June 07, 2006

My GayView

Gay Grabber Gets Gone

Here we go again! This time the tableau unfolds, not in New Jersey, but in Rockland County.

Another political "rising star," family man, pious pillar of the community has hastily kicked his career to the curb in the wake of gay sexual allegations. The subject of all the furor is Ryan Karben (Democrat) and he vacates his seat in the State Assembly.

The usually verbal 'media baby' was nowhere to be seen last week, but released a surprising statement (for his colleagues and constituents) saying he has immediately stepped down to "spend more time with his family and law practice." Yeah, right. Thirty-one year old Karben shot to prominence, partly, by aggressively pursuing publicity. Suddenly, his shy side has 'come out' and he left spokesman Aaron Troodler to field all the questions. Needless to say, Troodler has been less than candid. Still, one Assembly Democrat has voiced everyone's current belief: "If it truly was for personal reasons, he only had a month left in the legislative session." Hmmm . . .

You see, the Orthodox Jewish Karben – who's piety and strong family values have led him to a wife and three daughters – has allegedly made unwanted sexual advances to young male interns in the Assembly. (That's interns – plural!) This is the hot potato the assemblyman and his mouthpiece have dropped, leaving everyone else holding the bag. As is always the case in these sex scandal things, speculation runs rampant. It's irresistible for detractors and gossip-mongers alike to expose Karben as saying, "Serial sexual predators must stay away from our children." Let's all slow down and remember that no one has made available the ages of the interns involved and, so far, Karben has not been charged with a crime.

Aside from the obvious titillation factor, it's tremendously sad on so many levels. He's done some good work. He formed the Rockland Task Force on Tolerance and Harmony to fight hate crimes and prejudice in his county. He jumps to the front lines in any battle against bigotry or religious desecration. He champions environmental causes and works to reduce property taxes.

More funding to schools was also on his list. Yet some have sited a "double standard" in his public stances, long before this latest controversy. He is firm in his support of a hard-line Zionist agenda, and in 2004 he stepped on some non-Jewish toes by trying to ban a showing of Palestinian art. Many believe Jew, Gentile and Arab must all eventually come together, and what better venue to do so than through art?

This leads me to the point I'd like to stress: Gay and Straight must also join together and close the divide separating us. The current zeitgeist led 19 states to ban any form of gay marriage, which has come to symbolize gay acceptance & equality in our society. It's "in the air" that a gay man shouldn't hold public office. It's so unnecessary. Don't get me wrong – I'm not trying to justify his inappropriate behavior, should the allegations be proven true. I'm sympathetic because at the core of his meltdown is quite possibly his reaction to a lifetime of repressed urges. Unbridled homophobia in the various spheres of his existence, from family to religion to politics, brought him to the point where he risked everything for an expression of his true sexuality.

Unfortunately, it appears his worst nightmares have become reality and, like McGreevy last year, he's out in the cold. (The ex-Gov of N.J. has written a book, by the way. Everyone in boyz town is anxiously awaiting all the lurid details of his clandestine trysting. Me too. That'll be a whole other column.) GayView would like to ask all those who may be taking satisfaction in his downfall to remember this: it's not only he who's suffering now. Think about what his high school sweetheart, now wife, is going through. And then there are his kids. Don't they still have the same father they had a few weeks ago? Or has hatred already spread its venom into the schoolyard? Let's hope not.

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