Brief Note: DC Mayor apologizes for PFOX commendation

You had to see this coming.

Parents and Friends of Ex-gays issued a press release today touting a certificate of appreciation given to Regina Griggs by the Mayor of the District of Columbia for her work as PFOX director. The certification lauded Griggs’:

dedication, commitment, and outstanding contributions as Executive Director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays.

Call me a prophet. When I saw that news, I immediately figured that the Mayor’s office would issue a clarification or denial before the end of the day. And lo, and behold, as has been reported elsewhere, Mayor Fenty’s office released a statement apologizing for the certificate, saying in full:

A staff level error was made when the request for the certificate in question was fulfilled. We apologize for the error as it runs contrary to the Mayor’s vision of a more open and inclusive city. 

The Mayor is proud of his ardent support of the LGBT community as illustrated in his championing of the Marriage Equality legislation which he signed into law on December 18, 2009.

This full statement, courtesy of Mayor Fenty’s Director of Communications, Mafara Hobson, blames a staffer for the error and indicates he did not know what he was signing.

Some of the confusion could be the inclusion of “gays” in their title. The certificate mentions PFOX as being the Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays. However, their 2008 990 form confirms that the legal name of the organization does not include the gay part.

Another interesting point on the 990 is that PFOX reports to the IRS that it is a “Christian Support Ministry.” However, on the Path coalition website, they portray themselves as a non-religious group.

FOX News covers PFOX effort to get ex-gay books in school libraries

PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-gays) gets a little national face time with this article on the FOX News website. It seems they can’t get anybody to take their books. Here are the books they want school libraries to include:

  • Parents Guide to Preventing Homosexuality by Joseph and Linda Nicolosi
  • You Don’t Have to Be Gay by Jeff Konrad
  • My Genes Made Me Do It! by Neil and Briar Whitehead
  • Gay Children, Straight Parents: A plan for family healing by Richard Cohen
  • This Side of Jordan by Bill Kassel
  • Marriage on Trial by Glenn Stanton and Bill Maier

PFOX complains that explicit books involving sexual descriptions are in libraries so these books should be too. That is comparing apples and oranges it seems to me. The libraries are not rejecting these books over their explicit nature, but rather due to the lack of published reviews of their suitability for a K-12 audience.

I think the books should be included in the libraries but am not persuaded to this position by the rationale of PFOX. Their position seems to be: you have a bunch of bad books already, why not include a few more? I would rather lobby for the removal or at least restriction of sexually explicit books, rather than use the existence of the books as a basis for adding more books.

My thinking is that students who want to research sexual orientation and the controversies surrounding the issue should have access to some pro-change books simply for the sake of research. Unless one has access to primary sources, one cannot do high quality work. I favor a system where parents help decide on what books can be restricted. The books PFOX wants included could be placed in a religion section or some reserve section where parent or teacher permission is needed to check them out. Libraries could include disclaimers such as a notation in Richard Cohen’s book that he was expelled from the ACA. On balance, I suspect that the books would not be looked at much.

As usual, in this article there is a doozy from Regina. She is quoted as saying:

Griggs also says, as a woman with an ex-gay cousin and a gay son, her goal and that of the organization’s is not to “cure” homosexuals. She says it is to promote tolerance of those who have left that lifestyle.

“It’s almost an attack on us as an organization merely because we want to allow people to have all the information on both sides,” Griggs said. “We aren’t out there forcing people to do anything … they have a right to know all of the facts to determine for themselves.”

“Therapy is not the issue — tolerance is,” she added. “Expect more lawsuits nationwide.”

A look at the list of books should cast doubt on these statements. Earlier in this article, Griggs is quoted as saying:

PFOX Executive Director Regina Griggs says the group just wants anyone struggling with unwanted same sex attractions to know all of the options available to them.

These books (with the exception of Stanton and Maier’s book) are all about changing orientation or preventing homosexuality. Having presented at a PFOX conference in the past, I can tell you that the conference was not about tolerance, but all about change of orientation. Therapy was always the issue, specifically reparative therapy.

