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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for June, 2010

The Gayest Place in Orange County

Jim Burroway

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.

The “Not Gay” Scarfboi’s Ties to Lou Engle

Jim Burroway

June 22nd, 2010
YouTube Preview Image

Adam Hood’s two videos have gone viral throughout the web. In this video, Hood provides a bit more background to his life story. It turns out that Hood is associated with Morningstar House in the Portola district of San Francisco. He also works with the so-called “Justice House of Prayer,” the evangelical group which is often seen “witnessing” in the Castro near the Bank of America or on Harvey Milk Plaza. Engle says he sent his son to establish JHOP just a block off the Castro “where the homosexuals boast the dominion of darkness.”

Perry v. Schwarzenegger: closing arguments

Timothy Kincaid

June 16th, 2010

For today’s summary, I relied on liveblogging by FiredogLake, Equality California, and the San Jose Mercury News.

Today Judge Walker Vaughn heard closing testimony, a very active process in which the judge asked a great many questions. From an information perspective this was basically a recap of the case, with each side seeking to present their evidence in the best light. But it was the opportunity for the judge to get each side to clarify and flesh out exactly what legal theory they were using for their argument.

First up: Ted Olson, the conservative icon who surprised anti-gay activists by declaring equality to be a conservative principle and by leading the case to reverse Proposition 8.

Olson talked about the various perspectives of those who are involved in the fight. He pointed out that the supporters of Prop 8 had one story during the campaign (protect the children) and an entirely other one during the case (deinstitutionalization of marriage). But for the plaintiffs, this is the most important choice they can make as an adult: who to marry.

Olson talked about how other relationships were not the same as marriage and had not been considered the same in American history. Slaves could enter informal relationships, but when freed and able to marry they found that the “marriage covenant is the foundation of all our rights.” When Loving v Virginia overturned racial restrictions, it removed a stigma.

He discussed how marriage equality makes gay families and their kids “okay”. How it reduces the burden on gay families, but also make America more American (according to the defense’s witness, David Blankenhorn).

Olson told the judge that his decision to allow a full trial on the merits of the proposition has provided evidence and been an education. He compared it to Brown v. Board of Education (the 1954 case which tossed out the “separate but equal” racially discriminatory education system). He lays out the long string of cases in which the SCOTUS has moved towards greater equality, at times overturning previous decisions.

And he laid out the case’s strongest argument: this is government imposed stigma placed in the state constitution. Further, the California Supreme Court did not “create a window” of rights. The right to marry the person of one’s choice had always existed, the CA Court simply recognized that right. The SCOTUS has found the right to marriage to be a fundamental right, and in Lawrence they found that homosexual behavior was a constitutional intimacy right. Applying each case atop the other, Olson said:

It can’t be constitutional to take away a constitutional right because a person engaged in a constitutionally protected behavior.

Olson argued for strict scrutiny, but said the case fails on any scrutiny. There is no state interest and “Because I say so” is not a reason for continued discrimination.

The voters passed Proposition 8 so as to say that same-sex marriage is not okay, to say that gay people are not okay. That is malice. It is not a constitutionally valid reason for denying rights to a class of people. Proposition cannot be found to be supportable in this case by any good valid reason, because no good valid reason was presented to support it.

And that concluded Olson’s closing statements.

Therese Stewart, on behalf of the City of San Francisco, spoke about the costs to the city: institutionalized discrimination increases mental health cost, the policing costs associated with increased hate crimes, costs for addressing bullying, the cost of lost tourism. But it would also cost the city its ability to treat all of its citizens equally.

The Governor and the Attorney General formally waived their right to defend Proposition 8 with closing arguments.

The judge then made an interesting observation. It seems that in most counties when you apply for a marriage license, there is no requirement on the form itself that you be opposite-sex. That really, from an administrative perspective, the decision to issue a license is up to the county clerk. The same is true for the issuance of domestic partnerships to heterosexual couples under the age of 62.

I’m not sure where the judge was going with that. But then they broke for lunch.

After lunch, Charles Cooper presented his closing arguments in defense of Proposition 8.

He argued that restricting marriage to the opposite sex was fundamental to the existence and survival of the human race. The purpose of marriage is for procreation. And without state-defined marriage, society would come to an end.

