Seth Walsh’s “Daily Gauntlet”
October 7th, 2010
The mother of Seth Walsh, the Bakersfield-area teen who committed suicide in response to a daily dose of bullying in school, quietly mourns the loss of her son. She is refusing to speak to the public, as are Seth’s friends. But Seth’s grandparents have opened up, and the world gets to see just a bit of the incredible kid that we lost:
Judy and Jim still laugh over his tastes. He colored his hair blond on occasion and wore it with a long swoop that partly covered his eyes. Judy took him shopping once, and he went to the girl’s department to find pants with tapered legs. He added a vest, and a few months later she noticed the style everywhere.
…He was a gentle child, they say, who preferred to “relocate bugs” rather than kill them, who made sure his younger brother got his share of Easter eggs and who once apologized to a bed of flowers when he picked one and placed it on the grave of the family dog.
But the Walshes realize that Seth’s gentleness made him a target, and they recall listening to Wendy (Seth’s mother) as she shared her worries about Seth and what he had to endure.
The teasing and bullying began in fourth grade. At first it was because he was different — more comfortable with girls, not interested in sports, neither aggressive nor assertive — and then it was because he thought he was gay. Once classmates found out and the news spread, the abuse became more focused and cruel.
When Judy learned from her daughter that Seth was gay, she became concerned for the challenges that lay ahead of her grandson.
“Life is hard enough,” she says, “but this makes it harder.”
“Especially in a small town,” Jim says.
The Los Angeles Times’ profile is a must-read.
Bakersfield-Area Teen Dies After Suicide Attempt; No Charges Will Be Filed
September 29th, 2010
Another day, another gay teen is dead:
Seth Walsh, the Tehachapi 13-year-old who hanged himself from a tree in his back yard after years of being bullied, died Tuesday afternoon after nine days on life support.
Tehachapi police investigators interviewed some of the young people who taunted Seth the day he hanged himself and determined despite the tragic outcome of their ridicule, their actions do not constitute a crime.
“Several of the kids that we talked to broke down into tears,” Jeff Kermode, Tehachapi Police Chief, said. “They had never expected an outcome such as this.”
Seth had been picked on for years because he was gay, but fellow classmates said that the staff at Jacobsen Middle School offered Seth no help or protection. People run red lights without expecting anyone to die in a horrific traffic accident, but they are charged with manslaughter or negligent homicide. Red lights were flashing at Tehachapi just as brightly and a child is dead because of the direct actions of his peers and the negligence of school officials. But they get a pass because, well heck, nobody meant nuttin’ by it. It was all just harmless fun. It just goes to show how seriously too many school administrators take the lives of gay students in 2010.
If you thought NOM’s tour yesterday was bad…
September 28th, 2010
The National Organization for Marriage seems to be running into a little problem getting people to show up for their “Vota Tus Valores” tour. Yesterday was kinda discouraging with a total of 17 folks at five stops (15 were all from one stop) but today was the kind of day that makes California’s anti-gay Latino Republicans sad at heart.
Day 2, Stop 1: Sacramento
Our state’s capital didn’t exactly swarm out to greet NOM. (Courage Campaign)
Already progressive supporters are beginning to out-organize the tour. The count in Sacramento was 9 to 4.
Day 2, Stop 2: Placerville
The following picture includes all of the ralliers at this stop:
NOM didn’t even get off the bus.
Day 2, Stop 3: Yuba City
The tour website said they would be at the Gauche Aquatic Center at 1:15 pm. But they didn’t show up.
Courage Campaign asked the Aquatic Center and it turns out NOM never followed through with a request to use the parking lot. Fortunately CC was ran into NOM & crew where they had stopped for lunch and now are stuck following the bus.
Day 2, Stop 4: Colusa
The bus was to be there at 2:30, but as of 2:40 they hadn’t left Yuba City (CC will update tonight) so perhaps Colusa is another no-show. Why not? It’s not like anyone is there waiting for them.
Watchmen On the Walls to Gather in Sacramento and Washington State
September 27th, 2010
A Sacramento-area reader tipped us to this flier advertising a Watchmen On the Walls conference that is scheduled for Oct 1-3 at the New Hope Christian fellowship near Sacramento. The conference will feature Latvian pastor Alexey Ledyaev, who cofounded the Watchmen with Seattle-based pastor Ken Hutcherson, Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, and Sacramento resident and Russian language media owner Vlad Kusakin. The Watchmen On the Walls has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of only about a dozen anti-gay hate groups.
Also appearing on the bill are Craig Carre of Gate Keepers and Alex Rykhlyuk of the Sacramento-based church Ecclesia, which mainly caters to the substantial Russian Evangelical immigrant community in Sacramento. The Russian Evangelical immigrant community has been among the most virulent anti-gay communities in California, and, along with Russian immigrants in the Seattle area, has provided leaders who have been an integral part of Watchmen On the Walls.
Alexeyev’s Riga-based megachurch, New Generation, was implicated of a violent confrontation during a Riga Pride event in 2006 when a churchmember was convicted of throwing feces at participants. Alexeyev and twenty other churchmembers were in the courtroom in support of the church member when he was convicted.
The conference is mentioned in the Watchmen’s official web site, but only in the Russian language version. That brief article mentions the Sacramento conference along with another one for Washington State in “early October.” No further details are given.
CA Supremes: Gov and AG need not appeal Perry
September 9th, 2010
After the Pacific Justice Institute was laughed out of court for claiming that Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Brown should be forced to appeal the decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, PJI appealed the 3rd Appeals court’s dismissal to the California Supreme Court.
And they got all excited when the CA Supremes asked Schwarzenegger and Brown to weigh in on the appeal. (Karen Ocamb)
The California Supreme Court has ordered the Attorney General and the Governor to respond by 9 am this morning explaining why they have not filed this appeal. Then the Pacific Justice Institute has just three hours to respond by noon today.
“We are pleased that the judicial branch is at least considering forcing the executive branch to do its job,” said Karen England, Executive Director of Capitol Resource Institute.
So the Governator and the Attorney General sent a letter to the court reminding them that they have discretion to appeal or not appeal and that this discretion is part of the constitutionally protected separation of powers. (And while it was expected and understood that neither wished to appeal, this is where the Governor went on record stating that he would not do so.)
And then the CA Supreme Court yawned and “denied review Wednesday without comment.”
So now it is official. Neither the Governor nor the Attorney General will be appealing the reversal of Proposition 8. But we will probably have to wait until the first week of December to find out whether the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will find that the appellants (the organization that sponsored Proposition 8) have any standing to appeal the case without them.
