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Posts for April, 2010

OK’s Hate Crimes Op-Out Dies In House

Jim Burroway

April 6th, 2010

Via the Tulsa World:

A controversial hate-crimes bill did not get a hearing Monday in a House committee. Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, became the House author of Senate Bill 1965, by Sen. Steven Russell, R-Oklahoma City. Shelton said he took control of the bill to kill it and asked that the bill not get heard in the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill began life as an educational bill, but Sen. Russell stripped it of its language and title, and turned it into a bill which would have prohibited local and state law enforcement agencies from sharing information about hate crimes based on sexual orientation with federal authorities. That effort turned to embarrassment when it was learned that an error in the bill would actually have attempted to strip Oklahomans of their protections against crimes based on race, religion and ethnicity.

OK Lawmakers Target Gays, Misfire

Jim Burroway

March 26th, 2010

Oklahoma lawmakers are incensed that the Federal Hate Crimes Law signed by President Obama last October extends protections based on sexual orientation. So they decided to do something about it. The Oklahoma Senate passed a bill prohibiting local and state law enforcement agencies from sharing information about hate crimes with federal authorities.

But now lawmakers have found a “legislative error,” resulting in the bill limiting enforcement of the Federal Hate Crimes Law in cases involving race and religion, not sexual orientation.

The bill began life as an education bill before State Sen. Steve Russell (R-Oklahoma City) offered an amendment on the Senate floor to gut the original bill and replace it with his legislation. It passed the Senate by a vote of 39-6 and is now under consideration in the House. The lone House sponsor withdrew her name upon learning of the wholesale change undertaken by the Senate. But I’m sure someone in Oklahoma will step up and restore the race and religion protections. After all, we can’t expect Christians to give up their special protections, can’t we?

Obama Signs Hate Crimes Act Into Law

Jim Burroway

October 28th, 2009

obamalgbtscorecard1President Barack Obama today signed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act into law. This act, which adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the previously existing categories of race, religion and ethnicity for protection against violent bias crimes, is the culmination of  a decade of persistence by Dennis and Judy Shepard and LGBT advocacy groups.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation released the following statement:

When Dennis and I started calling 10 years ago for federal action to  prevent and properly prosecute hate crimes against gay, lesbian and transgendered Americans, we never imagined it would take this long,” said Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother and the president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board of Directors.

“The legislation went through so many versions and so many votes that we had to constantly keep our hopes in check to keep from getting discouraged,” she continued. “But with President Obama’s support and the continually growing bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate lining up behind the bill this year, it became clear that 2009 was the year it would finally happen.”

Anti-Gay Activists React To Hate Crimes Bill Passage

Jim Burroway

October 23rd, 2009

And their reactions are true to form — full of all the same bald-faced lies we’ve heard before. Fortunately, this should be their second-to-last gasp. The last one will come when President Barack Obama signs the legislation into law. First up, Tony Perkins, of the Family “Research” Council:

Tony Perkins“In a slap to the face of our servicemen and women, they attached ‘hate crimes’ legislation to the final defense bill, forcing Congress to choose between expanding hate crimes or making our military go without. This hate crimes provision is part of a radical social agenda that could ultimately silence Christians and use the force of government to marginalize anyone whose faith is at odds with homosexuality. … We call on President Obama to veto this legislation which violates the principle of equal justice under the law and also infringes on the free speech rights of the American people.”

The Family “Research” Council really needs to bone up on their research skills, because right there in the text of the bill (Section 4311)  are these clauses:

3) FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this division shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.

(4) FIRST AMENDMENT- Nothing in this division, or an amendment made by this division, shall be construed to diminish any rights under the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

(5) CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS- Nothing in this division shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.

So unless the “planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence” is an essential element of Christian speech, people of faith have nothing to worry about.

Next up, we have Traditional Values Coalition Executive Director Andrea Lafferty. She also repeats the false claim that “Christians and other people of faith will now become targets for persecution and prosecution,” but adds this bit of creativity:

Andrea LaffertyHate crime legislation is based on the phony premise that there’s an epidemic of hate in America against LGBT (gays, bisexuals, lesbians and transgendered) persons. This is false. FBI hate crime statistics prove that most so-called hate crimes amount to little more than name-calling or pushing or shoving.

