly in 2006, but they helped to elect Warner and then Webb as our Senators. As Oscar Wilde said, “consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”

    • David
      04/20/2010 at 10:12 AM


      In light of your analysis about the Virginia politics in 2006, let’s hope that Joe decided to stand up for who he is as a multi-partnered family man and signed his name to this document.


      • Clio
        04/20/2010 at 8:36 PM

        David, that begs the question:

        Is or was Joe ever in reality a multi-partnered family man, or were his partners and family members merely props for his power plays?

  4. Robert
    04/20/2010 at 9:01 AM


    I believe that Oscar Wilde said: “consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

    I believe that it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said: “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

    Whenever the issue of consistency arises in contexts such as this, the question for me has always been what constitutes “foolish” consistency.

    Given that the divide on same sex marriage was so evenly split in Virginia at the time as you have reported it, I can agree with you about one’s having reluctance to sign on the petitition.

    Admittedly, I do not know anything about Joe’s perspective or calculation in that regard.

    • Clio
      04/20/2010 at 8:19 PM

      Thanks, Robert, for the correct quote attribution. Both Wilde and Emerson are right-on about consistency, and both were “lovers of antiquity.”

      Culuket has many, many faults, but NOT signing this trifling petition is NOT one of them. And, one may ask if, post-murder, Joe was a multi-partnered family man: I doubt it!

  5. Also from the Post story
    04/20/2010 at 5:39 PM

    You’ve stretched too far with this post. I would never second-guess a person’s NOT signing some group’s petition for something or other. Much less call them “dishonest” for not signing it (assuming they even heard about it). That’s literally McCarthyism: demanding loyalty oaths.

    I consider myself free to NOT sign a political petition for any reason or no reason, whether from principle or because I’m feeling grumpy, and not have to answer to anyone for it.

    Better for you to skip a post here than put up a bad one, IMO.

    • Clio
      04/20/2010 at 8:31 PM

      Oh please! However one may disagree with David over this petition’s significance, his post is hardly “McCarthyism” demanding “a loyalty oath.” Why is that tired analogy brought out every time someone comes under a little scrutiny? There was no need for a witch hunt at Swann because the witches were all at the house when Ms. Durham arrived.

      • CDinDC
        04/20/2010 at 9:17 PM

        Well said, Clio.

      • Robert
        04/21/2010 at 2:06 AM

        I agree with you. People are attacked “ad hominem” all the time for reasonable disagreements.

Comments are closed.