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Posts for May, 2012

It’s Still 1967 at Biola University

Jim Burroway

May 24th, 2012

I think the opening paragraph in this report says it all:

Officials at a private Christian university in Southern California held a “family discussion” on Friday after revelations of a community of homosexual students rocked the 100-year-old campus. [Emphasis added]

I had to check the dateline to make sure it was 2012. Biola University is an evangelical campus of 6,000-plus students south of Los Angeles, and they are shocked — actually, “rocked” — to find that a few of them are gay. A group of Biola University students made themselves known a few weeks ago by creating a web site, asking “to be treated with equality and respected as another facet of Biola’s diversity.” That web site drew a lengthy response (PDF: 172KB/4 pages), reminding everyone that “all members of the University community are expected to following the teachings of scripture” before reiterating Biola’s position regarding “any act of sexual intimacy between two persons of the same sex, as illegitimate moral options for the confessing Christian.”

MSNBC has followed up on the group which “has shaken this 104-year-old Christian college”:

Chris Grace, vice president for student development at Biola, said the school would like to engage in conversation with the underground group but has been stymied by the members’ anonymity. “We really are at a disadvantage here because we don’t know who these people are,” Grace said, adding that the university would “love and welcome a conversation with them and that’s what we are hoping for.”

But members of BQU, who would only comment for this story anonymously, fear that by “coming out” they would be punished and possibly expelled. They said they consider themselves Christians “first and foremost” and love Biola, and are not looking to create “a war” on campus, but they are looking to have an open discussion about what it means to be Christian and gay.

Eventually, Members of the group would like to “come out” and be open about their sexuality. “It’s important to our integrity to not have parts of us be hidden even among the Christian community,” a member said.

In 1967, Time reported on what was believed to be the first gay students group in the nation forming on the campus of Columbia University. Like these Biola University students, they too feared identifying themselves. Biola University is only 26 miles from West Hollywood, but 45 years away from the first stirrings of dignity on its own campus. That’s a lot of catching up to do.

Welcome back proposal

Timothy Kincaid

April 27th, 2012

A few days ago Pendleton Air Force Marine Base in San Diego was the site of another first (LGBT Weekly):

Finally, luggage in tow, Guerrero emerged with a smile on his face. Upon seeing Huston, Guerrero dropped his bags; aimed a kiss toward Huston’s lips; and opened his arms to his boyfriends waiting embrace. The time and distance of 10 months’ separation evaporated in a public show of affection that less than a year ago would have been cause for court martial. After a few minutes of emotional holding and kissing, Huston went anxiously down on one knee; looked up at Guerrero, who was dressed from head to toe in military fatigues; and produced an engagement ring and the time-honored phrase, “Will you marry me?”

Huston’s mild tremble, a result of hours and days of anticipation about this day, was quickly quieted by the one word every hopeful fiancé wants to hear: “Yes.”

Meanwhile, across the pond, the Brits are debating whether to adopt Prime Minister David Cameron’s plan to replace civil unions with full legal equality for same-sex couples. This ad is one piece in the campaign. (tissue warning)

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Why I oppose the ‘Don’t Say Ex-Gay’ bill

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

April 26th, 2012

As has been discussed on other threads, the California State Legislature is proposing a bill that will prohibit licensed mental health professionals from offering therapy to minors with the goal of diminishing same-sex attraction or encouraging opposite-sex attraction. Many in our community, including other Box Turtle Bulletin authors, see this as at least a partially positive action. I see it a horrific.

There are many reasons, some philosophical – some pragmatic, why I oppose this bill. Here are a few:

It isn’t needed

No mental health organization has called for this action. But that is not because of ignorance about the issue or a lack of willingness to address it.

In August 2009 the American Psychological Association Task Force Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Response to Sexual Orientation issued it’s report. The conclusion was

The American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation conducted a systematic review of the peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) and concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates. Even though the research and clinical literature demonstrate that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality, regardless of sexual orientation identity, the task force concluded that the population that undergoes SOCE tends to have strongly conservative religious views that lead them to seek to change their sexual orientation. Thus, the appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions for those who seek SOCE involves therapist acceptance, support, and understanding of clients and the facilitation of clients’ active coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome.

However, the findings seem to stop short of banning change therapy. And this is an important distinction.

The Task Force also found

The conflict between psychology and traditional faiths may have its roots in different philosophical viewpoints. Some religions give priority to telic congruence (i.e., living consistently within one’s valuative goals) (W. Hathaway, personal communication, June 30, 2008; cf. Richards & Bergin, 2005). Some authors propose that for adherents of these religions, religious perspectives and values should be integrated into the goals of psychotherapy (Richards & Bergin, 2005; Throckmorton & Yarhouse, 2006). Affirmative and multicultural models of LGB psychology give priority to organismic congruence (i.e., living with a sense of wholeness in one’s experiential self (W. Hathaway, personal communication, June 30, 2008; cf. Gonsiorek, 2004; Malyon, 1982). This perspective gives priority to the unfolding of developmental processes, including self-awareness and personal identity.