The judge pointed out that because the state has no requirement that married couples procreate – or even have the capacity or intention of doing so – that there must be some other purpose for marriage. Cooper rhetorically pondered the ways a state might go about insisting on procreation, suggesting that they were ludicrous, but the judge agreed that for his argument to be logical that these would be reasonable steps. None of them are required.

Cooper revised the purpose of marriage to be a that of increasing the likelihood that natural procreation be within the confines of marriage. Walker countered that marriage obligations extend far beyond the control of sexual behaviors.

What happened next was the defense’s worst nightmare. The judge asked Cooper for the evidence to support his premise. Cooper tried to quote various sources but the judge pointed out that none of these sources testified, that defense had only brought one witness “and I think it’s safe to say his testimony was equivocal.”

Cooper was left replying that there was no need for a witness, that there was no need for evidence, that it was obvious. The judge was not much impressed with the “I ain’t need no evidence” defense.

Cooper argued that up until 30 years ago no one considered same-sex marriage. Therefore it just must automatically be tied to procreation. But now gay people want to marry.

The judge then asked if these changes in the past 30 years might not, as was the case with Loving, be at a tipping point at which the purpose for marriage has changed in the public conscience. Cooper struggled to explain how racist restrictions differ because they had no basis in historical definitions [he may want to read more history], that miscegenation laws created illegitimate children [he may not actually have been listening to the words he was saying].

Cooper argued that the sole distinction – the sole criteria for legitimate marriage – was the ability to procreate “normally”. The judge failed to see how assisted fertility could not also be applied.

So Cooper shifted gears again and declared that the state had a right to “strengthen social norms”. He discussed children born out of wedlock and that restricting marriage to heterosexual couples was a way to protect against this increasing trend.

[So Cooper has within this testimony declared the purpose of marriage to be encouraging procreation so as to further the survival of the species; he then changed his definition to be channeling possible procreation into marriage; and then changed it again into discouraging irresponsible procreation, almost the opposite of his original contention]

Cooper next argued that this case should be subjected only to a rational basis standard. And because of this, he need not prove that the voters had any particular intention to discourage irresponsible procreation (or whatever his current purpose for marriage might be) but only that it is conceivable that they could have used this logic had they so wished. Not that they did, but that a rational person could.

This vein of questioning ended and Cooper clarified his request to have the 18,000 marriage invalidated. He’s said that if this caused irreconcilable differences, it would be better to toss out 18,000 marriages than to disregard the will of the voters. But otherwise, the defendants are fine with them continuing to be recognized as grandfathered-in.

The judge asked Cooper about whether gender (as opposed to incarceration, responsibility or ability to procreate) was the sole exception to marriage being a fundamental right. Cooper said that gender is the definitional feature of marriage.

The judge then asks if because Cooper claims that sexual orientation is only a social construct, then how it differs from gender. And the argument began it’s descent down the ex-gay path.

Cooper claimed that sexual orientation was not immutable and was not an “accident of birth”, i.e. no one is born gay. [I've long believed that the immutability of sexual orientation is the basis in which our eventual civil equality will be found.] They discussed how that while religion is not immutable, its rights are found in the First Amendment, not through heightened scrutiny.

Cooper insisted as “plainly right” that sexual orientation is not an immutable trait. He declared that 2/3rds of women change their orientation [a gross misstatement of the facts].

He further insisted that gays are not politically powerless. When the judge quoted a litany of discrimination, Cooper agreed that gays have been victims of discrimination, but insisted that history of discrimination is not by itself sufficient to warrant heightened judicial scrutiny.

The arguments took a veering to discuss whether Blankenhorn is a qualified witness. To support this, Cooper had nothing additional to add.

(to be continued… check back later)

Prop 8 Supporters Ask Court to Forcibly Divorce 18,000 Married Couples

Jim Burroway

June 16th, 2010

During the Prop 8 campaign, the supporters of the California innitiative to strip LGBT couples of their then-existing right to marry promised California voters that they would not try to nullify the marriages of those who had already married. But it didn’t take long for that to turn out to be a bold-faced lie. That particular effort failed, but they’re back at it again:

As the trial over California’s prohibition on same-sex marriage enters its final stage today, the ban’s sponsors are urging the judge to go a step further and revoke state recognition of the marriages of 18,000 gay and lesbian couples who wed before voters passed Proposition 8.

Such an order would honor “the expressed will of the people,” backers of the November 2008 ballot measure said Tuesday in their final written filing before Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker.

