Waymon Hudson

Meet the Anti-Gay NYU Professor of Human Rights: "Diversity is not a License for Perversity"

Filed By Waymon Hudson | July 22, 2009 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living, The Movement
Tags: academic freedom, gay rights, human rights abuses, Li-ann Thio, New York University, NYU, Professor of Human Rights, Singapore 377A

New York University Law School has found a new visiting Professor of Human Rights. Dr. Li-ann Thio, a professor at the National University of Singapore, will be teaching Human Rights Law during the Fall 2009 semester as a Global Visiting Professor of Law at NYU.

Thio Li Ann Visiting Professor NYU Law School.jpgThe problem with Thio teaching human rights? She doesn't believe in them for everyone.

Thio is an outspoken anti-LGBT activist in Singapore. In 2007, she gave a speech before Parliament (of which she is a nominated member) arguing against the repeal of statute 377A, which criminalizes consensual sex between men in Singapore. Her reasons?

Diversity is not a license for perversity.


Anal sex is like shoving a straw up your nose to drink.

This is who will be teaching human rights at NYU?

Much more, including video, after the jump...

Outrage at NYU

The announcement of Thio's visitorship has sparked outrage from the NYU community, including OUTLaw, NYU Law's LGBT student group, as well as caused a heated debate among the law professor community around the country. Students, professors and alumni have asked administration to rescind Thio's invitation.

What backwards thinking at a major university makes it okay to have a Human RIghts Professor who so openly and vocally opposes human rights by advocating for keeping homosexuality criminal with such statements as:

You cannot make a human wrong a human right.

That's some lesson for her students.

One has to wonder if they would make someone with such outspoken bigoted views about another minority a Human Rights Professor at their school. Maybe Professor David Duke is next? One IT professional, Malik Graves-Pryor, that works at NYU Law (and who is also a student) drew the same conclusions in a letter he released to the administration:

As an African-American man working in the LawITS department, and simultaneously a student at NYU, I could never imagine the day would come when NYU would allow the appointment of a legal scholar who held the opinion that African-Americans practice acts of "gross indecency", that African-Americans who strive for diversity should be rebuffed because "diversity is not a license for perversity", describing the private intimate acts between African-Americans as trying to "shove a straw up your nose to drink", among other intellectually and morally shallow absurdities.


Suffice it to say I could not imagine your defense of Professor Li-Ann Thio being made regarding a legal scholar who was an avowed supporter of the KKK, or one who publicly and legally sympathized with the violence and vitriol espoused by Al-Qaeda, for example.

This provoked quite the response from Thio, who apparently doesn't like being called out on her bigotry.

Thio: I Don't Hate Gays, Just the "Gay Agenda"

After Graves-Pryor's email, Dr. Thio released an 18-point defense that she sent to the entire NYU Law faculty, saying she felt "unfairly attacked" by the "gay agenda".

1. I am a little tired of the torrent of abuse and defamation that I have been receiving, and blatant emotive misrepresentations of my position. I was going to stay above the fray but given this insidious attack on my academic reputation (aside from many ad hominem insults), I feel I must cast some clarity on certain issues.

Her defense? She doesn't hate gay people, just gay people getting rights:

c. My objection is not to gay people; it is towards the nature of the homosexual political agenda and the vicious and degrading tactics of some activists. I say "some" because there were gays in Singapore who (a) agree that homosexuality should not be mainstreamed or coercively taught as having moral equivalence with heterosexuality as a social norm) (b) disagree with me but reject the tactics of insult and death threats.

See? Gays can be "perverse" as long as they stay in the closet and it remains illegal. No political involvement for those "straw up their nose" sex perverts.

Funny how someone who says the most outrageous things about gay people and actively campaigns to keep them from having human rights is now calling for a "civil discourse":

We do not tolerate such self-righteous intolerance in Singapore. At stake is genuine academic freedom and civil discourse. Who is the oppressed and who is the oppressor in this context? Or does an unrelenting hubris occlude the ability to see the truth of things in different contexts?