California no longer looking for “causes and cures of homosexuality”
August 25th, 2010
After decades of gerrymandering, California’s legislature consists pretty much only of the far left and the far right. So it is not often that you get agreement on much of anything; and it’s very rare indeed that you get agreement on a gay related issue.
But Republicans and Democrats came together on an issue that, while obsolete and amusing, does tell us one important thing. I’ll get to that in a moment.
In 1950, the legislature passed the following law:
8050. The State Department of Mental Health, acting through the superintendent of the Langley Porter Clinic, shall plan, conduct, and cause to be conducted scientific research into the causes and cures of sexual deviation, including deviations conducive to sex crimes against children, and the causes and cures of homosexuality, and into methods of identifying potential sex offenders.
And as of this week, the legislature has changed that language to
8050. The State Department of Mental Health shall plan, conduct, and cause to be conducted scientific research into sex crimes against children and into methods of identifying those who commit sexual offenses.
Now there is no reason to believe that California, either through the Langley Porter Clinic or anything else, has at any point in the past several decades attempted to conduct any scientific research into the causes and cures of homosexuality. But it’s nice to know that they officially have given up.
But more importantly, this bill passed unanimously in the Senate (where it was sponsored by the newly reformed Roy Ashburn) and nearly unanimously in the State Assembly (except for this guy). And that is big news.
In general, California’s Republican legislators just vote “no” on anything that gay folks want. No real reason, often, just a desire to say “no”. So it’s kind of surprising that they said “yes” this time and, for me, it’s interesting and important that the issue on which they finally said “yeah, that’s too wacky even for us” is ex-gay therapy.
Meg Whitman Would Defend Prop 8 If Elected Governor
August 23rd, 2010
Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who is running for the GOP nomination for California Governor, announced that if she were elected governor, she would defend Prop 8 in Federal Court:
Whitman’s first definitive statements on how she would handle the issue as governor came hours before she spoke at the opening of the three-day state GOP convention in San Diego, where she is facing open hostility from conservatives over her positions on illegal immigration and climate change.
“I think the governor of California and the attorney general today have to defend the Constitution and have to enable the judicial process to go along … and an appeal to go through,” Whitman said. “So if I was governor, I would give that ruling standing to be able to appeal to the circuit court.”
The two named defendants, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown, have refused to defend the constitutionality of Prop 8 in Federal District Court. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker then invited the Alliance Defense Fund to defend Prop 8 as intervener. Following Judge Walker’s ruling declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional, it is unclear whether ADF has standing to appeal the case to the Ninth Circuit Court. A hearing to decide the issue is scheduled for December 6. The same hearing will also hear arguments on the appeal itself.
Because both the issue of standing and the appeal will be heard before the next governor takes the oath of office in January 3, it is unclear whether the new governor or attorney general could join the case at that later date:
UC Hastings College of the Law professor Rory Little said Whitman’s ability to defend the proposition would hinge on several factors – the biggest of which, of course, is whether she becomes governor.
It would also depend on whether the 9th Circuit decides the standing issue before January 6 and how the court decides.
“There are a lot of ifs,” Little said. “If the 9th Circuit hasn’t decided the matter by December, she could attempt to file a brief to say, ‘Now, the state of California enters the case.’
The state GOP is holding its annual part convention this year at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, which is subject to a boycott by LGBT advocacy groups over owner Doug Manchester’s $125,000 donation to the pro-Prop 8 campaign.
California marriages go civil
August 20th, 2010
Yesterday the California state assembly approved SB 906, which will make the following changes to California’s marriage law:
MarriageCivil marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman, established pursuant to a State of California marriage license issued by the county clerk, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary. Consent alone does not constitute civil marriage. Consent must be followed by the issuance of a license and solemnization as authorized by this division, except as provided by Section 425 and Part 4 (commencing with Section 500).
MarriageCivil marriage may be solemnized by any of the following who is of the age of 18 years or older:
(a) A priest, minister, rabbi, or authorized person of any religious denomination. No person authorized by this subdivision, or his or her religious denomination, shall be required to solemnize a marriage that is contrary to the tenets of his, her, or its faith. Any refusal to solemnize a marriage under this subdivision shall not affect the tax exempt status of any entity.
The bill goes on to revise the rest of the law by replacing reference to “marriage” with “civil marriage.”
Officially this bill does nothing, but the symbolism is interesting. It says that the State of California isn’t interested in how your church defines marriage, only in the civil aspect. Further, it assures churches and clergy that they need not conduct any marriages that they don’t find appropriate to their faith, even though such assurances are unnecessary due to the US Constitution’s religious protections.
And the wing-nuts are furious.
You’d think that ensuring and emphasizing protection for clergy would be welcomed. But wing-nuts don’t want such protection; it distracts from their deceptive talking points. They want to be able to scare people into thinking that their church will be forced to conduct same-sex marriages and have discovered that most voters don’t really understand that the First Amendment already protects them. This revision would make it harder to lie.
As the Ruth Institute, the National Organization for Marriage’s college outreach, laments
The real intent behind this bill is to make it appear as though it eliminates one of the main objections to same-sex marriage, that it jeopardizes religious freedom, in what gay activists hope will be an effort to get gay marriage on the ballot in California in 2012. They think that doing this will make gay marriage seem more acceptable to the voters of California and make it easier for such an amendment to pass. The idea is that if this bill passes, they can claim that allowing same-sex marriage won’t have any affect on religious freedom.
And anything that makes it more difficult for NOM and their allies to deceive voters is a threat to their power. Going into a potential 2012 constitutional amendment to reverse Proposition 8 (assuming that this isn’t all resolved through Perry v. Schwarzenegger by then), they didn’t want to have to defend “civil marriage” or lose one of their biggest scare points.
The bill passed with support of virtually all Democrats along with two Republicans. It had previously passed the State Senate but will return for a concurrence vote before going to the governor for signature.
Judge Walker Lifts Prop 8 Stay Effective August 18
August 12th, 2010
We have received word that Chief U.S Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker has lifted the stay on enforcing last week’s ruling declaring California’s Prop 8 unconstitutional. Effective 5 PM PDT on August 18, California becomes the sixth state where same-sex couples enjoy the freedom to marry.
