Attempting to respond to anti-gay comments by Kansas pastor Curtis Knapp, CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield said yesterday that incest and pedophilia “are not by choice and are crimes” whereas “homosexuality is a lifestyle choice by people. It is voluntary.” She later clarified on Twitter that “being gay is not a choice. Being in a consensual relationship is. I support LGBT people.” This morning, she walked back her original comments on air:
BANFIELD: When I said that incest and pedophilia involve people who don’t have a choice — victims who don’t have a choice — and then said a gay relationship, you do have a choice, they are not crimes. Gay people involved in relationships are not committing any crimes at all. However, those who perpetrate incest and perpetrate pedophilia are committing crimes.
I don’t know that my comments were taken in that light and I certainly hope they were, but in no way did I ever want to suggest that being gay is a choice. It is not. And I probably used the word “lifestyle choice” — not what I meant to say at all. Being gay is not a choice; being in a voluntary gay relationship is a choice. It is not a crime.
So I hope that at least clears up any of the comments I made after that story of the pastor. And in no way do I agree with or stand by any of the comments that that pastor made either.
No doubt, Banfield made a big gaffe by using language that anti-gay activists regularly use. A sexual orientation is not a choice, nor is it a “lifestyle.” It’s a core part of who people are, defining their lives, not their style. It was right to criticize her word choice and good of her to walk back the comments and clarify what she meant. Allies are only helpful if they know how to be helpful.
In Banfield’s defense, the point she was trying to make was a valid one. Instead of “voluntary choice,” the language she was looking for was “consent.” Pedophilia is definitely a violation of consent, and incest often is as well. They are crimes for that reason. In same-sex relationships, both individuals consent to be together just as in opposite-sex couples. Banfield seemed to be trying to validate gay families as healthy and normal, and hopefully organizations like GLAAD can continue to work with her and other newspeople to help them use the best possible language in that effort.