Perhaps Thio should turn that mirror back on her own "self-righteous intolerance."

It's also a bit hypocritical to ask for "academic freedom and civil discourse", yet decry a student having a completely valid and well-thought out opinion about her background.

The Students are Speaking- By Not Signing Up for Her Classes

Thio's future could be determined not by the administration, but by the student themselves.

It seems that her classes are incredibly undersubscribed. She is scheduled to teach two classes: Human Rights in Asia, capped at 45, and Constitutionalism in Asia, which is capped at 25 students. As of now, the first class had received only nine bids after the first round of bidding, and the second received five. Both could now be canceled.

Human Rights groups are also starting to threaten boycotts of NY recruitment events.

So where does this leave Dr Thio? Hopefully with plenty of time to examine her "expertise" in human rights and without a platform at NYU.

There is now an online petition to rescind Thio's invitation to NYU, which states (among other things):

By bringing Dr. Thio to NYU, the Law School is acting in opposition to its own policy of nondiscrimination and undermining its commitment to advancing human rights world-wide. This is a step backwards in the Law School's longstanding support of the LGBT community.

Video of Thio's Speech Supporting the Criminalization of Gay Men

Here is video of Thio's Speech (in 3 parts) in support of 377A.

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*Scratches NYU off the potential applications for law school*

I'm just shocked by this as well. I went to NYU! How could they think this Professor is an credible choice to teach human rights??

Ok, so that's a lame joke but it works as an explanation on some level I guess.

I think this poses some interesting questions about "Academic Freedom." I addressed them in my blog on the topic last week: "Academic Freedom: Anti-gay Opinions vs. Anti-gay Untruths."


I feel that the student body really must be applauded, though, as serving as an example of what to do with a wayward administration.

I agree, the students are handling this wonderfully and respectfully. Thio's unhinged response to student's concern only further proves why she is not the best person to tap for this position...

Under what rock did NYU find this one, and why on earth were they looking there? My guess is that she interviews well, but her glib self-appreciating delivery ought to have made her interviewers nervous. Her speaking style is remarkably evocative of Hitler.

This news is incredible. Someone who advocates that government power should be used to oppress people she dislikes is supposed to be teaching about Human Rights law?

Its orwellian.

Wow, she clearly should be teaching at Suffolk law in Boston where selective bigotry is accepted.
The admin seems to have stepped right into it with this one.

To be fair to Suffolk, you need to provide examples.

Her mother was involved in the takeover of a women's rights group in Singapore by a Christian fundamentalist group associated with Focus on the Family.

I read that as well, Steve. Wasn't her mother a judge as well?

Seems like she'd be a better fit at College of the Cumberlands, or Regent University. Maybe Oral Roberts or Liberty, too.

Polar, I may be reading something in your statement which isn't there, but is it concerned with academic freedom? Are you saying that we need to make clear that the LGBT community isn't opposed to her teaching, just that she shouldn't be at NYU?

God is in the mix, don't ya' know?
She is expressing what many ministers and conservative lawyers and judges believe, so in that sense she is fine for the post.

After all, just how much time have we spent reaching out to the singapore community?

It doesn't matter how widespread her beliefs are. She's a homophobic bigot who's being invited to teach about human rights. As the person quoted in Waymon's post wrote, NYU wouldn't have selected someone who spouts sexist or racist views of similar vehemence for such a prestigious position.

The fact that this woman was selected and the university's response to critics of its decision are pretty good evidence for the idea that homophobia remains one of the last acceptable forms of bigotry. If Thio was saying black people are inferior, she would be denounced as a bigot; when she expresses homophobic views, it's "academic freedom."

Frankly, I think she needs to be sent packing back to Singapore or to Pat Robertson's university. Maybe then, she can score a book deal and write a sob story of her victimization by the evil Homosexual Agenda and appear in a few NOM ads.

Rick Sours | July 22, 2009 4:21 PM

Thanks Alaric,

Very well said; I agree with your comments.