Andrew Pugno, an attorney for Prop. 8′s backers, said in an interview that the sponsors aren’t asking Walker to nullify the 18,000 marriages, but only to rule that government agencies, courts and businesses no longer have to recognize the couples as married.

This is just more proof that no matter what our opponents say, they will never be satisfied with any of their gains until LGBT people are legislated back to the closet and into the prison system. Can anyone believe that if they were able to roll back enough LGBT protections that they’ll decide that they’ve reached a point where they’ve done enough? If so, where do you think that point will be? If you want to talk about slippery slopes, there’s your slippery slope, and many of them are willing to take it one small step at a time.

Update: When I posted this, I didn’t intend for this tread to become an open invitation for the tin-hat crowd to make themselves at home. I was alluding to the fact that many of our opponents would like to see the return of our criminalization. But come on, now. Concentration camps? Gas chambers? Civil war? Really? I know there are a few nutjobs that would welcome these developments, and this web site exists precisely becaue they do. But I think we can give at least, say, 85% of our fellow Americans more credit than that.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger closing arguments

Timothy Kincaid

June 16th, 2010

Today is the last day of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the legal challenge to Proposition 8. By the end of the day, the case will be in the hands of Judge Vaughn Walker. Karen Ocamb has a guide to of the final day’s expected events.

The legal team of Ted Olson and David Boies have crafted a compelling argument for why this proposition should be found to be in violation of the US Constitution. And much of it was supported by the defense’s own witnesses.

There is no question that Prop 8 harms gay individuals and families. There is no question as to whether it discriminates against gay people. The only questions are whether it was motivated by malice and whether there are state interests sufficient to justify the discrimination.

And in answering Judge Walker’s questions, Olson and Boies were eloquent.

The extensive evidence that Prop. 8 was in fact motivated by moral disapproval of gay men and lesbians underscores its unconstitutionality. Indeed, where, as here, a law is subject to heightened judicial scrutiny, the “justification[s] must be genuine, not hypothesized or invented post hoc in response to litigation.” United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515, 533 (1996). Accordingly, the messages presented to voters during the Prop. 8 campaign and the voters’ motivations for supporting Prop. 8 are relevant to whether Prop. 8 was enacted to further a sufficiently important interest to survive constitutional scrutiny. Proponents’ laundry list of purported state interests, invented after Prop. 8 was enacted and for the purposes of this litigation, cannot be considered under heightened scrutiny if Prop. 8 was not in fact enacted to further those interests. See id.; Doc # 605 at 12-15. And, if Prop. 8 was motivated simply by moral disapproval of gay men and lesbians, then it cannot survive any standard of constitutional scrutiny. See Romer, 517 U.S. at 634.

In other words, all the crap they came up with during the case is irrelevant. It’s not the pseudo-scientific sounding justification for Prop 8 that was presented in court that tells us the intent of the voters; it’s the campaign commercials. The intent and motivation of the proposition is reflected in the vile, nasty, campaign of hate and bigotry that waged on the airways in 2008.

We will have to wait and see when the Judge will announce his determination. But we have reasons to be hopeful that this very careful judge will weigh the evidence and come to the only possible conclusion: that marriage discrimination against gay people serves no legitimate state interest, is based in animus, and is contrary to the protections enacted in the Constitution of the United States.

GOProud to Break Manchester Boycott

Jim Burroway

June 15th, 2010

The conservative gay Republican group GOProud has announced that they will hold a fundraiser at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Deigo. This development comes despite an active boycott by local LGBT advocates over a $125,000 donation by owner Doug Manchester to California’s Proposition 8 campaign which stripped LGBT people of their right to marry.

According to a donations page set up by GOProud:

GOProud’s “Don’t Tread on Us” reception will feature Fox News Channel political analyst and national radio talk show personality Tammy Bruce as the program’s MC. The event will benefit GOProud, the nation’s only political organization for gay conservatives and their allies. (Program speakers will be announced as they are confirmed.)

GOProud defends their choice:

We understand that Mr. Manchester has apologized for his support of Prop 8 and has made a substantial monetary commitment to the LGBT community,” GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia told The Advocate. “We believe strongly that the gay community should be in the business of winning new friends not making enemies.”

In fact, Manchester hasn’t apoligized for his support for Prop 8, although he did try to buy off local LGBT groups with a $125,000 donations and hotel vouchers in exchange for an end to the boycott. But without the apology, local groups declined the offer.

