Ex-Gay Advocate Seeks to Out Gay Co-Workers
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.”