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- June 30, 2015

Austin Councilman Don Zimmerman: Marriage Equality May Help Pedophiles ‘Advance Their Cause’

Update (below): Zimmerman calls ethics complaint ‘comical’

Austin District 6 City Councilman Don Zimmerman is ducking questions from local reporters and even his own constituents about recent statements he made online comparing newly married LGBT couples to pedophiles.

Writing on Facebook on Friday just hours after the Supreme Court extended the rights of marriage to LGBT couples, Zimmerman (nicknamed “Denialism Don” by The Austin Chronicle for espousing anti-science views and picking a fight with a climate scientist) said that the word “pedophelia” could easily be replaced by the phrase “intergenerational love.”

He went on to suggest that the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) — a tiny, fringe group popularly mocked by the cartoon “South Park” — could use the same legal logic that achieved marriage equality to legitimize the sexual abuse of children. His comments came in response to a remark that being gay is much like being black: Not exactly a choice.

Here’s the full context…

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That post caught the attention of local media and Zimmerman’s District 6 constituents. At a town hall meeting over the weekend, he was confronted by several people who wanted clarification on his views. Zimmerman said he would not address the matter and reiterated his support for “traditional marriage.”

“I have a long track record of defending the idea of marriage as one man, one woman,” he told the town hall audience, according to Austin ABC News affiliate KVUE-TV. “This debate has just started. I don’t think the Supreme Court decision will solve anything. I told you my position, I defended marriage as between man and a woman.”

He also ducked repeated contact requests from local reporters, much to the chagrin of Austin NBC News affiliate KXAN-TV, which reached out multiple times for elaboration before running their most recent report. Zimmerman instead opted to speak with a personal friend: Gun enthusiast and talk radio host Michael Cargill. Cargill’s program, “Come and Talk It,” is featured on the right-wing 1370 AM station, which also features a litany of other Republican talk show hosts, like Sean Hannity.

During the Cargill interview, Zimmerman noted that the Supreme Court did not strike down bans on opposite-gender marriages, like the still-standing ban on incestuous relationships between siblings. “I think if a brother and sister walked into the Travis County Courthouse, they would still be denied a marriage license,” Zimmerman said. “So, that’s interesting.”

But, as he explained, incest is not Zimmerman’s real worry.

“I’m very concerned that there will be a new radical movement,” he told Cargill. “There’s an organization still online called the NAMBLA. They have a website… But there is a movement afoot to lower the age of consent. In the state of Texas, I think it’s 17 years old but I’m not 100 percent sure… I’m concerned about this radical group looking at this [Supreme Court ruling] and saying, ‘You know what? We can do that too.’ I’m worried about them trying to advance their cause.”

Cargill, who is gay, sounded skeptical but calmly pressed Zimmerman for details on how exactly same sex marriage could lead to the legitimization of child sexual abuse. “I’m worried about NAMBLA taking a playbook,” Zimmerman answered. “Copying a playbook which was used to get marriage redefined and use that playbook to redefine the age of consent.”

You can listen to the full interview here.

Following the interview, the City of Austin’s Ethics Commission received a formal complaint (PDF link) detailing Zimmerman’s lack of sensitivity “when he referred to gay individuals as pedophiles.” The complaint goes on to say that his words may violate Section B of the city’s personnel policy, which requires all City of Austin representatives to treat members of the public with respect. It also alleges that Zimmerman was using city equipment when he posted to Facebook.

For the record, all of Austin’s other council members — and even our mayor — are thrilled about the Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage. Not only did they hang a rainbow flag on Austin City Hall, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo officially declared June 26, 2015 “Marriage Equality Day” in Austin.

Zimmerman did not respond to Austin.com’s request for comment.

Update: Zimmerman calls ethics complaint ‘comical’

Speaking to KXAN on Wednesday, Zimmerman called the ethics complaint filed against him “comical” and “completely bogus.”

“A bunch of people are going crazy,” he reportedly said. “This is out of control.”

In prepared text sent to KXAN, Mayor Steve Adler disagreed with Zimmerman’s views. “I am a strong supporter of equal rights for all and was proud to proclaim June 26 as Marriage Equality Day in the City of Austin,” Adler said. “As Mayor, I will continue to work to ensure a city that is diverse, vibrant, and respectful of all Austinites.”

The City of Austin’s Ethics Commission has not said whether it will launch an investigation.