It looks like GOProud’s “don’t tread on us” warning doesn’t extend to Manchester himself. He can tread on us all he wants. GOProud won’t mind.

What Are Your Plans for June 19th?

Jim Burroway

June 14th, 2010

If you happen to be in Southern California, might I suggest you come out to Irvine for a conference we are holding to counter Exodus International’s annual conference which will be held the following week. The conference, titled “It’s not a chOiCe – Challenging The Lies of The Ex-Gay Movement,” will be held Saturday, June 19, at Irvine United Congregational Church (IUCC).

Here are some of the speakers and topics you will hear discussed at the conference:

Science Is On Our Side: The Evidence behind Sexual and Gender Identity: Cristina Cuevas, is a senior medical student at University of California, San Francisco. While in medical school she has served as the LGBT representative for the Dean’s admissions advisory cabinet, planned and carried out the LGBT Health Issues course, and coordinated the school’s annual Student AIDS Forum. She plans to enter family practice and is committed to underserved patient populations.

Sexuality isn’t a Choice: Dr. Lawrence E. Hedges, will survey a series of perspectives that illustrate how human sexuality is not a choice but a given of personal experience. We can choose to suppress our sexual interests and practices but at the cost of limiting our identities, our spontaneity, and our relational possibilities

A Ugandan Case Study: The International Reach of the Ex-Gay Movement: Jim Burroway was the first to sound the alarm on the intensifying anti-LGBT climate in Uganda that has led to the bill before the Ugandan Parliament that has sparked international outrage.

The Pivotal Issue of Choice and the International Ex-Gay Movement: Michael Bussee. After co-founding in 1979 Exodus International, he left the group and became an outspoken critic of the organization. Today Michael is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a father, an evangelical Christian, and a proud gay man.

Tactics of Exodus International, the Ex-Gay Movement in the USA and Uganda: Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, an organization which defends LGBT community against anti-gay misinformation; countering, the “ex-gay” industry and educating America about the lives of LGBT people.

A Personal Testimony: Joshua’s Story: Joshua Romero, was raised in a Christian home by a loving family who taught him the value of his faith. A graduate of Point Loma Nazarene University, the loss of one of his friends to suicide inspired him to found Solace, a peer support ministry for Christians in the coming out process.

Crisis of Faith: When a Spouse Comes Out as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender: Dr. Amity Pierce Buxton, author of of The Other Side of the Closet: The Coming-Out Crisis for Straight Spouses and Families, founded the Straight Spouse Network to support straight spouses whose partners came out as LGBT.

Keynote Speaker: Only One Choice Matters: “Come, Follow me”—But Which Jesus? Dr. Daniel Helminiak. Recent awareness of sexuality has revealed its God-given richness. Religious forces insist the only option is traditionally understood heterosexual marriage—rejecting all the evidence. Reverend Dr. Daniel Helminiak is an author, lecturer, Catholic priest and theologian, and professor in the department of humanistic and transpersonal psychology at the University of West Georgia, near Atlanta.

The conference will take place on Saturday, June 19, from 9:00 to 5:00 at the Irvine United Congregational Church, 4915 Alton Pkwy, Irvine, CA 92604. You can find more information at this web site. And of course, there’s a facebook page here.

Some observations on the Primary results

Timothy Kincaid

June 9th, 2010

I’ve not commented much about Democratic candidates in this primary election. For the most part, the major candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for various positions have been supportive of our community, so there were few races in which any particular outcome stood out in importance.

But this has been an interesting season for Republican politics, especially in my home state of California. And yesterday’s election held some moments of victory and some disappointments. Here are a few of my observations about the results.

CA Governor: As expected Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman will face each other in November. Whitman and her opponent Steve Poizner are both fairly moderate on social issues but as Poizner ran his campaign emphasizing that he was a “real conservative”, Meg is probably the better outcome.

Although Whitman has been pilloried in the gay press as “anti-gay”, her positions on gay issues would have her receiving awards for support just a few years ago. Although she voted for Proposition 8, she supports civil unions and her objections to marriage equality seem perfunctory rather than devout. She advocated allowing the 18,000 couples who married in the 2008 marriage window to remain recognized as married.

US Senate from CA: It was disappointing that Tom Campbell did not do well. With 25% of the vote, he fell well below Carly Fiorina’s 55%. This is an undisputed victory for the anti-gay activist group National Organization for Marriage, who had run television ads opposing Campbell.