First of all, the FBI doesn’t collect statistics for “name-calling, pushing or shoving.” They only collect statistics on violence and credible threats of violence.  But that’s not the only whopper she told. Of all the hate crime categories that the FBI tracks, hate crimes based on sexual orientation are much more likely to be violent personal crimes than any other category.

  Total Hate Crime Offenses, 2007 Violent Crimes, percentage of total
Race 4,724 1,471 31%
Religion 1,477 126 9%
Sexual Orientation 1,460 695 48%
Ethnicity 1,256 497 40%
Disability 82 21 26%
TOTAL 9,006 2,810 31%
Violent crimes include:
Murder and non-negligent manslaughter,
forcible rape, aggravated assault
and simple assault.

There are more. Bob Unruh at WorldNetDaily calls the bill “the Pedophile Protection Act,” an obvious play on the “thirty sexual orientation” lie, which we dissected last May. All in all, there’s at least one thing you can say about these anti-gay activists: they may not be truthful, but they are consistent.

Senate Passes Hate Crimes Act; Next Stop: Obama’s Desk

Jim Burroway

October 22nd, 2009

The Senate passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act today on a 68-29 vote. The act will now go to President Barack Obama, who has promised to sign the bill into law.

The bill extends federal protections to people who suffer violent crimes because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, protections which are already afforded to people who are victims of violent crimes because of their race, religion, or national origin.

Passage of the hate crimes measure came on a bipartisan vote, with ten Republicans joining 56 Democrats and two independents to pass the bill. One Democrat, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) voted against the measure, which was attached to a defense policy bill. Sen. Feingold said he supported the hate crimes provision but opposes the open-ended military commitment in Afghanistan.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation has released this statement by Judy Shepard:

Dennis and I are extremely proud of the Senate for once again passing this historic measure of protection for victims of these brutal crimes,” said Judy Shepard, president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board. “Knowing that the president will sign it, unlike his predecessor, has made all the hard work this year to pass it worthwhile. Hate crimes continue to affect far too many Americans who are simply trying to live their lives honestly, and they need to know that their government will protect them from violence, and provide appropriate justice for victims and their families.”

By voting overwhelmingly to extend to these often-targeted Americans our nation’s decades-old bias crime legislation, senators sent the message that hate crimes will not go unpunished, and local governments and law enforcement agencies will not run out of financial resources to provide justice to these victims and their loved ones.

…The Matthew Shepard Foundation applauds Congress and President Obama for their steady and successful efforts throughout 2009 to bring the legislation to this point. We eagerly anticipate its final enactment and wish to thank the countless organizations and individuals who have worked tirelessly for its passage.

The full text of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, as passed by both Houses of Congress is below.

Click here to read the full text of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Mormon Leader: Prop 8 Backlash Like Intimidation of Southern Blacks In 1960s

Jim Burroway

October 13th, 2009

A prominent leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is preparing to deliver a major address at Brigham Young University-Idaho in which he compares the anger directed toward the LDS church over its support of Prop 8 to “voter-intimidation of blacks in the South” during the civil rights struggle.

Dallin OaksIn an advance copy of the statement provided to the Associated Press, Elder Dallin H. Oaks renews the claim that Mormons experienced “violence and intimidation,” despite the fact that there has been no independent verification of a single act of violence against Mormon people or property. The Associated Press did not correct that claim. Oaks continued:

“As such, these incidents of ‘violence and intimidation’ are not so much anti-religious as anti-democratic,” he said. “In their effect they are like well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South that produced corrective federal civil-rights legislation.”

Oaks then went on to suggest that the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which is currently making its way through Congress, will be used to prosecute or threaten preachers. Again, the AP did not correct that statement. Oaks, a member of the LDS’ Quorum of the Twelve, is repeating on of the most common lies about the hate crimes bill. The Matthew Shepard Act addresses violent crime only, not speech or religious beliefs. In fact, the bill contains specific guarantees that nothing in it will infringe on constitutionally-protected expressions of free speech and assembly.