I was being sarcastic. It should be noted, however, that while sexist or racist beliefs are unacceptable, homophobia remains an acceptable prejudice, even in the eyes of the president of the United States.

Never mind, then :)

I am *utterly* stunned. NYU Law has an outstanding history of supporting gay rights.

In the 1970's, the law school banned military recruiters from the Business and Industry Placement Offices (because of their stated discrimination against gay people), and the dean of the law school worked with me personally to extended that ban university-wide. (This was years before DADT; it was an outright prohibition)

The dean was our prime sponsor in the University Senate to prohibit any employer who discriminated based on sexual orientation access to university facilities. Then he had nine hours of brain surgery, and had all of his classes and office hours canceled, and he **still** met with me to see the project through.

He once even called me at work, and gave me a 30 minute tutorial about a legal strategy. (My boss was fairly displeased; but there was NO way I was going to tell the dean of NYU Law School I had to get off the phone, or give up the opportunity to be personally taught law by him)

I have to believe inviting this woman was some sort of horrible oversight. This is not the NYU that I know.

Oh, and as a Lesbian Pagan, can I teach Evangelical Christianity at NYU? I have a unique perspective on it.

C]ertain Americans have to realize the fact that there are a diversity of views on the subject and it is not a settled matter; there is no universal norm and it is nothing short of moral imperialism to suggest there is. Correct me if I am wrong, but there is no consensus on this even within the U.S. Supreme Court and American society at large, even post Lawrence v. Texas. Li-Ann Thio

Believe it or not, she has quite a reputation as a rights activist in SE Asia, but keep in mind that anyone to the left of Il Kim Young or the Taliban looks like a rights activist in many of these countries(speaking from experience, their liberals would make Limbaugh look like a socialist)

Joe Livingston | July 22, 2009 5:31 PM

It just shows you that even though a person may be book smart they can yet be so IGNORANT at the same time!

Todd M. Sigler, PsyD, LP, NCC | July 22, 2009 6:21 PM

I am stunned. I had to go and check my calendar again to make sure it was really still 2009. Does the administration at NYU understand the impact of this on the students at NYU? In the USA? IN the world? Hate breads hate! Have we learned NOTHING from our collective pasts.

A. J. Lopp | July 22, 2009 6:32 PM
Anal sex is like shoving a straw up your nose to drink.

Drinking through one's nose may be unusual ... but it does work, and is there any reason to outlaw it?

Has this woman never visited a hospital and seen all the patients with tubes up their nose? Is she implying that this is also perverse?

P.S. The students are doing the right thing --- if they avoid her classes long enough, NYU will eventually realize that her utility is such that they aren't getting what they could get if they hired a Human Rights professor who is more credible.

As log as she attracts attention and donations to the University, they will hold on to her, particularly if she is giving CLE symposium workships in International Law and Rights.

I do not see myself sitting through one of her sessions for CLE credits unless I am in a particularly pugnatious mood.

Rick Sours | July 22, 2009 7:10 PM

In my opinion, anyone who is teaching/lecturing
on human rights should be someone who respects diversity. The donations and the attention she brings to NYU seem to be the underlying reasons
she was hired and is kept.

Another voice heard from:

Even the respectable, gentlemanly Dr Cherian George from NTU (also Stanford, Columbia and Cambridge University) could not find a single good thing to say about Thio Li-Ann's speech. Here's Cherian, in his own words:

" .... more distressing than the final result of the debate was the retrogressive speech by the high-flying legal scholar Thio Li-Ann. Her convoluted, caricatured rendering of political philosophy and comparative politics needed to be corrected by good political science, but she got away with it in Parliament. Her theories about what constitutes a minority could have been debunked by any graduate student of sociology or anthropology, but this did not stop her.

Then there was Thio’s tasteless digs at homosexual sex, which some of her comrades considered witty, but really deserved no place in the highest forum in the land. Thio has been celebrated for supposedly speaking up for the silent majority. This is an insult to the majority, most of whom have the basic decency to know the difference between what should be uttered in public and what should be confined to close friends or private blogs.