This difference in worldviews can impact psychotherapy. For instance, individuals who have strong religious beliefs can experience tensions and conflicts between their ideal self and beliefs and their sexual and affectional needs and desires (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004; D. F. Morrow, 2003). The different worldviews would approach psychotherapy for these individuals from dissimilar perspectives: The telic strategy would prioritize values (Rosik, 2003; Yarhouse & Burkett, 2002), whereas the organismic approach would give priority to the development of self-awareness and identity (Beckstead & Israel, 2007; Gonsiorek, 2004; Haldeman, 2004). It is important to note that the organismic worldview can be congruent with and respectful of religion (Beckstead & Israel, 2007; Glassgold, 2008; Gonsiorek, 2004; Haldeman, 2004; Mark, 2008), and the telic worldview can be aware of sexual stigma and respectful of sexual orientation (Throckmorton & Yarhouse, 2006; Tan, 2008; Yarhouse, 2008). Understanding this philosophical difference may improve the dialogue between these two perspectives represented in the literature, as it refocuses the debate not on one group’s perceived rejection of homosexuals or the other group’s perceived minimization of religious viewpoints but on philosophical differences that extend beyond this particular subject matter. However, some of the differences between these philosophical assumptions may be difficult to bridge.

In a nutshell, that says that different people with different worldviews benefit from different types of therapy. Not exactly a shocking revelation.

The APA is taking a measured and cautious approach designed to address the needs of patients. They are looking to efficacy, but not only to results. They are also considering the side effects – positive and negative – of such therapy. And they are seeking ways to improve communication between differing people so as to maximize mental health consequences.

Which, of course, is of no concern to the California State Legislature. Their agenda is political, not therapeutic.

This removes all therapy for some individuals

Our community tends to focus on the potential harm of change therapy. And there is potential harm. But we are reluctant to admit that some people benefit from this therapy.

No, they don’t change their orientation. But we have heard many people share with us that through their therapy with a change therapist they were able to deal with other issues: finding their own worth, identifying their values, determining what matters, and overcoming messages of condemnation and rejection.

Change therapy has much to be criticized about. But change therapists do attempt to dispel some of the erroneous messages that their patients have heard, including “God hates you” and “you are an abomination” and “you choose to be this way”.

Some may argue that the bad outweighs the good. And in some instances that may be true. But the truth that many forget is that this is the only option for some gay Christian youth. They are not going to have access to an affirmative counselor. They are not going to want access to an affirmative counselor.

And any suggestion on our part that they seek an affirmative therapist is flippant, at best.

This is an extension of a micromanagement ‘government knows best’ approach

Were this coming from a psychiatrist turned state senator, I might see it as a matter of advancing and protecting the interests of the profession. But Senator Ted Lieu is not known for his desire to administer solutions to problems. Rather, it might be best to describe Senator Lieu as a man who is quite convinced that he knows what is best for you and is more than ready to force you to do it. He shares more than a little instinct with Dr. James Dobson – just from the opposite side.

Lieu lists his 2011 Legislative Accomplishments. They consist of a bill to establish committees to decide what job Californians should have, a bill “requiring all pets to be microchipped with the owner’s contact information”, a bill “prohibiting children under the age of 18 from using ultra violet tanning beds”, a bill designed to require out of state employers whose work force is predominantly out of state to provide domestic partner benefits to any employee within the state, a bill which eliminates the right of employers to collect costs or expenses resulting from an illegal strike, a bill which sought to “impose time and place restriction for funeral protests”, and a bill which “prohibits the practice of selling puppies and kittens in parking lots and sidewalks”.

Whether one thinks that these are all good things or all bad things, it’s pretty clear that Lieu has a consistent approach to individual rights: restrict them.

The motivations behind it are less than honorable

In the State of California, there are no more bills that can be passed to put gay people on an equal standing. They have passed them all. The only remaining hurdle is marriage and that is out of the hands of the legislature.

But certain elected officials, and certain gay advocacy groups desperately need for there to be conflict. They regularly send “call your assemblyman, send us money” emails so as to make sure that some unnecessary bill isn’t Defeated by the Right Wing which Wants to Take Away Your Freedom, before it passes overwhelmingly along a party line vote.

This is political cynicism. It is barely even masquerading as anything else. And we are fools if we let ourselves be so easily manipulated.

I was ambivalent about Harvey Milk Day. There’s no need for such a day. There’s no purpose for such a day. But it didn’t harm anyone and wasn’t an expensive waste so I really didn’t much care.

I was troubled about legislation which would require teaching about the contributions to early California history by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people (which would involve some pretty creative revisionist storytelling) while banning anything whatsoever that might “negatively reflect” on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. This was a purely undisguised propaganda bill related in spirit to St. Petersburg’s bill to ban “homosexual propaganda”. Both are attempts to push a point of view while silencing any differing views. You may recall that I didn’t rejoice over that piece of Big Brother heavy-handedness.