PFOX wants libraries to heart Alfie’s Home

At least, I think Alfie’s Home is the book meant by the following PFOX (Parents and Friends of Exgays) news release:

“Ex-gay books are also not made available in many community public libraries,” said Griggs. “The libraries in West Bend and Beaver Dam, Wisconsin will not accept our donation of an ex-gay book for children, although these libraries circulate several picture books with gay themes for children.”

alfies_homeI wrote to ask PFOX if Alfie’s Home by Richard Cohen is the book they tried to donate. They have not answered as yet. I do know that they have donated it elsewhere. It was offered to the Ex-gay Educators Caucus during the 2004 National Education Association convention as a possible giveaway to people who stopped by the booth. However, all involved refused to provide it and gave the books back.

Classically Liberal has an expose of the book with most of it in pictures. Essentially the book depicts the reparative view of how people become and un-become gay. It also contains a creepy and unnecessary drawing of a boy in bed with a man. I would not want my son to read it.

alfieshomeThe book is offensive on at least two levels. For gays, it reduces their experience to bad fathers and sexual abuse. For those who have been sexually abused, it makes becoming gay the real tragedy of the book, not the abuse. There may be a sensitive way to tackle these issues, but this is not it.

I think any number of ex-gay books could be made available simply for information and research purposes. But please, not this one.

PFOX loses appeal of NEA discrimination case

In a confusing press release this morning, the Parents & Friends of Ex-gays (PFOX) claimed victory in a discrimination appeal to the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. However, in fact, their claim was denied. The National Education Association did not discriminate against them in 2002 when they denied PFOX exhibit space at the NEA national convention.

Here is the PFOX release:

Court Rules that ‘Sexual Orientation’ Laws Include Former Homosexuals

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 /Christian Newswire/ — In a precedent setting case, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia has ruled that former homosexuals are a protected class that must be recognized under sexual orientation non- discrimination laws. The Court held that, under the D.C. Human Rights Act, sexual orientation does not require immutable characteristics.

“We are gratified that the ex-gay community in Washington D.C. now has the same civil rights that gays enjoy,” said Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX), which had filed the lawsuit against the District of Columbia government for failing to protect former homosexuals in the Nation’s Capital.

In a discrimination complaint filed by PFOX against the National Education Association (NEA) for refusing to provide public accommodations to ex- gays, the D.C. Office of Human Rights (OHR) had agreed with the NEA that sexual orientation protection did not extend to former homosexuals. “By failing to protect former homosexuals, the sexual orientation laws gave more rights to homosexuals than heterosexuals who were once gay,” said Griggs. “So PFOX asked the Court to reverse OHR’s decision, which it did. The Court held that ex-gays are a protected class under ‘sexual orientation.'”

“All sexual orientation laws and programs nationwide should now provide true diversity and equality by including former homosexuals,” said Greg Quinlan, a director of PFOX. “I have experienced more personal assaults as a former homosexual than I ever did as a gay man.”

“PFOX calls on the NEA to add ex-gays to its sexual orientation resolutions which favor gays, bisexuals, and transgenders while denying equality to former homosexuals,” said Griggs. “The NEA must also stop its bias against the NEA Ex-Gay Educators Caucus by appointing an ex-gay caucus member to the NEA Sexual Orientation Committee. This committee is staffed with members of the NEA’s gay and transgender caucus, although the ex-gay caucus has asked for inclusion.”

The NEA successfully argued before the Court that it was not guilty of sexual orientation discrimination because its gay caucus would have protested the presence of PFOX’s ex-gay exhibit at the NEA’s annual conference. “Gay activists demand equality while denying it to others,” said Griggs.

This statement of Griggs is accurate but confuses the matter: “So PFOX asked the Court to reverse OHR’s decision, which it did. The Court held that ex-gays are a protected class under ‘sexual orientation.'”

On that point, the court said

Therefore, the Court reverses the OHR’s ruling that exgays are not protected from discrimination under the HRA because it directly contravenes the plain language and intent of the statute.