The order reads (PDF: 40 KB/11 pages):
None of the factors the court weighs in considering a motion to stay favors granting a stay. Accordingly, proponents’ motion for a stay is DENIED. Doc #705. The clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment forthwith. That judgment shall be STAYED until August 18, 2010 at 5 PM PDT at which time defendants and all persons under their control or supervision shall cease to apply or enforce Proposition 8.
It will now be up to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether to issue a stay. Given that none of the defendants have any intention of appealing, it’s unlikely the Appeals Court will intervene. The Alliance Defense Fund, which intervened to defend Prop 8, is not a named defendant and it is unclear that ADF would have any standing either to ask for a stay or seek an appeal.
UPDATE: We have two threads on this order. Please continue conversation on the other thread.
California politicians weigh in on Prop 8 ruling
August 5th, 2010
Unsurprisingly, the Democratic and Republican responses to Judge Walker’s rulings were different.
In the Senatorial race, Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer released the following statement:
This historic decision is a step forward in the march toward equal rights and reflects a growing legal consensus that marriage equality is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Carly Fiorina, the Republican nominee, is quoted by AP as disapproving of the decision.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina says she disagrees with a federal judge’s decision overturning California’s gay-marriage ban.
Fiorina says California voters spoke clearly against same-sex unions when a majority approved Proposition 8 in 2008.
In the gubernatorial race, Jerry Brown – who at Attorney General refused to defend the proposition – released the following statement:
In striking down Proposition 8, Judge Walker came to the same conclusion I did when I declined to defend it: Proposition 8 violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution by taking away the right of same-sex couples to marry, without a sufficient governmental interest.
Republican Meg Whitman’s campaing, on the other hand, released the following statement:
Meg supported Proposition 8 and believes marriage is between a man and a woman. Meg also strongly supports California’s civil union laws. Today’s ruling is the first step in a process that will continue.
Hunh? A process that will continue?
So everyone has now made their statements. But with California voters so evenly split over marriage and not one breathing fire over the decision, I think it extremely unlikely that Whitman – or even Fiorona – will make gay marriage an issue in their campaigns.
Prop 8 Rallies Planned
August 4th, 2010
As Timothy mentioned yesterday afternoon, we received word that a decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger is expected this afternoon between 1:00 and 3:00 pm (PDT). Already, Prop 8 supporters have already filed a request for stay of judgment pending appeal, in case Judge Walker strikes down Prop 8. If granted, this would prevent any marriages taking until the Court of Appeals hears the case.
Meanwhile, a large number of rallies are planned in California and across the U.S., forty so far and counting. Rex Wockner is keeping up to date with the latest additions.
Prop 8 Report: The “Danger To Children” Theme Proved Decisive
August 2nd, 2010
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Mentoring Project has just released a massive report (PDF: 13MB/511 pages, or via HTML here) which analyzes more than 10,000 pages of unreleased data from the California Prop 8 campaign. The report’s author and project founder, Dave Fleischer, concludes that many common conceptions of why the No on 8 campaign lost the November 2008 ballot measure are factually wrong. In particular, Fleischer finds that the most critical element in the Yes on 8′s victory, aside from its massive fundraising, was the No on 8 campaign’s delay in countering the false “danger to children” message ran by supporters of Prop 8.
Here are what Fleischer called the “top 10 facts and findings of the report:
1. Our base shrank: Fleischer contends that that Yes on 8 was about to peel away voters who had supported same-sex marriage just six weeks before election day. He estimates that from September 22, at least 5% of voters moved towards the anti-gay side. The largest shifts occurred among parents, white Democrats, Latinas, and voters in the greater Bay area.
2. The Yes on 8 side’s “danger to children” message was very effective, and we keep ignoring that at our peril. This matches precisely my one enduring criticism of the No on 1 campaign in Maine: They didn’t learn the lesson of California. During that 2009 campaign in Maine, I looked at the messaging from both sides and found the “no” side’s response to be weak to nonexistent, particularly where it fails to address the other side’s dishonest “danger to children message.” I got a lot of flack for that from Matt Forman, but this report vindicates my concerns. Which leads directly to the next finding:
3. Parents ran away: Fleischer notes that “Almost three-quarters of the net movement toward the ban was among parents with kids under 18 living at home” — almost 500,00 of them. He went on:
The lesson of the Yes on 8 campaign: when parents hear that their kids are in danger, even if it’s a lie some of them believe it — particularly when the lie largely goes unanswered.
This runs counter to the conventional wisdom that African-American voters cost us the election. If we had been able to hold onto more of those parts of other demographics where we lost ground during the campaign — including demographics which should have been in our pocket (white Democrats and Bay Area voters), it would have made a huge difference in the outcome.
4. Smart but too late: The most costly mistake, according to Fleischer, was the delay on the No on 8 side in answering the “danger to children.” When they finally got around to issuing an ad to confront the Yes on 8 message, the response ad was one of “two most effective moves made by No on 8″ (the other being the massive fundraising surge).
5. Record breaking fundraising. No on 8 was particularly effective with online fundraising.
6. Record-breaking Field. No on 8 mobilized some 51,000 volunteers. Unfortunately the impact of the massive grassroots effort was squandered because the campaign “focused on building a list of identified supporters who were most already very likely to vote.” It seems to me a greater effort should have been expended in identifying supporters who might not vote, and identifying the movable middle that could be persuaded through one-on-one contact.
7. One-Sided Message Discipline. The Yes on 8′s messaging was consisted, clear, direct, and repetitive. The No on 8′s messaging wandered, partly because – - -
8. No on 8 Changed Horses in Midstream: A month before election day, No o n8 installed new leaders, and the new ads were very different from those approved by prior leaders. However, I think it should be noted that the response ad which finally ran in response to the “danger to children” theme in late October was brought out by the new regime. So it seems to me the problem of inconsistent messaging wasn’t necessarily the fault of the new regime, but was perhaps more a reflection of the older regime’s reluctance to take the harder-hitting message head-on.
9. Avoiding the “G” word. Yup. Gay. Look, Prop 8 was all about gay marriage. Everybody new it. Those who supported Prop 8 knew it, those who opposed it knew it, and those who were in the middle knew it. It’s not like it was some big secret that Not on 8 had to keep hidden. Everyone was already talking about it. Fleischer wrote:
Polling supported the same approach: clear arguments about LGBT people and use of the word “gay” tested less well than abstract arguments and vagueness. But the polling advice is very likely an artifact of the polling itself as well as a reflection of actual voter preferences, and is fundamentally irrelevant: voters were going to learn that Prop 8 concerned gay people whether or not No on 8 told them. Although the No on 8 executive committee resisted the pressure and insisted on the use of the word “gay” when it was operating as a decision-making body, tension between the two impulses compromised message discipline. Results included message tentativeness, gay-avoidance in the later No on 8 ads, and a “de-gayed” campaign in general. Ultimately, the only two No on 8 TV ads that had a measurable impact on voters were the only two that used the word “gay.”