Thio also did a disservice to the majority of God-fearing Singaporeans – we who would like to believe that our faiths are ultimately about compassion, not the hateful, hurtful cheap shots that Thio felt compelled to deliver on our behalf. How I wished a theology professor or other religious scholar would have stepped into the debate at that point, to show how it might be possible to express a faith-based objection to homosexuality – minus the hate speech .' "

And there is this coment on a presentation of hers at a Focus on the Family symposium:

...She was quick to lump homosexuality with bestiality, pedophilia, and incest , and she did it several times. Homosexuality has no unique link to bestiality, pedophilia and incest. And for goodness sakes the pornography on bestiality that I know about (from all the spam – “XXX girl with farm animals” ad nauseum - I get) is heterosexual porn. She may as well have said that carrots, bananas, apples and oranges are in the same section in the supermarket, so carrots must be fruits. ....

...Instead of reason, she relied heavily on emotion – something I found strange coming from a law professor. She was biased, and while she found it unfair being labeled a homophobic fundamentalist bigot, I found it difficult not to see her as one. She definitely did not need the assistance of “biased liberal reporters” to perpetuate this image of her. There was scarce reasoning behind her crusade. To be honest, I wonder what drives her and her mother, Dr Thio Su-Mien, to champion against homosexuality so fervently. The level of emotionalism involved at times came across to me at least, as deeply personal."

Mary Hayes | July 23, 2009 10:24 AM

(quoted) "...She was quick to lump homosexuality with bestiality, pedophilia, and incest , and she did it several times. Homosexuality has no unique link to bestiality, pedophilia and incest. And for goodness sakes the pornography on bestiality that I know about (from all the spam – “XXX girl with farm animals” ad nauseum - I get) is heterosexual porn."

Indeed.... I noticed a long time ago that homophobes have a distinctly creepy obsession with bestiality in particular.

I guess this explains why I got no bites the last time I tried to secure a law professorship.

I'm a woman of transsexual live experience. I'm in a same-sex relationship. I'm agnostic.

I was hoping to teach a class on transgender law. But, clearly I should have expressed an interest in teaching a class in reproductive-marriage-only theology-based family law. NYU would have hired me sight unseen.

She should receive a 50 lashes. That is something she would understand. By the way, make sure it occurs close to her "nose".

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 23, 2009 12:57 AM

Singapore? Like Malaysia I would never go there. It is sad because it is beautiful as tiny city states go. It is prosperous and the third most expensive city to live in in Asia. It is the smallest "state" in SE Asia, but leads in several important categories:

The highest per cap execution rate in the world.
"Caning"(flogging) for overstay of visa, graffiti.
(homosexual acts may be included in this)
Gum chewing or spitting is highly illegal.

This is hardly a free society where even certain religions are outlawed (Jehovah's W.& others)

Her references to the Koran and Bible are revealing of the insular nature of the 3.2 million (mostly ethnic Chinese)citizens of this island state. Were she to express a similar attitude toward Judaism I wonder if she would be "tarred & feathered" for that? What they were debating was an old British colonial law that the Brits don't support.

I applaud the right thinking students who are avoiding this fascist, but I fear Dr. Laura will find a new radio guest if this one has too much spare time. Thanks Waymon.

Jonathan Lum | July 23, 2009 6:13 PM


As a gay Singaporean man completing a Masters degree in the UK, I'd thank you very much not to lump all Singaporeans together with Dr. Thio. You'd also do well to do a little more research before calling all 3.2 million of us 'insular'. Ask the next Singaporean you meet in the US. You might be surprised.

Jonathan Lum

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 24, 2009 5:15 AM

Johnathan, thank you, but I live in Thailand and have my own sources for information. Please note that I said I was proud of all students, yourself included, "who avoid this Fascist."