However, the court found that the NEA did not discriminate against PFOX. The way the press release reads, it sounds like a victory for PFOX against the NEA. Not so.

In fact, the DC court said that the DC Office of Human Rights did err by saying a protected class must demonstrate an immutable characteristic. Originally, the NEA did not want to give PFOX space because they felt their message was offensive to gays. PFOX claimed sexual orientation discrimination and appealed to the DC Office of Human Rights. The OHR said no discrimination occured because ex-gayness was not immutable (by definition I suppose). However, as Judge Ross pointed out the DC Human Rights Amendment protects many practices and preferences which are mutable.

the HRA [Human Rights Amendment] clearly does not limit itself only to immutable characteristics. The premise of the HRA is simple: to end all discrimination based on anything other than individual merit. Numerous protected classes listed in the HRA include mutable traits. Furthermore, the definition of sexual orientation defines an individual’s sexuality as a “preference” or “practice.”

The conclusion of the decision provides the real scoop. In fact, the main event was a denial of the discrimination claim.

PFOX asks the Court to reverse OHR’s final decision finding no probable cause that NEA discriminated against PFOX on the basis of sexual orientation when it denied public accommodation services to PFOX by refusing to provide PFOX with exhibit space at EXPO 2002. As a matter of law, OHR erred in determining that ex-gays are not a protected class under the HRA. Regardless of whether or not OHR erred in its classification of ex-gays, it correctly found that PFOX’s exhibit booth application was rejected for non-discriminatory reasons. Furthermore, while EXPO 2002 was held in Texas, OHR did have jurisdiction over the charge because the rejection of PFOX’s application occurred in D.C., where NEA was headquartered. Therefore, Petitioner’s request to reverse the OHR’s decision, the requested relief, is DENIED. An order denying PFOX’s request will be concurrently issued with this Memorandum Opinion.

The approach of PFOX is interesting. They want ex-gays to be a protected class in the same way gays are a protected class. However, many social conservatives might quarrel that gays are not (or should not be) a protected class. Has PFOX conceded this point?

At one time in the past, I defended PFOX in their fight to exhibit at the NEA convention. I regret that now. Not because I do not believe in free speech or the right to speak about identity change. I do. However, I know PFOX as an organization better now than I did then. I am not interested in supporting misleading messages such as today’s press release.

I was then and am now interested in defending a right to live in line with one’s values and beliefs. At heart, my interest in the ex-gay concept has been much more about congruence with values than about change in orientation, evolving since 2005. That is what I liked about some of the groups I supported at that time. At least I thought that is what they were about. In 2003, I saw the NEA as trying to stifle the message that people who did not want to affirm same-sex attraction were inferior in their life paths. It is the right of the NEA to do so. It is the right of PFOX and other groups to protest that decision but the government cannot compel the NEA to host a message they believe to be at odds with their mission and message. The problem with PFOX is not so much that they advocate for people who want to live in contrast with their homosexuality but the way they promote that idea. The NEA looking at those facts continues to defend their right to keep that approach away from delegates.

As the result of the protests back in 2003, the ex-gay educator’s caucus was created among NEA members. The NEA allowed this because it came from within the organization. I believe they met again this year and while I am not directly involved with the group, I am told that they promoted the congruence approach and not the change model at their booth.

Exodus no longer affiliated with PFOX

According to Exodus President, Alan Chambers, you won’t be able to find this reference to PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays) on the Exodus website much longer.

PFOX

Within the last couple of weeks, PFOX gave up affiliation with Exodus. While Chambers declined to give reasons for the PFOX move, he indicated that Exodus would not seek any future relationship. He noted that PFOX is a public policy organization and their activities do not fit in with the mission and direction of Exodus. I have asked Regina Griggs, Executive Director at PFOX, for comment and will report the reason for their decision if disclosed.

PFOX seems to be alone among conservative groups in advocating for ex-gays using civil rights language. I recall thinking this was a strange framework for a group that really doesn’t believe homosexual orientation exists. In any event, PFOX and Exodus has not been a good fit on many levels so this separation is a good move.