This is the next logical step.

Having banned divergent views in the classroom, the legislature now is entering the private sphere to dictate what can and cannot be said.

Before we get all giddy that our views are winning and their views are banned, let’s ask ourselves what it is that we believe.

I hear so very much about “the h8ters”. But is it hate that we oppose, or just the target? If it is hate, then why do those who complain about them the most do so in terms or bald unvarnished hatred?

I hear that it is awful that Tennessee legislators want to ban support for gay kids in school. Is it the refusal to support that is bad, or is it only the target? Because if it is the refusal to support, why are we not upset about conservative kids who will not no longer be allowed to seek therapy that they find supportive?

Before we go down the “I’m right, so what I do is right” road, let’s recall that history and politics are a pendulum. It is swinging in our direction at the moment. But let our behavior and our responses be such that when it reverses, the structures and principles we set in place will ensure that we are not harmed.

Because the laws we pass today to punish, inhibit, and deny rights to those whom we feel are wrong or bad or inferior will give birth to the laws that will be used against us in the future.

Three Things You Should Consider About CA’s Proposed Ex-Gay Therapy Curbs

A commentary.

Jim Burroway

April 25th, 2012

There has been a lot of very brief reporting on a proposed California law to curb ex-gay therapy. Two things stood out for just about everyone who picked it up: 1) the law would ban ex-gay therapy for those who are under the age of 18, and 2) the law would require that two specific paragraphs be a part of the informed consent form that the patient would have to sign before therapy can begin. That’s a very brief summary of a 1200-word bill, so as you can expect, there are a lot of details being glossed over (that includes our initial report on the proposed law).

1: The Proposed Law Does Not Ban All Ex-Gay Therapy For Those Under 18.

There are a set of definitions that are critical to understanding what this law would do. Under Article 15, we read:

(b) “Psychotherapist” means a physician and surgeon specializing in the practice of psychiatry, a psychologist, a psychological assistant, a psychiatric technician, a marriage and family therapist, a registered marriage and family therapist, intern, or trainee, an educational psychologist, a licensed clinical social worker, an associate clinical social worker, a licensed professional clinical counselor, or a registered clinical counselor, intern, or trainee.

Pay attention to what is not included in this list: pastors, ministers and lay counselors. What this list conveys is that those who are licensed or registered, or who are in training to become licensed or registered, would be subjected to the proposed law. In other words, California would be acting under its licensing and registration authority, and that authority does not extend to the religious sphere. Nor can it under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

The next two important definitions build on the one above:

(c) “Psychotherapy” means the professional assessment, evaluation, treatment, or counseling of a mental or emotional illness, symptom, or condition by a psychotherapist.

(d) “Sexual orientation change efforts” means psychotherapy aimed at altering the sexual or romantic desires, attractions, or conduct of a person toward people of the same sex so that the desire, attraction, or conduct is eliminated or reduced or might instead be directed toward people of a different sex. It does not include psychotherapy aimed at altering sexual desires, attractions, or conduct toward minors or relatives or regarding sexual activity with another person without that person’s consent. [Emphases mine.]

Having defined “Psychotherapist” in (b), and having restricted “Psychotherapy” to being a practice done according to the person defined as a “Psychotherapist” in (c), and having restricted the definition of “sexual orientation change efforts” according to the definition of “Psychotherapy” in (d), the proposed law narrowly restricts the laws effects to licensed and registered members of the medical and mental health professions.

And so when we get to the ban that everyone’s talking about:

865.2. (a) Under no circumstances shall a patient under 18 years of age undergo sexual orientation change efforts, regardless of the willingness of a patient’s parent, guardian, conservator, or other person to authorize such efforts.

(b) The right to refuse sexual orientation change efforts is not waived by giving informed consent and that consent may be withdrawn at any time prior to, during, or between sessions of sexual orientation change efforts.

(c) Any act of duress or coercion by any person or facility shall invalidate the patient’s consent to sexual orientation change efforts. [Emphasis mine.]

What we see is the consistent use of the phrase “sexual orientation change efforts” which was defined earlier to be very specific to “psychotherapy” offered by “psychotherapists,” each with their own specific definitions under this law.

This is critical, because it won’t prevent kids under 18 from being sent to, say, Exodus Board Member Don Schmierer’s His Way Out Ministries, or Living Stones Ministries or to dozens of other ex-gay ministries or churches. And the provisions covering duress or coercion won’t apply either, because they would apply only to those conditions set up in the definitions, and those definitions do not religious or church-based exgay ministries.

What the bill would do is pose a problem for any licensed professionals who work in those ministries. They would be confronted with a choice between giving up their work in those ministries or giving up their licenses. For those whose practice centers solely on ex-gay therapy, the choice will be an easy one: they will give up their licenses. But for those who depend on income from their practices in providing other forms of therapy, this could be a serious dilemma.