The Mormon Church actively led the effort to disenfranchise thousands of LGBT citizens from their civil rights, only to turn around and cry that it is they who have something in common with disenfranchised Blacks in the 1960s — a group, by the way, that Mormons banned from full membership in the church until 1978. If that isn’t chutzpah, I don’t know what is.

US Senate Passes Hate Crimes Bill; Faces Veto Over F-22 Funding

Jim Burroway

July 17th, 2009

The U.S. Senate late last night passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to a defense appropriations bill. The Senate approved the bill in a voice vote after voting 63-28 to block a Republican fillibuster of the hate crimes amendment.

However, the hate crimes bill could become collateral damage over a fight for more funding for the F22-fighter program. The White House and the Pentagon is trying to terminate the program which has been plagued with cost overruns and peformance problems, and they oppose the $1.75 billion in funding included in the appropriations bill. President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it includes that funding. A bipartisan amendment to remove the F-22 funding is scheduled for a vote on Monday.

Lying About The Hate Crime Bill, #2: “A Danger To Religious Freedom”

Jim Burroway

July 16th, 2009

Among the many claims of opponents to the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (H.R.1913) — known in the Senate as the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S.909) — is the contention that this bill represents a danger to religious freedoms. The proposed legislation would expand the already existing federal hate crime law to include violent crimes based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and/or disability. The current law already covers actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color and religion. This is very important to remember because it makes the “danger to religious freedom” argument particularly illogical.

That argument, as promulgated by anti-gay activists, insists that the proposed hate crimes prevention act will effectively criminalize religious objections to homosexuality and will “muzzle” pastors. Here’s how the Family Research Council recently put it:

Let’s say you preach from Genesis 19 or Romans 1, referencing the homosexual agenda or lifestyle. Your sermon could be heard by an individual who applies it in a way prohibited by a hate crimes law. Not only would the offender be prosecuted under this law, but you could also be prosecuted for conspiracy. Consequently, hate crimes laws would radically impact our freedom of speech as Christians.

Matt Barber puts it this way:

This creates both a sociopolitical and legal environment wherein traditional sexual morality officially becomes the new racism. Those who publically [sic] express medical, moral or religious opposition to the homosexual lifestyle are tagged by the government as “homophobic bigots” to be treated no differently by law enforcement, the courts or larger society than the KKK or neo-Nazis.

Barber’s warning is particularly relevant. What would happen if “homophobic bigots” were treated exactly the same as the KKK or neo-Nazis?

Well, to answer that, we could well ask how does the current hate crimes law treat the KKK and neo-Nazis?

The KKK at the Minnesota state Capital, August 2001

The KKK at the Minnesota state Capital, August 2001

The federal hate crime law already protects against crimes motivated by hatred of religious groups, but that didn’t keep neo-Nazis from winning the right to march in predominantly Jewish Skokie, Illinois (with the ACLU’s help, I might add). The current hate crime law also protects against crimes motivated by racial hatred, but that didn’t stop the KKK from marching and shouting slogans in Cleveland (again with the ACLU’s help). Hate groups have rallied at state houses in Minnesota, Nebraska and South Carolina, In fact, White Supremacist groups have held nearly a hundred rallies, demonstrations and meetings across America in this year alone — and the existing hate crime law at both the state and federal level have deterred none of it. And yes, they’ve even protested gay pride parades as well, something that they have in common with more than a few conservative Christian groups.

“Pastor” James Wickstrom

“Pastor” James Wickstrom

Extremist hate groups are also free to practice their hate speech, including when they do so under the guise of religious belief. There are some three dozen racist Christian Identity groups active in America right now. Some even operate radio broadcasts and “prison ministries.” One such “pastor,” James Wickstrom, argued that Jews should be beaten, thrown into a wood chipper, and “give them the holocaust they rightly deserve.” This, even though current hate crime laws already protect on the basis of religion.