Follow the money: Pro-Family Charitable Trust

This post is mostly about information without much commentary. Recently, I noted that NARTH (National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) had removed references to Scott Lively from their website. In that post, I reported that Mr. Lively’s foundation, the Pro-Family Charitable Trust chose NARTH as one of the first recipients of grant funds.
While the amounts are not large, Lively’s organization has funded other groups, including Paul Cameron’s Family Research Institute. Here is the list.
According to Lively’s website, NARTH has received $2000 total. PFOX, Exodus, Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, JONAH, Mission America and Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation have all been recipients.
Discuss…

Christian Post article on the Ugandan homosexuality conference

Michelle Vu, reporter for the Christian Post, penned an article regarding the Ugandan anti-gay conference.
Exodus International is quoted in this article, I think for the first time since the controversy began:

In response, Exodus International said it applauds its board member Don Schmierer, who attended the Uganda conference, for his effort to convey an “alternative message that encompasses a compassionate, biblical view of homosexuality,” according to a statement by Exodus International president Alan Chambers to The Christian Post on Wednesday.
Exodus says neither Schmierer nor the ministry agrees or endorses Uganda’s criminalization of homosexuality law, imprisonment of homosexuals or compulsory therapy. Rather, the ministry says it “unequivocally denounces” the positions the government of Uganda has towards homosexuality.

The full statement is here:

Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, responded to reports about an Exodus board member’s participation at a conference in Uganda on homosexuality:
“Unfortunately, Uganda as a country has demonstrated severe hostility towards homosexuals supporting criminalization of homosexual behavior and proposing compulsory therapy – positions that Exodus International unequivocally denounces. It is our sincere desire to offer an alternative message that encompasses a compassionate, biblical view of homosexuality not just here in America, but around the world. We applaud our board member’s attempt to convey these truths to a country in need.”
###

There is nothing in this statement that changes my view of this conference. It was ill-advised for several reasons, some of which were described in this Christian Post article. Another issue, largely undiscussed, is the collaboration of Exodus with Richard Cohen’s associate, Caleb Brundidge. Mr. Brundidge believes he can raise people from the dead by God’s power but he can’t heal gays without beating pillows with a tennis raquet and getting in touch with the inner child. Is this the kind of compulsory therapy Ugandan gays might have in their future?
On this subject, I highly recommend thoughtful posts by Wendy Gritter at Bridging the Gap and Karen Keen on her Pursue God blog
Also, Scott Lively provides a quote regarding his views on the Ugandan conference here…

National Day of Avoidance

The Day of Silence is coming — April 17 to be exact — and some conservative groups are already calling for students to walkout of school on that day.

TINLEY PARK, Ill., Mar. 3 /Christian Newswire/ — A national coalition of pro-family organizations is urging parents to call their children out of school on April 17. This is the day designated for this year’s Day of Silence when students and/or teachers will purposely remain silent during instructional time to protest so-called discrimination and gain sympathy for students who identify as homosexual or transgender.
The Day of Silence is a yearly event sponsored by the partisan political action group, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). The implicit purpose is to undermine the belief that homosexuality is immoral. It is the belief of the sponsors of the Walkout that parents should no longer passively accept the political usurpation of taxpayer funded public school classrooms through student silence.

The walkout is a new wrinkle. Last year, these same groups called for parents to keep the kids home. It sounds like the plan this year is to allow students to go to school and then tell them to walk out.
The news release contradicts itself on at least one point. First, it reads:

The DOS requires that teachers either create activities around or exempt silent students from any activity that involves speaking. DOS participants have a captive audience, many of whom disagree with and are made uncomfortable by the politicization of their classroom.

And then a little later, says:

Higgins further emphasizes that “The worthy end of eliminating harassment does not justify the means of exploiting instructional time.” The First Amendment already allows DOS participants to wear t-shirts or put up posters, but according to a document co-written by the ACLU and Lambda Legal, a “school can regulate what students say. . . and it can also insist that students respond to questions, make presentations, etc.” Students and teachers should not be allowed to exploit instructional time to advance their socio-political goals.