But you do have to confess, if you have looked at her remarks before your own legislative body, that she could not pull this off just anywhere. If you find my remarks that yours is an "insular" country offensive, please know that I find America to be an insular country as well. Singapore is highly regimented for behavior and standards (and gum chewing) and if that is not insular sounding to you consider her references to the Koran and Bible in what is supposed to be a secular state. Just because a caning has not happened to you does not mean it will not happen. Something to think about perhaps.

Good luck in all your studies!

How sad to see an intelligent woman draw only on personal moral values, homophobic myths and ignorant rhetoric without a shred of evidence to present a legal argument. Until I listened to the videos, I was considering her right to academic freedom, but this professor is too ignorant and biased to deserve an academic post anywhere.

Be ready for the backlash. Both the professor and her mother are closely connected to Focus on the Family, which I am sure will make a martyr out of her.

I always shove a straw up my nose to drink.

From NYU Law's Dean Revesz -- a statement that makes me feel slightly better about this whole affair, but not by much.


I was born gay.

Isn't trying to have sex with a woman against my humna nature?

Why, oh, why doe she want me to have sex with people I'm not supposed to???

From one of the links above:

this issue brings two of our core values--academic freedom and a commitment to non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation--in tension with each other.

No it doesn't. There might have been some outcry had she been brought in as a prof of, say, economics or physics or Singaporean History. However, unless she shows evidence of letting her bigoted views influence that curriculum or how she treats her students it would be improper to keep her out.

However, her positions on gay stuff - a human rights issue - is completely antithetical to the subject that she would have taught: human rights. It would be like having J. Michael Bailey and/or Alice Dreger and/or Anne Lawrence teach a course on transsxuality.

Huang Renxing | July 25, 2009 1:25 AM

I'm a gay Singaporean. You are lucky to be in America, an ocean away. If she had taught at NYU it would have been only for a season.

Alas, she actually teaches at my university and we have to live with this woman all the time. And her silly gay-baiting mother too (amazingly - the ex-dean of National University of Singapore Law Faculty!!).

Still, I take comfort that she will have to learn to live with showy disgusting perverted gay Singaporeans too. Because we gay guys in Singapore aren't going anywhere and we'll do whatever we damn well like, living our lives as we wish, and loving and having sex with each other.

In the end, she has no real power to stop that. Things are changing here and even the government doesn't dare actually arrest anyone for gay sex anymore.

Every year, Thio's position on gays grows weaker, and in due time, I think you'll find her become as unacceptable in Singapore as she is in the more meaningful elsewheres.

Yes, it must be a nightmare to have people such as Li-ann Thio in positions of authority. But I am relieved to read that life is improving for our community.

How this kind of misanthropists make it into the world of freedom...is a big question.....
trampling and steping over other peoples rights?

Personally... | March 12, 2010 12:19 PM

And here I thought NYU Law had far more caliber.

-No, I am not referring to Thio but all of you commenters and fellow students.

Surprised? Don't be.

I thought the majority would get past narrow-minded political riff-raff and see the golden opportunity of bringing this woman to our campus ...

If you truly disagree and are offended by her ideals politics you do not want to utterly boycott her class, but invite her, attend, and completely rip her apart, demolish her skewed perspective with your supposedly PC - proper viewpoints.

I am being serious ... the unique experience of actually having a professor that may stimulate your most passionate defense/arguments is, in my opinion, a good thing.

How do any of you expect to fight such ignorance in your future professions/lives if you refuse to face it now and exert your position.

Scared a big-class turnout might secure another year for this loon? Don't be. - That is, as long as you do your jobs right and send the lady packing with unanimous united and coherent contention - devoid of excessive human sympathies and emotions as they are naturally debilitating if overdone in a political/legal argument. Essentially, adhere to the facts & confirmed postulations on the matter - not picket signs, protest and other such useless pandering.

Realize the truth in the words of the gay Singaporean commenter above. She does, unfortunately, retain political power back home, but if she seeks to make a move onto our territory, to preach her views undisputed, hell I should hope we drive her out/teach her a lesson, the law school way.