10: Not so close. This is perhaps the most worrisome aspect of the outcome. Prop 8 passed by 600,000 votes. But Fleischer believes that another 400,000 thought that voting “no” was a vote against same-sex marriage, not a vote for it. “To reverse the result,” he writes, “we start out 1,000,000 votes behind. This runs counter to the belief that the election was so close that we can easily reverse the result.
Our opponents have a winning message. It’s a false message, but it wins elections every single time. Anita Bryant used the “danger to children” theme thirty-five years ago, and we are still losing battles to it today. That sad fact is, that it resonates, and we ignore it at our peril Fleschman writes:
The need to learn from history is particularly acute because the central message of the anti-LGBT side isn’t new. Our opposition keeps recycling the spurious idea that kids are in danger. For example, the anti-gay Yes on 1 campaign in Maine in 2009 used exactly the same message as the Yes on 8 campaign in 2008. Both echoed anti-gay campaigns going back at least to 1977. Yet the pro-LGBT side often fails to anticipate that the time-tested anti-gay message is coming or underestimates its effect. The No on 8 campaign was inadequately prepared when the same ugly arguments surfaced in the final thirty days before the election. The more of us on the pro-LGBT side who learn and recall history, the more likely we will be prepared the next time. Preparation will increase our chances of success.
Similarly, some of the mistakes in No on 8 recall mistakes made by pro-LGBT campaigns across the country. … Foremost among them is hoping that avoidance of the kids issue will minimize its impact. It doesn’t.
This is an incredible document, one that should be required reading for all future campaign managers wherever same-sex marriage (or any other LGBT issue) comes up on the ballot.
NOM supports Fiorina campaign to Latinos
July 28th, 2010
American Principles in Action, a obscure far-right organization that seems obsessed with opposing civil equality for gay people, has created a project they’ve called Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. They can be best described as hard-core conservative on all issues except immigration – sort of the Latino GOProud, if you will.
Their goal is to convince Latino Californians to vote Republican, focusing solely on (non-immigration related) social issues and, in particular, to drum up votes for Carly Fiorina. (From their press release)
The Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, a national organization of conservative Hispanics, today launched a $1 million campaign in support of California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles. Fiorina is running against Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer.
“Carly Fiorina, like the majority of Latinos, believes in the right-to-life, traditional marriage and in hard work and entrepreneurship,” stated Aguilar.
And who is a part?
The Latino Partnership for Conservative principles “Tus Valores” campaign is supported by the Susan B. Anthony List, a network of 280,000 Americans in all fifty states dedicated to mobilizing, advancing and representing pro-life women in politics, and by the National Organization for Marriage, a non-profit organization with a mission to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it.
I assume “supported by” includes financial support, but that isn’t clear.
GoodAsYou is reporting that this group is even more closely tied to NOM:
This Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles coalition is an outreach of the American Principles Project, and this Fiorina effort is the work of APP’s action arm, American Principles in Action. Robert George is the founder of APP/APIA. The same Robert George who — wait for it, wait for it — CO-FOUNDED NOM! So essentially we have NOM signing on as one of two sponsors (the Susan B. Anthony List being the other) of a pro-Fiorina effort that was setup by their own founding chairman and current prominent spokesperson!
Schwarzenegger appoints a moderate female Asian Republican for Chief Justice
July 25th, 2010
Governor Schwarzenegger has nominated Tani Cantil-Sakauye as replacement for retiring Chief Justice Ronald George. And while she is being closed lipped on controversial issues (as Judicial nominees tend to be), her history suggests that she is not an enemy of our community. (LA Times)
She resolutely refused to state her position on same-sex marriage, saying only that she married a gay couple — “acquaintances” — during the six months in 2008 when such marriages were legal, and that she would follow precedent.
“I perform hundreds of weddings, and they included one same-sex marriage,” she said. She said she did not hesitate to marry the couple, whom she declined to describe, “because it was the law.”
Her nomination is believed to have been, to a large extent, the choice of Justice George.
The AFA seems encouraged that Cantil-Sakauye is active in her church, the Sacramento Japanese United Methodist Church. While it is not a hard and set rule, often the doctrine of one’s community of faith speaks to one’s acceptance or rejection of gay people.
But I think that they fail to take into consideration that the United Methodist Church in California is proactive in its support of gay and lesbian Methodists (the district voted to oppose Proposition 8). I was unable to identify on the church’s website whether it is a supportive congregation, but I did find that at her previous church the pastor, Motoe Yamada, had organized a screening of In God’s House: Asian American Lesbian and Gay Families in the Church.
It would appear that the Justice nominee is not subjected to a steady stream of anti-gay preaching.
The Latino Catholic-Protestant Divide on Same-Sex Marriage
July 23rd, 2010
Why is the AFA’s Bryan Fischer so animated against Catholic Latino immigration? Well it turns out a new poll by Public Religion Research Institute was released today on “Religion, Proposition 8, and Same-Sex Marriage in California.” The poll examines the attitudes of various religious communities in California toward same-sex marriage. The must surprising finding was that Latinos overall were supportive of marriage equality (PDF: 397KB/26 pages):
There is a striking Catholic-Protestant divide within the California Latino community on public policy issues related to gay and lesbian rights.
- A majority of Latino Catholics (57%) say they would vote to make same-sex marriage legal, compared to just 22% of Latino Protestants.
- The Catholic-Protestant gap within the Latino community is evident across a range of gay and lesbian public policy issues.
This leaves the Latino community almost evenly divided on the issue, with 49% of Latinos regardless of religious affiliation supporting same-sex marriage, and 46% opposed. (Note: I have not been able to determine the margins of error for these smaller subsamples.) But Latinos overall appear more likely to shift toward a more pro-gay position, with 31% of Catholic Latinos and 25% of Protestant Latinos saying they have become more supportive, vs. 22% of White Californians saying the same thing. Only 9% of Catholic Latinos and 15% of Protestant Latinos report having become less supportive.
One interesting finding is in who Californians trust as sources of information about homosexuality:
- White evangelical Protestants, Latino Protestants, and black Protestants all ranked their own clergy leaders as the most trusted source of information about homosexuality.
