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Ex-Gay Advocate Seeks to Out Gay Co-Workers

Timothy Kincaid

June 12th, 2009

Philip Irvin ain’t so fond of The Gey. And he very much objects to the way in which his employer, Seattle City Light, allows an LGBTQ employee association to meet. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Speaking to seattlepi.com Thursday, Irvin said the city has previously opposed his efforts to start a group for employees who had identified as homosexuals but have since become heterosexual.

“They are the most vilified sexual minority, and I’m sorry to say that they’re not really welcomed in the religious community either,” Irvin said. “This is something where they are vilified on the right or the left.”

He also tried to get Seattle City Light to send him as a representative of the company to the Love Won Out ex-gay seminars. In order to make his point, he sent his request by email – and included some gay co-workers on the distribution list.

I don’t know if there are many – if any – employees that identify as ex-gay at Seattle City Light. I think it likely that this was less about a demand for an ex-gay employees group and more of a means to harass gay fellow employees.

Now Irvin has come up with an all new way to annoy and frighten his co-workers. He has used public disclosure laws to try and find out who might be gay so he can out them. In his own words:

Seattle Public Utilities sponsored a “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and friends” employees group which has free use of City e-mail and meeting rooms and most likely even has a city job number to charge their organizational time to. They have even got an all-employees e-mail invitation persuading employees to attend a one-sided forum on lesbian mothers child custody issues. Curious to find out who was using City resources, I, a City Light employee, filed a public disclosure request seeking the names and attendees of their meeting.

The Post-Intelligencer reports

According to court documents, Irvin has also requested the names and city departments of those who are members of the group, or who have attended the group’s meetings, as well as copies of the group’s sign-in sheets, minutes and agendas.

He sees it as a logical extension of reporting the names of those who sign anti-gay petitions for referenda. Anti-gay activists are circulating petitions to overturn rights and benefits granted to domestic partners by the State of Washington. And WhoSigned.org seeks to make those names available to their neighbors.

Irvin argues that if the names of persons who sign a legal petition to achieve the numbers necessary to qualify for a ballot to remove civil rights are public, then so too should the names of employees who attended an LGBTQ workgroup be publicized.

His co-workers did not agree. They sought, and received, court intervention. (the Stranger)

King County Superior Court issued a restraining order that temporarily blocks the city from releasing personal information about members of the “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Friends (LGBTQ&F)” affinity group.

Irvin isn’t pleased

I was stunned when told that the gay group would be filing an injunction to block release of this information. There seems to be rank hypocrisy among the gay community. Publishing names and addresses on a website of those who oppose them by signing a petition is fair game but releasing the names of those who use city resources to promote their agenda causes them to howl. Call me a homophobe if you want to but I don’t think the City should fund a secret gay employees group.

But the attorney for the employees sees distinctions between the public dissemination of petitioners to the State on matters of legislation and individuals attending a workplace meeting.

But Coffman says the comparison is apples to oranges. The key in determining whether personal information should be made public rests on state law, which says the public must hold an interest in accessing private information. In the case of a referendum, Coffman says, the public needs to verify that authorized voters signed a petition—thus that information needs to be publicly available.

However, Coffman argues, “I don’t think there is a public interest in identifying who these people are.” He says that it’s unclear what city resources were invested in the group, what the threshold for membership was, or what personal information (such as email addresses) the city might have. For instance, he is concerned that someone who attended one meeting but had no real stake in the group could be outed.

“The interest is Mr. Irvin’s alone, and I would suggest it is for nefarious purposes,” says Coffman. It’s an intimidation tactic that “smacks of something that would happen in the South, circa 1962.”

Comments

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Ben in Oakland
June 12th, 2009 | LINK

personally, I see nothing wrong with the gentleman forming his own ex-gay group, though how being ex-gay qualifies as a sexual orientation– defined by an attraction to something it is not attracted to– escapes me. nonetheless, if gays can have a group, ex-gays should, too.

I just have to wonder if it will have more than one member.

M
June 12th, 2009 | LINK

Thanks for sharing this. I live in Seattle and work closely with Seattle City Light folks and hadn’t heard this story.

----
June 12th, 2009 | LINK

Ex-gays are just Uncle Toms of the religious right.

Burr
June 12th, 2009 | LINK

What’s the point of having an ex-gay group? If you’re ex-gay, you’re straight. Just be straight. You don’t need any “support” to be a member of the majority. Just stop referring to your gay past and get over it.