But more importantly, it really places the issue of religious freedom in much sharper focus. Already, the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) was quick out of the gate calling the prosed law “a not so subtle attack on religious liberty.” But it is no such thing. Quite the contrary. For those under 18 and their parents, if they want to enter a program that reinforces their religious beliefs, then they will rightly have the option of turning to a religious organization to do so. Which is as it should be. It is not the responsibility of the mental health establishment to enforce parents’ religious beliefs on those under 18.

2. The Proposed Law May Not Eliminate All Ex-Gay Therapy for Those Under 18 By Licensed Professionals.

This is trickier but equally important, and it goes to the very heart of the dishonesty of some of the ex-gay therapists who are licensed. Professional therapists already have a problem in billing insurance companies for their clients who are trying to change their sexual orientation: Insurance companies won’t foot the bill. There is no code in the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual (DSM) for homosexuality, and a code is always required in insurance forms in order to be compensated. So how do those therapists get paid?

Easy. As I’ve personally heard a number of ex-gay therapists explain it, their clients are invariably distressed, anxious, depressed, and so forth. And there;s a whole smorgasbord of codes for them to chose from. And I know of at least one therapist who admitted that he is very careful about what he writes in his clinical notes. That way, if an insurance company wanted to see the records, it would be very difficult to tell that he was providing sexual orientation change therapy.

In other words, ex-gay therapists have already figured out ways around disclosing the kind of therapy they’re doing. Those practices will only become more widespread. And given the sanctity of client-patient privilege, it is very nearly impossible to investigate what a therapist is doing unless the client blows the whistle.

But that does bring us to a potential timebomb for licensed professionals:

865.3. (a) (1) A cause of action may be brought against a psychotherapist by a patient, former patient, or deceased former patient’s parent, child, or sibling if the sexual orientation change efforts were conducted without first obtaining informed consent or by means of therapeutic deception, or if the sexual orientation change efforts were conducted on a patient who was under 18 years of age at any point during the use of the sexual orientation change efforts.

(2) The patient, former patient, or deceased former patient’s parent, child, or sibling may recover actual damages, or statutory damages in the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000), whichever is greater, in addition to costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

(3) The time for commencement of the action shall be within eight years of the date the patient or former patient attains the age of majority or within five years of the date the patient, former patient, or deceased former patient’s parent, child, or sibling discovers or reasonably should have discovered that the patient was subjected to sexual orientation change efforts in violation of this article.

(b) Nothing in this article precludes or limits the right of a patient, former patient, or deceased former patient’s parent, child, or sibling to bring a civil action against a psychotherapist arising from other legal claims.

If a therapist does offer sexual orientation change therapy and the client reaches a point where he or she feels damaged by that therapy, the client can seek damages. But if the therapist’s notes and records were already written to obscure the fact that he was offering sexual orientation change therapy, then it would make the patients’ claims more difficult to press. On the other hand, merely defending himself against the charges would prove very costly for the therapist. All licensed therapists would have to carefully weigh that risk if this bill becomes law.

3. The Proposed Bill Inserts California Law Between the Client and Practitioner.

I raise this issue because it is one which should always be carefully considered whenever a bill like this comes along. There are times when I think health care would be much better if government butts out. Two examples are abortion and medical marijuana, which, in my view, have become far too politicized to the point where it’s virtually impossible to discuss the medical merits of those issues. We have right now legislatures mandating invasive and humiliating procedures before an abortion can be obtained under the guise of ensuring the woman’s “informed consent” — as if women had no idea what they were asking for. In my opinion, that’s where some state governments have gone way too far.

Government does play an important role in ensuring that the practice of medicine and psychotherapy (properly defined) is safe and, to a lesser extent, effective. But when government inserts itself between client and practitioner, it really needs to have a damn good reason to do so.  It’s why we have FDA approval for drugs, and it is why doctors in my old hometown of Portsmouth, Ohio, are being rounded up for indiscriminately prescribing Oxycontin (a.k.a. “hillbilly heroin”) to all comers. Those are just two examples where government intrudes into the client-practitioner relationship, and I think we can agree that they are good ones. Medicine (and psychotherapy) is not without risks in the hands of the unscrupulous, unethical, unskilled, or the zealot.

So for me personally, I have no problems with banning ex-gay therapy for those under 18. Parents who have religious reasons for seeking ex-gay therapy for their children will still have plenty of options, and given the actual state of ex-gay therapy there is no reason to believe that those options would be any better or worse than those provided by so-called “experts.” And with regard to ex-gay therapy, informed consent has been a particularly troublesome area all along, which is the second major area this law proposes to address. But I do have one quibble with the legislation. It mandates that the following two paragraphs be included in the informed consent form for the prospective patient to read and sign:

“Having a lesbian, gay, or bisexual sexual orientation is not a mental disorder. There is no scientific evidence that any types of therapies are effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation. Sexual orientation change efforts can be harmful. The risks include, but are not limited to, depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.

Medical and mental health associations that oppose the use of sexual orientation change efforts include the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.”