- Both white and Latino Catholics say they trust the parents of gay or lesbian children more than their own clergy as a source of information about homosexuality.
Joseph M. Palacios, Adjunct Professor of Sociology at the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University, cites three likely reasons for these findings:
Family First: Latino Catholics orient their social lives around the family and extended family even in the context of high Latino single-parent households (estimated 33% of all U.S. Latino households; 36% of all Latino Children in California live in single-parent households). Family solidarity is strong and even though children may not follow “traditional family values” as projected by the church and the U.S. society, parents want to keep their children within the family. It is not surprising that Catholics in general and Latino Catholics in particular, as the Public Religion Research study shows, see that parents learn about gay issues from their children. Their moral and ethical judgments are primarily made through this social reality rather than abstract pronouncements from their church leaders.
Catholic Communal versus Protestant Individual Faith: Catholicism is a communal faith that highlights the life cycle process through the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist, confirmation, and marriage. Families experience their moral lives through communal participation in the sacraments, as well as the Latino community’s cultural observances of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Posadas, Dia de los Muertos, etc. Protestant Latinos, on the other hand, have a faith that is individually driven through faith conversion (“accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior”) that often separates a person from the Catholic sacramental life cycle process and the social fabric of the Catholic-based cultural celebrations. …
Latino Catholic Tolerance versus Protestant Fundamentalist Judgment:Catholics allow complexity and ambiguity in moral decision-making since Catholicism is neither fundamentalist nor literalist regarding the Bible. Rather, Catholics can weigh factors such as the Bible, church teaching, and social reality affecting decision-making. Latino Catholics in the United States live in this social context that allows the free exercise of conscience rather than enforced scriptural fundamentalism or bishops’ and pastors’ exhortations in making decisions regarding homosexuality and gay rights– as is often exercised in Protestant fundamentalist and evangelical denominations and now by increasingly doctrinaire Catholic bishops. Further, as noted in the study, Catholic priests rarely mention homosexuality or gay issues in sermons except when forced to by the bishops as happened during the Prop 8 campaign.
Palacios cites another possible factor: Latino Catholics’ centuries of historical experience with the Church dictating political policy. Many Latin-American revolutions were as much rebelions against heavy church influence as they were rebellions against Spanish rule. (And Spain, too, has finally shaken off the Franco-era’s close political collusion with the Church in state affairs.) Latino Catholics know, perhaps far better than others, the benefits of a strong church-state separation.
Public Religion Research Institute survey shows current status of support in California
July 22nd, 2010
The Public Religion Research Institute released a survey today about the attitudes of Californians on gay issues. PRRI is a progressive organization and the survey was funded by strong supporters of our community, so we must be cautious to look for bias. As I believe that the language of the Survey Report lends itself to a slightly rosy translation rather than strict interpretation of the numbers, I’ll mostly focus on the results.
The methodology was a randomly selected telephone survey of 2,801 adults with additional oversamples of African Americans and Latino Protestants (this was relevant due to a desire to find statistically valid conclusions about of those populations). This is a sufficiently large sample to provide meaningful information. The results were subsequently weighted to correct for oversampling, and to allow for comparisons between categories of participants.
I’ve reviewed the questions of the poll and do not think that this is a poll which is designed to generate specific answers. However, the language leading up to some questions does, in my opinion, set up the participant to view gay rights in terms of “chances in life” and some follow up questions seem to be a bit on the persuasive rather than inquisitive side.
All that being said, here are the findings of the PRRI survey:
Q.7 Which of the following statements comes closest to your views
42% Gay couples should be allowed to marry
31% Gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions, but not marry OR
24% There should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship
This seems to be very similar to the findings of the Field Poll, well within the probability range. I think we can assume that these probably represent the attitudes and perspectives of Californians.
Q.10 Do you believe that gay and lesbian couples who want to get married are trying to change the institution of marriage or join it?
39% Change it
57% Join it
4% Don’t know
This is an interesting finding. It seems that some participants believe that gay people have no ill intention towards marriage or any desire to revise it, yet they still prefer civil unions to marriage. This is a demographic that may be open to arguments about fairness and equality.
It also suggests that about 4 in 10 Californians have been receptive to the campaign of lies and villainization that enemies of equality have waged. To reach these people we must assure them that we are not trying to make marriage mean anything other than what it has always meant.
Q.12 In 2008, Californians voted on Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. Did you vote “Yes” to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry, or did you vote “No” on Proposition 8.
8% Did not vote on Proposition 8
4% Don’t know
Obviously this is not how Californians voted on Proposition 8 (it passed with 52.2% of the vote) and there are a few possibilities why. It could be that this is a bad sample. Or it could be that the language of the question made the participants embarrassed to answer the question honestly.
But I think that this is an answer that is consistent with the way in which voters respond after the fact. Surveys which ask “who did you vote for” consistently find that those polled disproportionately “recall” having voted for the winner, especially if he’s popular.
This isn’t because they are dishonest. Rather, it’s because they probably were not a firm vote and went back and forth in their mind before casting their vote. So their current thinking influences their recollection and they recall having favorable attitudes for the winner and disfavorable towards the guy they actually voted for.
In this case, however, the majority of participants who voted “recall” being on the losing side. This would only make sense if they now consider Proposition 8 to have been a bad idea. Which brings us to:
Q.15 Do you think the passage of Proposition 8 was a good thing for California, a bad thing or do you think it hasn’t really made any difference?
22% A good thing
29% A bad thing
45% Hasn’t made any difference
4% Don’t know
Slightly more say “a bad thing”, but not enough to really account for the variance between Q.12 and the actual vote. So a chunk of the “no difference” crowd would have to be generally negative towards Prop 8 in order for this survey to have any consistency at all.
And it appears that they are.
Q.16 If you had to vote on a similar ballot proposition tomorrow, would you vote to keep same-sex marriage illegal or would you vote to allow gay and lesbian couples the opportunity to get married?
45% Vote to keep same-sex marriage illegal
51% Vote to allow gay and lesbian couples to get married
4% Don’t know.
A review of the polling compared to the results on gay marriage issues shows that pre-election polls often have the gay supporting percentage correct but that all of the “unknowns” vote against equality. So this is a squeaker.
What follows are a few questions that I think advise us as to our future efforts. Going forward, it seems that we need to educate and inform and be diligent in challenging the lies that are regularly told by those who seek to keep us denied civil equality.