The slight consolation is that Chuch Devore did even worse than Campbell. Devore was the homophobe’s dream candidate. And Fiorina is probably somewhat moderate on our issues, having established a domestic partnership registry why leading Hewlett Packard.

CA Attorney General: Steve Cooley, a friend of the community who supports marriage equality, swept to victory.

CA Lt. Governor: Democrats selected another community friend, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, for their Lt. Governor nominee. Republicans selected Abel Maldenado, the only Republican to vote in the legislature for Harvey Milk Day.

NV Governor: Remember Jim Gibbons? He was the Nevada Governor who vetoed that state’s all-but-the-name domestic partner registry. Well, not only did the legislature overturn his veto last year, but he lost his party’s nomination for reelection to Brian Sandoval, a pro-choice Hispanic Republican who supported the DP bill.

IA Governor: In Iowa, all the Republican candidates are opposed to marriage equality and support “a vote of the people”. But there were degrees. While two of the candidates made wacky claims about what they would do, particularly Bob Vander Plaats who thought he could just issue a declaration and reverse the courts, former Governor Terry Branstad did not give the issue much emphasis in his campaign. Branstad won handily.

ME Governor: NOM is crowing that their choice Paul LePage, a Tea Party favorite, was selected as the Republican nominee for Governor. He will face Maine Senate President Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell. This is a particularly important race in November as Maine’s legislature will likely try again for marriage equality and LePage has promised to veto any marriage bills.

There are undoubtedly many other races of importance and as they come to my attention I may add them.

CA Attorney General Candidate Cooley

Timothy Kincaid

June 4th, 2010

Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley is running for the Republican Party nomination for California State Attorney General. And those readers who are California Republicans (or Decline to State) may wish to consider giving Cooley your vote next Tuesday.

Cooley has been, as best I can tell, supportive of the community. Noting his opposition to Proposition 8, the Bay Area Reporter, a San Francisco gay magazine, commented in April

In the attorney general race, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, a marriage equality backer, is doing well in his party’s primary.

Cooley has received the endorsement of most of the state’s influential newspapers. But one endorsement he has not received is that of anti-gay activists.

The National Organization for Marriage has piggy-backed on hate-group Traditional Values Coalition to oppose Cooley’s election.

We are writing you today because there is a dangerous pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage candidate seeking the Republican nomination for Attorney General. This anti-family candidate is Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley and in his own words he publicly states unapologetically, “Let me be clear, I support a woman’s right to choose.”

Not only does Cooley not value life, but he opposes the sanctity of marriage too.

Well that sounds to me like a good reason to vote for him. And considering our state’s history of electing Republicans as the Attorney General, it would be a great comfort if we knew next Wednesday that the Republican nominee for the position was an ally.

The Closet Is the Enemy

Jim Burroway

May 27th, 2010

California State Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield) was outed earlier this year following his DUI arrest after leaving a Sacramento gay bar. At that time, he was a reliable vote against pro-gay causes. Now that he’s out of the closet, his voting record is starting to change accordingly:

Ashburn was the only Republican senator to vote in support of allowing openly gay people to serve in the military, but he also voted against a bill that could remove a political obstacle to proposals to legalize same-sex marriage.

Ashburn then took the unusual step of publicly explaining his votes on the Senate floor.

“I would not have been speaking on a measure dealing with sexual orientation ever prior to the events that have transpired in my life over the last three months,” Ashburn told his colleagues. “However, I am no longer willing or able to remain silent on issues that affect sexual orientation and the rights of individuals. And so I am doing something that is quite different and foreign to me, and it’s highly emotional.”

The bill Ashburn opposed, SB 906, passed the state Senate and clarifies that clergy members would not be required to perform a civil marriage that was contrary to his or her faith. This removes one objection by marriage equality opponents who (Wrongly) claimed that clergy would be forced to perform same-sex marriages. Ashburn’s objections was essentially over a technicality:

But he said it was “troublesome” that the bill also described marriages as “civil” unions. Proposition 8, approved by voters, gave a definition of marriage, and Ashburn worried the new definition in the bill could muddy the water and lead to new lawsuits on the issue.

Mary Glasspool Consecrated in Los Angeles

Jim Burroway

May 15th, 2010

In a celebration reflecting the incredible cultural diversity of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles Diocese, the former Rev. Canon and now the Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool was consecrated as Bishop Suffragan. Bishop Glasspool’s consecration marks the second time an openly gay clergy has been consecrated as bishop in the Episcopal Church. She is also the first lesbian to be so ordained.