To be absolutely precise, those statements aren’t the medical establishment’s opinion on sexual orientation change efforts. Strictly speaking, they represent the California legislature’s interpretationof the medical establishment’s opinion. I think it happens to be a very accurate interpretation today, but it may not be accurate tomorrow. And the problem with California law — and any law — is that it has a way becoming indelibly written far past its prime. Remember, a 1955 law requiring California to conduct research on curing homosexuality wasn’t repealed until 2010. While I doubt that the science will change much, having this statement engraved in law may be good law for 2012, but it’s never good medical practice to have anything set in stone. It would be far better if the legislation directed the state health department to either compose the paragraph, or give it authority to revise it as conditions warrant.

California Senate Proposes Limits On Ex-Gay Therapy

Jim Burroway

April 24th, 2012

California state Sen. Ted Lieu (D) has introduced legislation in the California Senate that would prohibit performing ex-gay thearpy on children under the age of 18. The full text of SB 1172, which was approved with changes by a Senate Subcommittee yesterday, can be found here. It  would also prohibit providing ex-gay therapy to anyone without written informed consent, specifies that the informed consent form must have the following statement:

“Having a lesbian, gay, or bisexual sexual orientation is not a mental disorder. There is no scientific evidence that any types of therapies are effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation. Sexual orientation change efforts can be harmful. The risks include, but are not limited to, depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.

Medical and mental health associations that oppose the use of sexual orientation change efforts include the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.”

The bill would also specify that “Any act of duress or coercion by any person or facility shall invalidate the patient’s consent to sexual orientation change efforts.” Failure to adhere to these provisions would leave practitioners open to minimum fines of $5,000. It does not, however, ban ex-gay therapy outright. Nevertheless, NARTH is upset over the proposal. While NARTH tries to position itself as a secular, scientific organization, their first fundraising appeal attacking SB 1172 calls the proposal “a not so subtle attack on religious liberty.” NARTH’s more complete objections to SB 1172 can be found here.

Prop 8 Supporters To Petition for En Banc Review

Jim Burroway

February 21st, 2012

Charles Cooper, the lead attorney for the proponents of Proposition 8, told Metro Weekly that they intend to file a petition before today’s end-of-the-day deadline asking that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reviews the decision handed down by a three-judge panel upholding a lower court’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. Once the filing is made, the entire 20-member court will vote on whether to hold an en banc review. If they approve the petition, then Judge Alex Kozinski, the circuit’s chief judge, and 10 randomly selected judges from the circuit will hear the en banc appeal. That will involve more briefs, more hearings and more time, virtually guaranteeing that the case won’t reach the U.S. Supreme Court this year.

How’s The Catholic Church’s Celibacy Solution Working Out?

Jim Burroway

January 5th, 2012

If you’re gay, the Catholic Church has one answer for you: stay celibate for the rest of your life. The Hartford (CT) Archdiocese has sponsored a chapter of the Catholic ex-gay program Courage to help gays experience all the joys of celibacy:

The Hartford Archdiocese wants gays and lesbians to practice abstinence in the new year.

On Tuesday, the archdiocese announced it was launching a local chapter of a national ministry called Courage “to support men and women who struggle with homosexual tendencies and to motivate them to live chaste and fruitful lives in accordance with Catholic Church teachings.”

…Gay attraction is not the sin, the ministry preaches — only when one acts on those feelings is it immoral. “Through support and spiritual intervention, we can help people with same-sex attraction lead moral and fulfilling lives,” Pallotti said. “These people are hurting and so are their families. Doing nothing would be a lack of compassion.”

The article explained that the Archdiocese had some difficulty establishing the chapter over the objections of area deacons who thought Courage didn’t condemn gay people enough. But after attending some workshops, they decided that Courage wasn’t as lib’ral as they feared. Local LGBT leaders saw through the charade:

True Colors Executive Director Robin McHaelen argued Tuesday that the Catholic Church is “trying to have it both ways — keeping the same hostile interpretation of a small number of biblical passages while pretending they are not homophobic.”

“I can’t tell you how many kids I work with who have been spiritually wounded by this and similar religious perspectives,” McHaelen said. True Colors, a nonprofit agency based in Hartford, offers help to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens, some of whom have been kicked out of religious households.

“In my opinion, that’s the abomination,” McHaelen said.

Unlike most other ex-gay organizations, neither Courage nor the Catholic Church promises change in sexual orientation per se. Instead, they promote “the gift of celibacy” for anyone who remains outside a one-man-one-woman marriage.

And speaking of celibacy:

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala, 60, resigned Wednesday under the code of canon law that lets bishops step down earlier than the normal retirement age of 75 if they’re sick or for some other reason that makes them unfit for office.

In a letter to the faithful, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez said Zavala had told him in December that he had two children who lived with their mother in a different state. Zavala subsequently submitted his resignation to the pope.