Q.26.d Sexual orientation is determined at birth
26% Completely agree
25% Mostly agree
20% Mostly disagree
21% Completely disagree
8% Don’t know
Not only do we need to educate about the evidence surrounding the etiology of sexual orientation, we need to educate about the phrasing of this question. The issue is not whether orientation is “determined at birth” but whether it is a naturally occurring phenomenon over which each of us has little or no input and that for many gay people biology plays a key role.
In other words, the issue isn’t whether there is a “gay gene” but rather whether orientation can be “caused” or whether, like handedness, it just develops.
Q.26.e Homosexual orientation can be changed
15% Completely agree
19% Mostly agree
21% Mostly disagree
37% Completely disagree
8% Don’t know
It looks like our stories and our honesty is being heard. But with 34% still buying into the “change” myth, we have a ways to go.
The survey also found that 67% mostly or completely agree that gay and lesbian relationships should be accepted by society and that 60% mostly or completely disagree with the statement that “sexual relations between two adults of the same gender is always wrong.” Additionally, 25% believe that they are more supportive of gay rights than they were five years ago while 8% think they have become less supportive.
The Survey Report has some additional analysis. For me, the fascinating parts are the comparisons of various religious participants and how church denomination, attendance, and pastoral message influences attitudes, both negatively and positively.
Field Poll: Californians support marriage at pre-8 numbers
July 20th, 2010
In May 2008, before the onslaught of lies and false arguments that dominated the airwaves over the summer, the California Field poll found that 51% of Californians supported marriage equality. Those who disapproved were 42% and 7% didn’t know.
The numbers dipped in 2009 (49% – 44%), but the latest poll has them back at 2008 levels. All of which are within the margin of error.
This suggests that movement on the marriage issue (according to Field) has stalled. There also appears to be little to no movement over the past two years on the percentage that prefers marriage to civil unions when provided with multiple options: 44% marriage, 34% civil unions, 19% neither.
Lou Engle Announces Sacramento TheCall Rally for Labor Day
July 3rd, 2010
Despite his use of violence-laden rhetoric toward the gay community and his proclaiming himself as a prophet from God because he has strange dreams, Lou Engle is now starting to be embraced by some of the more mainstream elements of the Christian Right, namely Focus On the Family. It was through that forum that we learn that Engle has announced a rally of TheCall for Sacramento:
Will you be hosting another TheCall event this year?
We are hosting TheCall Sacramento Sept. 3-4 – over Labor Day weekend – at Raley Field.
We are calling for a national solemn assembly. We have to follow God’s prescription for times of crisis – to gather together in unity to fast and pray in humility.
We will officially launch www.prayandact.org during the event. We are calling the whole nation to fast and pray for 40 days.
Sacramento has been the scene of significant anti-gay violence in recent years. In 2007, Satendar Singh, a young gay man from Fiji, was brutally attacked and killed at a picnic area near Sacramento by Russian immigrants with ties to Sacramento’s virulently anti-gay evangelical groups. Andrey Vusik, 30, identified as the man who threw the fatal punch, fled the country and is believed to be hiding in Russia. Sacramento is also home to Vlad Kusakin, who helped to co-founded Watchmen On the Walls with Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, Seattle-area pastor Ken Hutcherson, and Latvian megachurch pastor Alexey Ledyaev. Another prominent member of Sacramento’s Slavic community, George Neverov, has also been active with the Watchmen locally and internationally.
Olson: SCOTUS confirms gays as a class
June 29th, 2010
In yesterday’s commentary about the Christian Legal Society’s attempts to get recognition by Hastings Law School, I noted that the Supreme Court seems to have identified gay people not in terms of behavior but as a distinct class of people:
The court confirmed its position that attempts to differentiate between behavior and identity (in religious terms, “love the sinner, hate the sin”) as distinctions without difference
While it may be premature and reaching to draw such a conclusion, it appears that the court seems to be in agreement that sexual orientation is a matter of people and not a matter of behavior.
It appears that
Ted Olson, lead Theodore Boutrous, counsel in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, made the same observation. He has written a letter to Judge Walker advising him of the court’s decision and encouraging him to consider it in his decision whether to find Proposition 8 to be in violation of the US Constitution.
In Christian Legal Society, the Supreme Court definitively held that sexual orientation is not merely behavioral, but rather, that gay and lesbian individuals are an identifiable class. Writing for the Court, Justice Ginsburg explained: “Our decisions have declined to distinguish between status and conduct in this context.” Slip op. at 23 (citing Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 575 (2003); id. at 583 (O’Connor, J., concurring in judgment); Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic, 506 U.S. 263, 270 (1993)). This confirms that a majority of the Court now adheres to Justice O’Connor’s view in Lawrence, where she concluded that “the conduct targeted by [the Texas anti-sodomy] law is conduct that is closely correlated with being homosexual” and that, “[u]nder such circumstances, [the] law is targeted at more than conduct” and “is instead directed toward gay persons as a class,” id. at 583 (O’Connor, J., concurring in judgment) (emphasis added). See also Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996) (treating gay and lesbian individuals as a class for equal protection purposes). The Court’s holding arose in response to Christian Legal Society’s argument that it was not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, but rather because gay and lesbian individuals refused to acknowledge that their conduct was morally wrong. The Court rejected that argument, holding that there is no distinction between gay and lesbian individuals and their conduct.
Poor ProtectMarriage. Almost all of their witnesses had to be pulled after failing miserably in depositions (one was called as a witness for the plaintiffs). Their sole witness was unqualified and actually hurt their cause. They had to change their “reason” for the proposition time after time (including within closing arguments). And now their argument against heightened scrutiny just skipped out the door.
If they weren’t defending discrimination based on animus and founded in a smug assumption of superiority, I might almost feel sorry for the supporters of Proposition 8.
The Gayest Place in Orange County
June 24th, 2010
He leaned in and whispered, “I love her! She’s so funny. She’s just like Ellen DeGeneris!”
My new acquaintance was right. She was very engaging and had us all in stitches, which might at first seem incongruous for a workshop on dealing with discouragement. But that was the approach Christine Sneeringer took at the Exodus Freedom Conference in Irvine, California. I decided to attend that conference in June 2007 because I wanted to get a first-hand look at what Exodus International looked like to those who seek to change their own sexuality. So there I was, listening and laughing at Christine’s talk about her difficulties in “coming out of lesbianism” before becoming director of Ft. Lauderdale-based Worthy Creations, an Exodus member ministry. A lot of her tips consisted of a steady stream of Bible verses, which my friend dutifully called up and notated on his brand new first-generation iPhone’s Bible app. My new friend, who had moments ago plopped himself down in the seat next to me, exuded an easy charm and likability that blew away every image of a cowering, sniveling and self-loathing “struggler” (that’s what they call themselves and each other; I never heard the word “ex-gay” at the conference) that I was burdened with when I decided to attend the conference. In fact, he was not much different from any other young gay man who you’d run into in West Hollywood or the Castro.