Also consecrated as Bishop Suffragan was the Rt. Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce. The ceremony was presided by Most Rev. Katharine Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church. The event took place before a large crowd in the Long Beach Arena.

The ceremony was briefly interrupted just following the opening prayer by two protesters who were sitting among the congregation on the floor of the arena. First a middle-aged man stood up, held up a sign that I was unable to see from my vantage point, and shouted “Repent! Homosexuality is an abomination to God!” He continued to shout anti-gay slogans as church officials calmly escorted him out of the arena.

After he was escorted out, a smaller child (he appeared to be a pre-teen boy) stood up near to where the man had been standing and shouted, “Homosexuality is an abomination to God.” He, too, was patiently escorted out, while shouting the entire time. Just as he left the arena, someone was heard to yell from the balcony, “we’re praying for you” to the gentle laughter of the congregation, and the ceremony continued.

I was very impressed with the quiet dignity with which church officials and the congregation bore the interruptions, as well as the insults heaped upon them as they entered the arena before the service.

In addition to Westboro Baptist clan who protested at an entrance to the Long Beach Convention Center complex near the arena, a pair of very noisy protesters who appear to have been unrelated to Westboro held signs and shouted anti-gay slogans right in front of the entrance of the arena.

Due to the tight configuration of buildings at the entrance, every attendee of the consecration ceremony had to walk past the protesters as a sort of anti-gay and anti-woman gauntlet. The protesters seemed equally agitated that the bishops being consecrated were women as much as the fact that one was a lesbian. One harangued the gentle crowd with demands that the women grow out their hair long and be subservient to their husbands, “as the Bible commands.” But clearly, it was Rev. Glasspool’s consecration that drew the most condemnation. “A Bishop must be a man married to his wife, not a lesbian to a woman,” he shouted to no one who listened.

Aside from the outburst following the opening prayers, the rest of the three-hour ceremony went off without incident. The Bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, delivered the homily in which he reflected on the diversity of the church:

We are a mixed batch, but we are stronger because we are all of those things. We are stronger because we respect the dignity of every human being, that we stand for their right to stand up and be the people of God. I doesn’t matter what their physical ability is, it doesn’t matter who they are, what race, what country they come from, what sexuality they have. It matters that they are people of God.

In a nod to the protesters, he referred to the point in the ceremony in which the the congregation is asked whether there are any objections. Bishop Bruno said,

I don’t think there was one person in the place that was more nervous than I was about objections. But we didn’t have any objections today from anybody who was an Episcopalian. [laughter] We had people outside and inside who came here because they don’t understand the inclusive nature of the Episcopal Church.

…We, as bishops of this church, are called to be exemplars of Jesus’s presence in this world. We’re called to teach people and bring them to a place of self understanding so that they don’t, out of fear or anxiety or fear of change become Ideological idolaters of the past.

Following that homily, history was made again, when Revs. Bruce and Glasspool were consecrated through the ancient practice of the laying on of hands by a multitude of consecrating bishops. They were then given the Mitre and symbols of office and presented to the congregation to roaring cheers and applause.

Westboro Meets Long Beach

Jim Burroway

May 15th, 2010

I’m in Long Beach, California, attending the consecration of Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool as Bishop Suffragan for the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles. Her consecration makes her the second openly gay bishop to be elected in the Episcopal Church.

What I didn’t know until earlier this week was that this also happens to be Pride weekend for Long Beach. And both events are taking place within a few few blocks of each other on the grounds of the Long Beach Convention Center complex (which, fortunately, has WI-FI!). Unsurprisingly, both events proved too tempting for the homophobes to make their presence known.

When I arrived at the Convention Center complex looking for a place to park, I happened across the lonely band of Westboro Baptist family members with their familiar “God hates fags” signs. I stopped dead in my tracks and took some pictures, like any tourist would in the greater LA area when they happen across some celebrities.

But it didn’t take long for others to show up with their own signs indicating what they hated (or loved).  This is where I first learned that Gumby loves everyone.

I left to grab a quick bite for lunch, and when I returned barely twenty minutes later, the Westboro band was completely swamped by a much larger crowd of other people who wanted to express the many things they hated or loved.