Full Prop 8 Court Videos of Thursday’s Hearings

Jim Burroway

December 10th, 2011

Two hearings took place on Thursday before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The first hearing considered whether the video tapes taken during the Prop 8 trial should be released:

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The second hearing was probably the most entertaining, where judges considered the question of whether being gay and having a partner made Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker ineligible to serve as judge in the case. Because, you know, divorced judges can’t rule in divorce cases, or something.

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Liberal activist (Republican) judges

Timothy Kincaid

December 8th, 2011

In today’s political environment, judicial decisions are praised or derided based on outcome not on the quality of argument or the consistency with the constitution. Conservatives of the dittohead variety not only measure a decision by its outcome but then deride the judges who disagree with them as being liberal activist judges legislating from the bench. Republican politicians regularly appeal for votes claiming that they must be elected so more of these liberal activist judges are not appointed.

Well, the Proponents of Proposition 8 were back in court today over the issue of whether Judge Vaughn Walker was not qualified to rule on Proposition 8 because he is gay. Well, actually, they say that because he was in a gay relationship and may have wanted to marry and therefore should have recused himself. This made him a biased liberal activist judge seeking to legislate from the bench. Or, more specifically, a gay Republican liberal activist judge seeking to legislate from the bench.

(One must assume then – to be consistent – that they think that only atheists should judge on freedom of religion cases. But somehow I doubt it.)

Today’s argument is not really about Judge Walker’s decision. That was a different day in front of a different court.

No, today was dedicated to arguing that Judge Ware was a biased liberal activist judge seeking to legislate from the bench. Or, at least, he was when he found that Judge Walker was perfectly capable of judging in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. More specifically, a black Republican liberal activist judge seeking to legislate from the bench.

We submit to you that Judge Ware abused his discretion.

Because, after all, abusing discretion is what those liberal activist judges are all about. Well that didn’t seem to catch much traction with the panel of three judges, including Justice Smith.

But should the Ninth Circuit determine that Judge Ware did not abuse his discretion, you can expect the usual rhetoric. Oh yes, the Ninth is the most liberal of appellate courts and the most often overturned. Because they are liberal activist judges. And should that decision include Justice Randy Smith, then he will be the Mormon Republican liberal activist judge legislating from the bench.

Gosh, maybe those good conservative folk should stop voting for Republicans.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, December 8

Jim Burroway

December 8th, 2011

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Ninth Circuit Court Hears Argument on Prop 8 Tapes: San Francisco, CA. Plaintiff in Perry v. Brown (formerly Perry v Schwarzenegger) will argue before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninths Circuit today that the Prop 8 trial tapes should be publicly accessible. The testimony of several of Prop 8’s supporters, it turns out, is deeply embarrassing to anti-gay groups, and they have been fighting tooth and nail to keep the public record out of the public’s reach. Last September, Federal District Judge James Ware ruled that “Transparency is pivotal to public perception of the judiciary’s legitimacy and independence” and ordered the tapes release. That order was stayed while Prop 8 supporters appealed. Oral arguments take place today at 2:30 PST.

Ninth Circuit Court Hears Argument on Whether A Gay Judge Can Rule On Marriage: San Francisco, CA. Yes, it’s a busy day in San Francisco. Immediately following oral arguments on whether the Prop 8 tapes should be made public, the same court will hear oral arguments on Prop 8 supporter’s request that Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional should be vacated because Judge Walker was gay. Because, you know, women judges shouldn’t be allowed to judge cases involving women’s issues and black judges shouldn’t be allowed to judge cases involving African-American issues. Or something. Prop 8 supporters tried that argument with Federal District Judge James Ware and lost, so they’re appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court. Oral arguments begin at 3:30 PST.

If you know of something that belongs on the Agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

Ex-Gay Group Warns: Change Or Die

Jim Burroway

December 6th, 2011

Phillip Lee, of Bakersfield's His Way Out Ministries

It has been reported recently that Exodus International president Alan Chambers is trying to save his organization from financial ruin by rebranding itself with some sort of a softer, kinder image. An Exodus member ministry in Bakersfield, California, however appears to have taken the opposite tack. Pastor Phillip Lee, executive director of His Way Out Ministries at Chester Avenue Community Church penned an op-ed in Sunday’s Bakersfield Californian that looks like it came straight out of 1985. The upshot is this: everyone has a choice to either become straight or die of AIDS:

While AIDS is not solely a homosexual disease, the disease was confined almost exclusively to homosexuals in the beginning years of the epidemic in the United States. I personally witnessed this horrific tragedy unfold while living in San Francisco, having several personal friends die of AIDS at the beginning stages of what is now a pandemic. Tragically, the reality and threat of AIDS has not stopped men from engaging in unprotected sex and the continued risk-taking by many does not appear to result from a lack of awareness.

There is, therefore, little to no evidence that homosexual practice can be anything other than a severe threat to the sanctity of life. That said, all efforts should and must continue to better understand and find a cure for AIDS and AIDS-related diseases. However, if the sexual behavior that is fundamental to most homosexual practice constitutes the primary means of transmitting such disease, then it only makes sense for society to do all it can to decrease such behavior, which ultimately protects the sanctity of life.