Note the two sentences in bold print. The release first says the Day of Silence requires that teachers exempt students from speaking and then admits that the DOS does not mandate such exemption. As noted in the release on this blog last year, DOS materials make this clear.
I will again favor the Golden Rule Pledge. Facebookers can join that effort here.

Gays groups benefit from failed mortgage company donations

Picking an unpopular target, PFOX this morning points out that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae donated thousands of dollars over the last several years to PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), HRC (Human Rights Campaign) and GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).
The news release published on Market Watch, alleges that Freddie and Fannie donated to fundraising events for the organizations. The release quotes a spokesperson for Freddie Mac:

Shawn Flaherty, a spokeswoman for Freddie Mac, said she was not sure PFOX would meet the grant guidelines, adding the foundation focuses on three priorities — stable homes, foster care and adoption, and youth development.
The grants have not focused on the gay community, she said. “It’s a piece of it.”

Only the farthest right would be upset over helping needy gay people get homes. In the years leading up to the collapse, the mortgage giants were encouraged to help anyone who couldn’t get loans otherwise. Hindsight tells us that this was shortsighted, and sexual orientation has nothing to do with that.
What raises eyebrows is that these groups were donating money to charities for non-housing related purposes (fundraising galas?). We know these two groups donated money to politicians who regulated them over the years. Apparently, these groups wanted to curry favor with ideologically based groups as well. While I speculate that left-of-center groups were the main beneficiaries, I would have to review their records to know for sure.
It would be interesting to follow this money to find out if any of these donations were suggested by politicians regulating Fannie and Freddie.
The PFOX release says all grants are “under review.” Under review by whom? While I would like to know, I am not going to bother asking since they do not answer queries from me. My suggestion would be for them to make this more clear and to provide links to the documents from which they derived this information.
PFOX says it wants the same money. Not going to happen. I hope this is a rhetorical device and not a policy objective. I would oppose this request as I would requests from any non-housing related group. A few thousand here, a few thousand there and pretty soon, it gets to be millions and then billions. It isn’t a matter of the government related agencies funding my favorite charity; it is why are they funding anybody’s favorite charity?

PFOX says, "Me too!"

New readers of my blog might wonder why politics isn’t in the tag line of my blog. Prior to the last couple of months, I focused on the issues of life, sexuality and mental health. And I will continue to do that, although I have taken a bit of a detour into the political. At heart, as a personal blog, this forum reflects my interests and preoccupations which right now is the presidential race and related issues. I plan a post or two on the non-political this week along with my series on Obama’s housing record.
I think I will start now…
I am late to this party but Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays (PFOX) recently sued the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights asking for special protection for ex-gays. From the news release:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) is suing the Washington DC Office of Human Rights for failing to protect former homosexuals under its sexual orientation anti-discrimination law. “The ex-gay community is the most bullied and maligned group in America, yet they are not protected by sexual orientation non-discrimination laws,” said Regina Griggs, PFOX executive director.
The DC Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on “sexual preference,” “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression.” The Office of Human Rights maintains that homosexuals, bisexuals, transgenders, and cross-dressers qualify for protection under this Act, but ex-gays do not. PFOX’s lawsuit asks the DC Superior Court to direct the Office to include former homosexuals under the sexual orientation law. “Shouldn’t ex-gays enjoy the same legal protections that gays enjoy?” asked Griggs.

The action appears to me to be primarily about publicity using Obama as the hook (read the whole news release – can’t get away from it). As the news release notes, Washington DC prohibits discrimination based on “sexual preference” and “sexual orientation.” So ex-gays, even if not considered a special suspect class, would be covered because of their sexual preference. If someone really was dismissed from a job after disclosing ex-gay beliefs, the statute might also be applied due to belief/religious discrimination.
Having been involved with this group in years past, I can tell you that, in my opinion, this is an effort to use the language of civil rights to gain publicity.