For example, she hates brussel sprouts:

Bu she loves coloring:

He just likes signs:

As do these two:

And Jesus was there in their midst:

And here’s my personal favorite:

Trust me, turtles can be pretty gay.

CA Assembly Calls for DADT Repeal

Jim Burroway

May 13th, 2010

The California Assembly approved a resolution calling for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in a 51-17 bipartisan vote. The resolution now heads to the state Senate for a concurrence vote., which will likely take place on Monday.

Among those speaking in favor of the resolution was Nathan Fletcher (R), a former Marine who represents the 75thAssembly District in San Diego County. He urged the Assembly to pass the resulition, saying “I believe that any American who has these core values — honor, courage, and commitment, and who is willing to give their life for their country — should be allowed to serve openly and honorably.”

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CA Assembly Dismantles “Cure the Gays” Mandate

Jim Burroway

April 27th, 2010

The California Assembly, in a rare unanimous showing, voted to eliminate a 1950 law declaring homosexuality a deviance and requiring the state to conduct research into ways to cure homosexuality. The only group that voiced opposition to the move was the increasingly radical and unbalanced ex-gay organization known as PFOX, which called California’s move to eliminate the mandate “offensive.”

The measure to repeal the mandate now goes to the state Senate.

DADT opponents heckle Obama at CA fundraiser

Timothy Kincaid

April 20th, 2010

President Obama was in Los Angeles yesterday to raise funds for Senator Barbara Boxer’s reelection campaign. Opponents of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell took the opportunity to draw attention to that issue. (USA Today)

“Repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell!” yelled several protesters at a Los Angeles fundraiser for the Democratic Party and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., referring to the Pentagon’s policy on gay servicemembers.

As the president said he agreed with the request — “we are going to do that; hey, hold on a second, hold on a second” — the protesters began echoing an Obama campaign chant: “Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!”

“Here we go,” Obama replied. “All right — guys, guys, all right. I agree, I agree.”

A little later, Obama pleaded for political solidarity on gay rights and other issues.

“When you’ve got an ally like Barbara Boxer and you’ve got an ally like me who are standing for the same thing, then you don’t know exactly why you’ve got to holler, because we already hear you, all right?,” Obama said to applause.

The problem is, of course, that the President does not appear to hear our community already. And his response at the fundraiser suggests that he is unaware – or unconcerned – about the growing discontent that our community feels from having our issues delayed or dismissed.

We are annoyed that this administration seems incapable of providing a clear, consistent answer about how and when DADT will be overturned. Instead, we hear promises offset by stalling, the Presidents say one thing only to have the Department of Justice say exactly the opposite. We have military leaders contradicting each other in front of Congress and the White House sits silently while our allies in the House and Senate beg him to lend his voice to the cause.

All of this adds to a creeping supposition that this President has little to no intention on capitalizing on a Democrat control of the legislature to fulfill his promises. It feels more and more likely that November will come without action and Republican successes will be used as an excuse to continued institutionalized discrimination for another decade.

President Obama said at one point that the hecklers should go holler at the people who disagree with them. I’m not sure they weren’t doing just that.

Sonoma County Forcibly Separates Elderly Gay Couple

Jim Burroway

April 19th, 2010

Some of the opposition to President Barack Obama’s directive to HHS to formulate rules requiring hospitals and health care institutions to honor LGBT patients’ ability to choose their partners as hospital visitors and decision makers stem from the mistaken belief that if those LGBT couples had signed powers of attorneys and advance medical directives, none of those problems would take place. But as tragic stories like this show, that simply isn’t true:

Clay and his partner of 20 years, Harold, lived in California. Clay and Harold made diligent efforts to protect their legal rights, and had their legal paperwork in place—wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other. Harold was 88 years old and in frail medical condition, but still living at home with Clay, 77, who was in good health.

One evening, Harold fell down the front steps of their home and was taken to the hospital. Based on their medical directives alone, Clay should have been consulted in Harold’s care from the first moment. Tragically, county and health care workers instead refused to allow Clay to see Harold in the hospital. The county then ultimately went one step further by isolating the couple from each other, placing the men in separate nursing homes.

Ignoring Clay’s significant role in Harold’s life, the county continued to treat Harold like he had no family and went to court seeking the power to make financial decisions on his behalf. Outrageously, the county represented to the judge that Clay was merely Harold’s “roommate.” The court denied their efforts, but did grant the county limited access to one of Harold’s bank accounts to pay for his care.