I guess gay and bisexual women are off the hook. But what Lee fails to understand is that AIDS is the result of unprotected sex — whether that sex is gay or straight. It is not the product of being gay. If it were, AIDS wouldn’t be a predominantly heterosexual disease worldwide. But there’s no sense in grounding an ex-gay message in reality when the entire ex-gay movement is predicated on training people to ignore their own reality and embark on an lifelong struggle to try to achieve what does not come naturally to them. Stigmatizing people with AIDS is no small thing for people who have still have to deal with routine ignorance, but as far as Exodus-affiliated His Way Out Ministries is concerned, that stigma is just another tool in its toolbox.

This tactic is beyond merely deplorable. It is an outrageous throwback to the hysteria of twenty years ago. If Chambers really wants to rebrand his organization’s image, he really has his work cut out for him among his own affiliates.

Larry King’s Killer Pleads Guilty In Exchange for 21 Year Prison Term

Jim Burroway

November 22nd, 2011

Brandon McInerney (left), Lawrence King (right)

Brandon McInerney, who was a fourteen-year-old Oxnard Middle School student when he shot Larry King in school at point blank range in 2008, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and the use of a fire arm in a plea deal which will result in a 21 year prison term in addition to time served. Under the terms of his plea deal, McInerney, who is now 17, will be released shortly before his 39th birthday. McInerney will be formally sentenced on December 19.

McInerney’s plea deal comes after a mistrial was declared in his first trial after jurors were unable to reach a verdict. They had deadlocked at 7 to 5 in favor of finding McInerney guilty of voluntary manslaughter, with the five holding out for either second or first degree murder.

The Gay and Lesbian Education Network’s Executive Director Eliza Byard applauded the plea deal:

“The plea deal announced today ends a tragic chapter in Ventura County. Holding Brandon McInerney accountable for his actions is necessary and right, but putting him behind bars does not solve the problems that led a boy to become a bully, and then a murderer. Homophobia and transphobia, compounded by the lack of counseling and other supports for struggling young people, resulted in Larry King’s death and the effective end of Brandon McInerney’s life. As adults and as a society, we must find the resolve to fix the broken systems that lost two young lives to hate and fear.

I echo Byard’s sentiments. I’ve always felt very uncomfortable with sending a fourteen-year-old to prison for the rest of his life. This, I think, strikes the right balance.

Why the California State Supreme Court’s Decision Is A Good Thing

A commentary

Jim Burroway

November 17th, 2011

Of course in my heart I wanted today’s ruling by the California Supreme Court to go differently than it did. But in my head I had little doubt about the outcome. In ruling that Prop 8 proponents have legal standing to defend their handiwork in court, the court established a precedent that upholds the spirit of California’s system of initiative and referendum. It also, if taken to what I believe should be its logical conclusion, can become a starting point for reforming some of the worst abuses of California’s initiative process by holding proposition supporters accountable for the propositions they’ve foisted on the state.

California’s initiative and referendum was initially implemented as part of a broader political reform movement intended to give citizens the ability to make the laws that their elected officials refused to do. In theory, that sounds like a very good idea, I think most of us can agree that its practice in California has been a disaster. The patchwork of accreted propositions over the decades have made the state effectively ungovernable, while the initiative process itself has been hijacked by powerful special interest groups who pump multiple millions of dollars into the campaigns to get their favorite measures approved. Prop 8 alone came with a price tag of more than $83 million. With that kind of money, the citizen-legislator that the initiative and referendum system was supposed to empower hardly matters any more. The obscene sums spent on various propositions by powerful interest groups makes the whole idea of harnessing the collective wisdom of citizen-legislators, well, sad. Look at what all that money got us: a discriminatory law written into California’s Constitution in a process that leveraged prejudices and fear to win votes.

It’s no wonder then that when Americans For Equal Rights sued to overturn Prop 8 on constitutional grounds, the state stepped aside and said they wouldn’t defend it. And why should they? Prop 8 wasn’t Sacramento’s doing. It was the product of anti-gay activists who put the proposition on the ballot and spent millions on a campaign pitting Californians against fellow Californians. Why should the state defend Prop 8 supporter’s pet cause?

In fact, why should the state defend anything they didn’t enact in the first place? And furthermore, in the spirit of citizen initiative and referendum, why would anyone want the state to defend something they had no hand in creating – whether it’s Prop 8 or any other proposition that had passed without the state’s support? The California court examined those questions and observed, “Because of their special relationship to the initiative measure, the official proponents of the measure are the most obvious and logical private individuals to ably and vigorously defend the validity of the challenged measure…” 

I think they’re on to something, and the Prop 8 case is a great example. When the state stepped aside and said they wouldn’t defend Prop 8, Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker let Prop 8’s supporters defend the law in his court. And look what we got: a mess so embarrassing that the defendants themselves have been fighting hard to keep the trial’s videotapes out of public view. Prop 8 supporters won their electoral campaign by playing on the worse prejudices against LGBT people, only to have to try to deny in court that prejudice played any role in the campaign. That didn’t work. They tried to claim that social science argued against same-sex marriage. That effort completely fell apart. After Prop 8 was ruled unconstitutional, Prop 8 supporters tried to claim that because Judge Walker was gay, his ruling should be overturned. That didn’t work either.