The same was pretty much true for most of the 700 people who attended Exodus’ signature annual conference. As you would find in WeHo or the Castro, the conference attendees tended to skew younger (twenties and thirties mostly), were mostly white, and predominately male. And the Exodus conference had another thing in common with WeHo and the Castro: For five nights and days, Concordia University, a private Lutheran-affiliated (Missouri Synod) campus, was transformed into the gayest gathering in all of Orange County. And I don’t mean that in a condescending, snarky sense, but rather in a revelatory sense, one that I hadn’t expected.
I began to draw this conclusion early on Tuesday evening as people filtered into the main hall for the opening plenary session. I quickly determined that there were two broad categories of people taking their seats. The first group consisted of veterans of previous conferences. They had made lots of friends at those conferences and they were eager to meet up again. It was sort of like a summer camp reunion. Every once in a while, you’d hear someone let out a squeal of excitement when they suddenly spotted a friend from across the room. They’d then race over to hug and greet their friends and excitedly catch up on old times, jazz hands and all. I was surprised at how quickly they let their guard down. As all gay men come in so many varieties, so do the strugglers. Some are more butch while others are more effeminate. But here, it seemed that no one bothered to hide whatever embarrassing mannerisms or speech that would otherwise come naturally to them and cause no end of grief among their outside peers. This was another surprise, because it contradicted the emphasis on gender-conforming appearances and behaviors that many ex-gay programs strive to instill.
The second group filtering in were the first-timers. They were easy to spot because they had that look of fear in their eyes that we all have experienced — the fear and shame that they would be discovered as being gay. They were visibly nervous, and you could tell that they remained on guard until the opening program was underway.
But then something magical happened. When Exodus Vice President Randy Thomas took the stage as M.C. you could see a sense of relief wash over this second group. If you’ve never seen Thomas in the flesh, well let me just say that he’s not exactly the most masculine man I’ve ever seen. And for this crowd, that worked wonders. Thomas was very confident, campy and genuinely funny — a natural-born entertainer. He really did a great job at setting these first-timers at ease. Thomas deliberately mixed his sports metaphors to signal to the crowd that he couldn’t have possibly cared less about any of it. He joked about show tunes, fashion, Project Runway, shopping – you name it, as the audience roared with laughter in self-recognition. He even made a few gentle lesbian toolbelt and softball jokes, all in very good fun and affection. And as the evening wore on, I could sense a wave of relief washing over the first-timers. It was as if half the room collectively exhaled.
I found it easy to identify their sense of relief. It reminded me of the first time I walked into a gay bar. It appeared to have dawned on them that – finally! – this is a place where they can be themselves. They no longer had to worry about where their wrists went or how they crossed their legs or what expression or tone escaped from their mouths. For many of them, this was probably the first time in their lives that they were surrounded by so many people who were exactly like them! Which was the same thought I had during my first visit to a gay bar. I remember looking around and thinking to myself, “They are all gay, just like me!” When these first timers warmed to the conference, they appeared to have a similar yet critically different thought: “They are all gay and don’t want to be, just like me!”
There was one other thing that surprised me – and I don’t know why this should have surprised me either. The conference was, on balance, actually a lot of fun. I can’t say that I had that much fun exactly. I was there to just be quiet and learn what the conference was all about. For me, it was more of a work assignment, a sort of an anthropology project. But the live music (Yes, Christian Broadcasting Network personality Sheila Walsh even sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”!) the jokes, the camaraderie between sessions, and the surprisingly honest conversations that took place between and among the strugglers during meals and breaks told me that this wasn’t going to be the gloomy and punitive event I expected to find.
Exodus International presents many faces to the world. To those who are outside of the ex-gay movement, Exodus is best known for its engagement in the culture war. I had experienced that face first hand when I attended their Love Won Out conference five months earlier in Phoenix. Parts of that face crept into the Freedom Conference from time to time, particularly in workshops that were aimed at parents and at those who were of a more activist bent. Some of the parents’ workshops I attended were particularly egregious. One workshop leader, a San Fransisco-based therapist by the name of Robert Brenan, was very good at confirming every fear and angry thought that crossed those parents’ minds. “Every young man or woman out there who is seeking that fulfillment of a homosexual relationship is depressed,” he confidently told them. I guess Exodus and their affiliated speakers wanted to make sure they stayed in line. And Michael Brown spoke at a plenary session in which he exhorted the crowd to fight against “pitched attack from hell” against the moral fabric of the culture at large, saying that a Christian should value the cause more than he values his own life. It was a message that these strugglers took to heart. It seemed to give their sense of deprivation a divine purpose and gave them a means of shouting out their frustrations against those who saw no reason to struggle as they did. Which goes to show that rabbles can be roused anywhere.
But those were exceptions, and they were so glaring because most of the conference appeared to steer clear of culture-war rhetoric. This was particularly true in programs which were tailored for strugglers themselves – and this was the vast majority of workshops and events of the conference. This is where Exodus presented a very different face from what I had seen before.
And again, this shouldn’t be too surprising. As longtime readers of this web site know, Exodus is very good at adapting its message to different audiences. And with this particular audience, when you strip away all the layers – the Christian commitments, the shared belief that homosexuality was morally deficient, the internalized shame for being gay – they were still in the end a gay audience, and often a savvy one at that. That meant that Exodus has much less room to bullshit them than they would their parents or the general public. That’s not to say that the strugglers weren’t laboring under a lot of false expectations. Many of them were, and those expectations were reinforced at that conference. But there were limits as to how far Exodus could go.
And so, for example, they had a workshop on AIDS. Exodus understands that because this audience is, fundamentally, a gay one, some of them are living with HIV/AIDS. So any hint of AIDS stigma was completely forbidden. I didn’t attend that particular workshop, but in talking with others who did, they said that it was generally very good and sensitive, albeit from a distinctly Christian point of view. These were guys who themselves were involved with health care and HIV/AIDS, so I tend to believe their assessment is probably reasonably accurate. They said it was devoid of condemnation, although the safe-sex advice was relegated to how you might protect your future spouse should you someday marry. (One struggler said he was disappointed that they didn’t talk much about effective outreach and care for people with AIDS in the gay community. But since I wasn’t there I can’t say whether I would have agreed with that particular criticism.) While AIDS might be brought up in other venues as a reason why one should become ex-gay, that was never mentioned here, at least as far as I was able to observe.