What happened next is even more chilling: without authority, without determining the value of Clay and Harold’s possessions accumulated over the course of their 20 years together or making any effort to determine which items belonged to whom, the county took everything Harold and Clay owned and auctioned off all of their belongings. Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from his home and confined him to a nursing home against his will. The county workers then terminated Clay and Harold’s lease and surrendered the home they had shared for many years to the landlord.

Harold died, and Clay wasn’t allowed to be there to comfort him. Clay is also without all of their momentos and life possessions that they two had acquired together, with the exception of one photo album. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) has filed a lawsuit on their behalf against Sonoma County. Trial begins on July 16.

In 2007, a Florida hospital denied Janice Langbehn access to her dying partner, again despite having a legal power of attorney.

No 2010 Reversal for Proposition 8

Timothy Kincaid

April 12th, 2010

Most gay organizations did not support going back to the poll this year and were not helpful with the effort to get marriage equality back on the ballot. It now appears that with broad support the low profile effort to collect signatures was not successful. (Contra Costa Times)

Same-sex marriage advocates have failed to gather enough petition signatures to place on November’s ballot a measure that would repeal Proposition 8′s constitutional ban.

Though it didn’t gather at least 694,354 valid signatures from registered voters by Monday’s deadline, the Restore Equality 2010 Coalition insists the effort wasn’t in vain, in that it sets a firm foundation for another try in 2012.

LA Times Poll: Californians support marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

April 6th, 2010

A new LA Times/USC poll has findings similar to last month’s PPIC poll:

Q.46 Do you think that same-sex couples should be allowed to become legally married in the state of
California?

Yes, strongly ………………………………………………………………40
Yes, not so strongly …………………………………………………..12
No, not so strongly……………………………………………………….8
No, strongly………………………………………………………………..32
(Don’t know)…………………………………………………………………6
(Refuse) ……………………………………………………………………….2

Total Yes……………………………………………………………………..52
Total No ……………………………………………………………………..40

The poll claims a margin or error of about 2.6%, but in looking at the demographics, I’m not sure that this poll is exactly representative.

Majority of Californians support marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

March 25th, 2010

CA marriage graph
For the first time, the PPIC Statewide Survey reports that a majority of Californians support same-sex marriage. 2,002 Californians were surveyed and there is a +/- 2% margin of error.

Participants were asked

“do you favor or oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to be legally married?”

50% favor
45% oppose
5% I don’t know

Various demographics supported marriage equality:

64% Democrats
55% Independents
28% Republicans
55% whites
43% Latinos

This polling suggests a 6% increase in support within the past year, which is quite significant. The survey does not report what contributed to this change in thinking and it is difficult to identify what may have happened since last March that could have led to the change.

However, if I were to guess, I think it is possible that there were two counter-acting public responses to the anti-8 rallies, marches, and protests. It may be that these public demonstrations caused some voters to realize for the first time that the gay community was upset and angry about being denied equality and caused them to consider that anti-gay votes are discriminatory. There may also have been some backlash from some voters who felt that the gay community was behaving lawlessly.

Over the past year the public image of angry marches may have diminished and those upset by it may have become calmer, while the concept of inequality and unfairness raised by the marches may have germinated and resulted in increased support, yielding a net increase. This is, of course, only speculation.

Additionally, the PPIC confirmed that Californians strongly favor allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military. A total of 75% (and a majority in every demographic) agreed.

ENDA Sit-ins Result in Arrests in DC and San Francisco

Jim Burroway

March 19th, 2010
DC Sit-in (Omar Clarke, GetEqual.org, via Pam's House Blend)

DC Sit-in (Omar Clarke, GetEqual.org, via Pam's House Blend)

In Washington, DC, eight activists arrived for a meeting with the staff of House speaker Nancy Pelosi, demanding that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) be brought to a vote. They then barred the doors and staged a classic, old-fashioned sit-in augmented with modern-day Tweets. After about four hours, police were able to get into the offices and arrest four lesbians for unlawful entry. They were taken to DC Central Cellblock — the same location where Daniel Choi  and Jim Pietrangelo were taken following his arrest at the White House –  and released without bail. Their court date is April 6. Choi and Pietrangelo were held overnight.

While the protest in Pelosi’s DC office was taking place, another seven or eight protesters occupied her district office in San Francisco. Arrests also took place there. Both events were coordinated by GetEqual.org.

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