Richard W. Fitch
June 12th, 2009 | LINK

Maybe subconsciously Irwin is saying that he thinks homosexuality is something like alcoholism; you can remain sober but you can never be “cured”. Since for him being gay was a “dis-ease”, the only way to remain straight is through life-long support groups. However, ‘outing’ others who may be quite comfortable with their orientation seems counter-productive to obtaining any kind of support.

----
June 12th, 2009 | LINK

Neither homosexuality nor alcoholism are “diseases”, but unlike homosexuality, alcoholism can be prevented and gave up completely if someone is truly willing.

Keith
June 13th, 2009 | LINK

Phillip Irvin: “They (ex-gays) are the most vilified sexual minority, and I’m sorry to say that they’re not really welcomed in the religious community either.”

The logical response to this would be “Ok Mr. Irvin, so you agree that ex-gays and gays should not be vilified nor discriminated against and they should be allowed to get married?”

Jason D
June 13th, 2009 | LINK

I have to agree that the alcoholism analogy doesn’t quite work, as alcoholism isn’t as cut and dry as AA would like you to believe.

I quit drinking 4 years ago because I was a lush who could simply not reign in my drinking. I could(and have) gone on for pages about it, but suffice to say I had a problem, and the therapist I was seeing agreed.

So I quit. No meetings. No support groups. No freaking out. No feeling helpless. I just got my @$$ in gear and stopped. Cold turkey. I rejected the AA philosophy that I was helpless and needed other helpless, untrained drunks to cry to, complain to, and spend the rest of my life obsessing over something I stopped doing. Now I go to bars, clubs, can even use mouthwash with alcohol in it, can even hold someone’s drink while they go to the bathroom. Because I chose not to be a victim and feel helpless. I fail to see how feeling helpless and obsessing over something in any way shape or form helps anyone.

But I guess that’s how I feel about ex-gay groups too.

a. mcewen
June 13th, 2009 | LINK

It’s what I feared when the campaign of making public the names of people who sign anti-gay law petitions.

The reasoning may be in our favor but it can get long winded. It’s easy to make short inaccurate analogies rather than explain a situation

And ultimately its about who can manipulate the situation to galvanize their troops and control the argument. In that case, who do we have to explain our side to match One News Now, Michelle Malkin, Fox News, Town Hall, and all of the others on the right?

Mykell
June 13th, 2009 | LINK

Why not let the guy have his ex-gay group? If the group doesn’t harass people, great. If the group does, disband it and tell him to f— off.

Ephilei
June 15th, 2009 | LINK

I agree. Go ahead and give the ex-gays a group – but only allow ex-gays to join lest it become a straights-against-gays group. When they find out no one is coming to the meetings, they’ll close the group voluntarily.

Ben in Oakland
June 15th, 2009 | LINK

Jason– good for you. I came to the same conclusion about AA years ago when I was visiting some friends. One of them had a a sign in his room: “The point is not ‘resolving not to go to the bar’. The point is to have other things that are more important than going to the bar.’

The only way to stop being an alcoholic is to decide that something else is more important than taking a drink. ultimately, the only way to stop being an alcoholic is to stop drinking. Until one can make that decision, one remains an alcoholic.

AA supports people in that decision, and i think that is great. Yet I still remember a former friend of mine who was still going to AA meetings 3 timnes a week, and it had been 20 years since thel ast time he had a drink. His life was STILL about alcohol. My brother at 48 years old, STILL blamed our parents for the mess of his life 30 years atfer he had moved out. He never oculd answer the question: “Well, dave, all that might bre true. but what are you going to do now?”

Omne oculd easily make the same point about ex-gays. If you are not gay any more, why are you still obsessing about it? Just go ahead an be straihgt.

Angela Merici
June 23rd, 2009 | LINK

The fact that he is saying that the gays are hypocritical when he filed the public disclosure request a full month prior to the whosigned.org group announced their intent and the injunction process was started 2 days before is interesting to me. He has a problem with the whosigned.org group outing people but he was in process of outing people prior to it being announced. Also it isn’t like the gay community shares a collective thought process. None of the city employees involved in the injunction are actually involved with the whosigned.org group. Honestly the people on the injunction are pretty much just offended at the fact that a man who has been known to show up at affinity group meetings and read the bible verses calling gays abominations then sue the city when he is told he isn’t welcome at the meetings any longer for religious discrimination can be handed a list of targets for him to harass. He has shut down the GLBTF groups at the city a few times with his cry of religious discrimination if there is any push back from the groups. Likewise no one in the LGBTQ&F group has attempted to block him from starting an ex-gay group but I hardly see how if he is starting an ex-gay group the names of people who are gay and not interested in changing that would be of any help to him at all.

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