If you ask me, holding Prop 8 supporters accountable for their proposition has been nothing but a big plus for our side. Remember, these are the guys who are “the most obvious and logical private individuals to ably and vigorously defend” Prop 8. Don’t you just love it?

So if I had a complaint against the California State Supreme Court ruling, it would be that it doesn’t go far enough. I think state officials should be prohibited from defending any proposition placed on the ballot via citizen initiative. That burden should be borne by those who campaigned for the proposition’s passage. If they think it’s just a great idea during the campaign, they also ought to be able to explain why it’s a great law in court. And if they can amass the millions of dollars it took to win passage of their pet proposition, then they can stick around after the election to defend the law — and to raise the money for the legal bills — if it lands in court.

This could open the door to some substantive reform in California’s initiative and referendum process. If a campaign knew that they may be called upon to defend their handiwork in court, maybe they’d think twice about their efforts. Maybe they would more carefully consider the ramifications of their proposals before election day if they knew they’d have to defend them after election day. Maybe they would think twice about exploiting irrational fears and prejudices against a minority if they knew they’d have to explain how their law wasn’t irrationally fear-based and prejudiced in court. And yes, maybe monkeys might fly out of my butt. But holding people accountable for their actions has never been a bad thing. It has worked pretty well so far with Prop 8.

CA Supremes get it wrong on representing the state

Timothy Kincaid

November 17th, 2011

The California Supreme Court has weighed in with their opinion as to who can appeal a federal decision in which the State itself is the defendant. Should elected officials which represent the state decide to accept the decision of the federal court rather than appeal, individuals or groups who disagree with the decision of the elected representatives can themselves assume the mantle of “the state” and act as though the electorate had chosen them instead.

In response to the question submitted by the Ninth Circuit, we conclude, for the reasons discussed above, that when the public officials who ordinarily defend a challenged state law or appeal a judgment invalidating the law decline to do so, under article II, section 8 of the California Constitution and the relevant provisions of the Elections Code, the official proponents of a voter-approved initiative measure are authorized to assert the state’s interest in the initiative’s validity, enabling the proponents to defend the constitutionality of the initiative and to appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative.

This is, I believe, an ill conceived decision, and not only because of its impact on Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

In California, initiatives serve a peculiar function. Decades of legislator-crafted districting and closed-structure power building have left the legislature in the control of a small handful of people. It is not infrequent that a large majority of the people of the state have a strong position that is in opposition to that which the oligarchy takes. So, from time to time the electorate will pass some initiative that is intended to serve as a “wake-up” to Sacramento. (1978’s Proposition 13, which limited the extent to which the state could increase spiraling property taxes, is an example.)

But Californians also have an erratic or whimsical approach to initiatives at times. And then we end up with the people placing a ban on eating horse meat.

But whether serious or wacky, initiatives are at times hastily or ignorantly drafted and – if applied literally – could be disastrous to the functioning of the state. So courts step in and toss out extreme provisions and, assuming that the end result addresses the concerns of the voters, the matter is concluded.

But that assumes that responsible parties can weigh the value of appeal, the importance of language, the constitutionality of various proposals and the way in which an initiative impacts other areas of law. And it also assumes that the State, in its official capacity, will conduct itself with honor and present its case based on the constitutions of the nation and the state, legal precedent, honest testimony, and cogent argument. For these purposes, the State of California elects an Attorney General.

But this decision opens the door for extremist wackos – of all political bents – to throw the state into chaos. If a Governor and Attorney General are not entitled to determine which provisions are worth fighting for and which can be conceded, and if we turn that decision over to idealists who believe that every word in their manifesto is of extreme importance, then my state is slated for some very confusing times.

The California Supreme Court, I believe, got caught up in the emotion of Proposition 8 and “the will of the people” and did not carefully consider the bigger question of representation.

CA Supreme Court: Prop 8 Supporters Can Appeal

Jim Burroway

November 17th, 2011

The California Supreme Court has ruled that when state officials decline to defend a proposition, the proposition’s official proponents have legal standing to appeal (PDF: 343KB/72 pages):

In response to the question submitted by the Ninth Circuit, we conclude, for the reasons discussed above, that when the public officials who ordinarily defend a challenged state law or appeal a judgment invalidating the law decline to do so, under article II, section 8 of the California Constitution and the relevant provisions of the Elections Code, the official proponents of a voter-approved initiative measure are authorized to assert the state’s interest in the initiative’s validity, enabling the proponents to defend the constitutionality of the initiative and to appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative. …

So now the appeal of the lower court’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional goes forward in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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