But you could really see the limits of how far Exodus could push whenever a workshop flopped. John Smid’s workshop on masturbation – about how you should never masturbate again for as long as you live – had the jock sitting next to me slamming his notebook shut and muttering under his breath, “This is bullshit!” Another struggler brought Randy Thomas’ workshop on “Warring World Views and our Redemptive Response” to a screeching halt when he angrily denounced some of the anti-gay preachers who were featured on a compendium of video greetings that was shown on opening night. “When I was in the lifestyle, they were the ones that caused the most harm, the most anger, the most pain between me and my family.” He couldn’t finish, and instead broke down crying. All talk of “warring world views” suddenly became moot. The only thing that mattered now was comforting this young man who had experienced so much pain from his own church, pain that came flooding back at him during the workshop. This was a shared pain that everyone in that group could identify with. Myself included.
And there were other, much lighter notes that reminded me that the conference attendees were very much my people. Take poor Tim, for example. I have no idea whether he’s actually gay or not, but he should be. He was the divinity grad student who was called upon at the last minute to deliver a workshop called “Secrets of Men: Understanding Masculinity.” God was he hot! He spent a lot of time in the gym, and he knew how to buy clothes which, modestly yet snugly, showed off his hard work in the best possible light. And this stud was going to talk about the “secrets of men!” Bonus!
Needless to say, the room was packed to overflowing. And poor Tim, someone forgot to set up the A/V projector, which meant that he couldn’t show his PowerPoint presentation and videos. After about a half hour, he sheepishly announced that they would have to reschedule the workshop. He was so cute. He apologized profusely and everyone, of course, forgave him. When Randy Thomas later announced an alternate time during what should have been a break period, we selflessly sacrificed our break and again filled every seat, this time in an even larger room. I guess word had spread. The presentation itself turned out to be extremely silly: videos of football players patting each other on the butt while Tim solemnly announced, “That is an example of an appropriate, non-sexual masculine touch.” But that was secondary to the real attraction of the workshop: his arms, his chest, his own inappropriately-pattable butt in his tight-fitting Dockers. I think if he had needed to reschedule again, nobody would have minded.
And that brings me right back to the point I really want to make. Regardless of whatever images we’ve conjured of what an ex-gay “struggler” looks like, those images are often more a product of fiction than fact. They are also often products of ex-gays who go on to try to publicly proclaim their own heterosexuality, a proclamation that is typically less than credible. Yes, I saw that too. On opening night before the conference, there were news cameras roaming the grounds. And standing before one of them was a man in his mid-fifties who looked like an aged Rod Stewart clone from 1978, but with the mannerisms of Paul Lynde. “Of course I’m straight!” he squealed as he leaned into the camera. “If you don’t believe me, ask my wife!”
Fortunately, those examples were mercifully rare. Most of the people I talked to were full of hope, but they also recognized the very serious challenges that lay ahead of them. And so the best way to regard these strugglers is to think of them as our gay brothers and sisters, because that’s really who they are. And for most of them, that is what they ultimately will be. If the research that was paid for and supported by Exodus International has any validity, then of the approximately 700 people who attended that conference three years ago, a quarter to just under half of those strugglers are no longer struggling today. And in a few years, the dropouts and “failures” will reach two-thirds of the group that I saw that year.
I saw quite a few strugglers there who I’m sure have come out of the experience just fine. There are others however who I still remember and worry about. I worry about the handsome young man from Sacramento who, at age 25, was an unmarried father and a drug addict. “I only feel gay and act out when I’m high,” he told me. “Acting out” is ex-gay parlance for having gay sex. He hoped that if he could get a handle on his addiction that his homosexuality would somehow disappear. “I’m only gay when I’m high,” he kept repeating.
I think about the young man from Chicago who was there with his wife. They had two small children, the youngest just a few months old. On opening night, Exodus International president Alan Chambers raised the possibility that some people’s sexual orientation might not change and challenged them to persevere anyway. I asked him what he and his wife thought of that. “She’s very scared,” he said. “She cried all night. She kept asking me, ‘What if you don’t change?’ I don’t know. There aren’t any guarantees. All I can do is try.”
I worry, too, about an older gentleman who said that he wasn’t ex-gay, but was a church volunteer accompanying two other ex-gays from New Mexico. I asked him how he became interested in the ex-gay movement. I don’t recall his answer, only that he said that he spent so much time in this ministry that his wife divorced him. “That’s okay,” he said without a hint of regret. “God freed me so I can spend more time in the ministry.” That was odd. I’d never heard anyone credit God for their divorce before, let alone be grateful for it. That conversation left me with way more questions than answers.
And I think about the father from St. Louis who was there with his teenage son. His son had come out to him a year earlier. Since then, the father had read every Exodus- and NARTH-recommended book he could get his hands on. He had just finished one of Joseph Nicolosi’s books. Nicolosi believes that male homosexuality is caused by a poor relationship between the father and the son. The father was wracked with guilt. “It cut through my heart like a knife,” he confided, with his eyes welling up with tears. Because I was there to observe and not participate, I had made a rule for myself that I would not try to offer any advice. I broke that rule here. I reminded him that his son loved and trusted him enough to come out to him, and to share with him perhaps the most personal and potentially embarrassing aspect of his still-young life. He took a huge risk in doing that. I told him that my father had died when I was in college, long before I was able to come out to him. In one very key way, this father and son were no longer strangers, and that he was lucky that they shared that kind of trust. He told me he really hadn’t thought of that, and it seemed to give him a better perspective on his relationship with his son. I wonder how they’re doing now.
It’s three years later, and today is the first full day of the 2010 Exodus Freedom conference. This year’s conference is a day shorter than it was when I attended. For this conference, they have returned to Concordia University in Irvine, and once again, the campus will be the gayest place in Orange County. I really wanted to go. Maybe I, too, could catch up on old friends and acquaintances, just to see how they’re doing – if they’re still around. I wonder if my friend’s iPhone still has his Bible app, or if that app has now been replaced with Grindr. Unfortunately, commitments conspired to make such a trip impossible. Oh well, maybe next year.