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Slay It With a Smile

Paul Cameron's mission to stop homosexuality is hard to swallow

Paul Cameron was about four years old, he recalls, when a young man accosted him in an apple orchard and ordered him to perform oral sex.

The memory makes him chuckle.
"I must have been a beautiful and charming little boy," says Cameron. "But I didn't like it much. He just told me, 'Hi, kid, I want you to do this.' I remember that he was kind of dirty, and that bothered me." He didn't tell his parents about the incident. "Kids want to live their own lives," he explains. "They don't want to tell everybody everything." Nor did he tell his folks about another molestation a year later, after his family had moved from Pittsburgh to Florida, when a female stranger lured him into her apartment, gave him a bath and "fiddled" with his genitals.

"I remember that one more fondly," Cameron says with a laugh. "I went out and looked for her apartment afterwards--never did find it, though. I had a much more positive experience with the woman. I thought it was a rather pleasant experience."

And it's a good thing for the anti-gay movement: If he had preferred being molested by the young man, Cameron might not have grown up to be the country's foremost propagandist against homosexuals.

Certainly he's the most jovial. He speaks of homosexuals as if they were subhuman and insists that AIDS is a disease they "deserve," but his lip isn't curled into a sneer. And there's no apparent end to his service with a smile. A veteran of the Amendment 2 campaign, Cameron now is focusing on stopping gays from becoming parents and teachers. He has several articles for scientific journals brewing, he says. And recent history has shown that whenever this self-described member of the religious right puts his passion about sex to work, gays can expect another highly publicized attack.

Now in his late fifties, Cameron founded his Institute for the Scientific Investigation of Sexuality in Lincoln, Nebraska, in the early Eighties, renamed his small operation the Family Research Institute and moved it to Washington, D.C., shortly afterward, then moved again last year to Colorado, setting up shop in Larkspur. All the while, he's pursued his goal of extinguishing homosexuality. A psychologist by training and a specialist in providing details for squirming church audiences of such sexual practices as fellatio, anal intercourse, anilingus and golden showers, he makes his money by researching and writing papers, testifying as an expert witness in court cases against gay parents and furnishing ammunition for use by groups like Colorado for Family Values and Focus on the Family.

Most of his work is behind the scenes. His extremely raw data and sweeping conclusions about the malevolence of gays served as much of the rationale behind CFV's Amendment 2. Backers of the measure, which was designed to ban gay-rights ordinances in Colorado, used Cameron's material liberally in their "position statement" when they launched their campaign in 1991. But Cameron also took a more direct role in the campaign. The weekend before the November 1992 vote, Cameron and the Reverend David Noebel (the top aide to Seventies evangelist Billy James Hargis, whose empire was wrecked by a homosexual scandal that Noebel hid from public view ("Original Sin," September 8 and 15, 1993) arranged to blanket Denver with nearly 100,000 copies of a modified version of Cameron's Medical Consequences of What Homosexuals Do. The gory pamphlet, full of descriptions of sexual practices and diseases, warned, in essence, that Colorado was about to be overrun by an army of anus-lickers and child molesters, ignoring the fact that many heterosexuals also do such things. The scare tactics may have helped: Amendment 2, much to the surprise of pundits, passed, though it later was overturned by the courts.

Working with his son, Kirk, who is a statistician in Colorado Springs, and a few others, Cameron continues to collect pay from CFV, and that's one reason he says he moved to a home just south of Denver and does a lot of his work out of Colorado Springs. He also has other benefactors in the Springs, but he won't say who they are, although his opponents speculate that Focus on the Family, the broadcasting giant that calls itself the "800-pound gorilla" of the anti-gay movement, is one of his employers.

Public dollars also have kept Cameron going. Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton paid him more than $15,000 to serve as an expert witness in the futile legal battle to defend Amendment 2, though neither he nor his inflammatory material made it into the public record.

In the years since the original Amendment 2 campaign, Cameron's propaganda has popped up in the same-sex marriage debate in Hawaii and in anti-gay movements from Idaho to Florida. He's the statistical sexologist of the religious right, gathering data to argue that gays are many more times apt to be poor drivers, molesters and simply bad citizens. His research formed the core of arguments against gays in Focus on the Family's publication The Homosexual Agenda, which was used extensively in Focus's anti-gay-rights seminars throughout the country.

But as Cameron has become more controversial, Focus, in an attempt to reach a broader audience, has relied less on Cameron and his flashy stats. For Cameron, that has meant less visibility, except for his forays into court cases and as an expert witness. Earlier this year he filed a brief with a Florida court in support of a convicted wife murderer who successfully won custody of a child from his lesbian second wife. The brief claimed that homosexuals are emotionally disturbed and that they molest children, abuse drugs and alcohol and cause their kids severe emotional and moral harm. Kate Kendell of the National Lesbian Rights Center, representing the lesbian mother, was quoted in the gay press as saying it was the first time the radical right had submitted a brief in an NLRC case. Most recently, Cameron, Focus's Larry Burtoft and CFV's Will Perkins testified against municipal-employee benefits for same-sex couples in Denver--a fight they lost.

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