Now if “pastor” Wickstrom can say something as offensive and dangerous as that with the existing hate crime laws in place under the guise of his religious beliefs, then there’s nothing that Matt Barber can say now that can’t be said should the Matthew Shepard bill become law. And that’s because the First Amendment to our constitution provides a pretty ironclad guarantee of freedoms of speech and of religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

And under that Ironclad guarantee of freedom of speech and religion, some pretty unsavory groups have freely spouted their unsavory beliefs. Our First Amendment protects our right to say pretty much anything we want, no matter how ugly, hateful, or factually wrong we may be. And no law — not even this proposed hate crimes law — can get in the way of that.

But that’s not what opponents to the hate crimes bill would have you believe:

If we do not act decisively at this time, S.909 will make illegal every word in the Bible describing the destruction wrought by this vile behavior, and prepare the way for total censorship of the Gospel of Christ. Our children will pay a horrible price for our cowardice.” Rev. Flip Benham, National Director, Operation Rescue/Operation Save America

But S.909, the senate version of the bill, won’t make illegal any words whatsoever, because it only expands the current hate crimes law to cover sexual orientation. And the current hate crimes law doesn’t make illegal any words either. And in case there’s any confusion about this, the version of the Matthew Shepard act which passed the House says so specifically:

Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by, the Constitution.

And the Senate version is even more expansive in its assurances:

(3) CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.

(4) FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.

Now notice what I just did. I linked directly to both the House and Senate versions of the act so you can read it for yourself. Ever wonder why our opponents won’t do the same when they make these outlandish claims?

But What About Pastors in Sweden, Britain and Canada?
Anti-gay opponents often bring up examples from other countries, claiming that what can happen over there can happen here. Focus On the Family has a so-called “Facts Sheet” which claims (PDF: 44KB/2 pages):

In Sweden, Canada and Great Britain, “hate crimes” laws have been used to prosecute Christians speaking their disapproval of homosexual behavior, posing a serious threat to religious liberty and free speech.

The Family Research Council adds:

Don’t believe it? Just Just ask Pastor Ake Green who was charged and sentenced on June 29, 2004 to one month in jail for showing “disrespect” against homosexuals because of a grace and truth filled sermon delivered in Borgholm, Sweden on July 20, 2003 . Thanks to the efforts of our friends at ADF, that sentence was overturned on appeal, but you can see what a chilling effect that hate crimes laws would have on the freedom of speech and religion.

But Sweden’s example simply doesn’t apply here. Sweden has a hate speech law that goes back to 1948, when it was originally written in response to the Holocaust. Laws which limit hate speech are quite common in many European countries. But that’s because their constitutions allow such laws to exist. Ours doesn’t. Swedish journalist Tor Billgren, who writes the blog Antigayretorik, reminds us that no preacher has been fined or jailed for quoting the Bible:

Pastor Åke Green was sentenced to 1 month imprisonment by the district court, but was acquitted by the court of appeal and the supreme court. He wasn’t jailed. There’s another case as well: Leif Liljeström, a Christian (not a preacher) who owned a discussion forum on the web. He was sentenced to 1 month for things another person wrote on the forum (according to the Swedish law the owner of the forum is responsible). However, this wasn’t quotes from the Bible, but extreme hate speech. This case will be dealt with by the Supreme Court. He hasn’t been jailed.

Britain is often cited as another example by anti-gay activists. But the U.K. has no written constitution, nor does it have a Bill of Rights like ours which enumerates inviolable rights among its citizenry. (If I remember, that was one of the sore points between us more than two hundred years ago.) Consequently, Britain has a long history of banning all sorts of speech. As recently as 1988, Margaret Thatcher’s government banned the broadcast of all appearances and interviews of members of Sinn Fein and the IRA. (According to the BBC, “instead of hearing Gerry Adams, viewers and listeners would hear an actor’s voice reading a transcript of the Sinn Fein leader’s words.”) You just try to get that past our Constitution here.

Canada also has a hate speech law. Bill C-250 criminalizes certain types of hate speech towards persons of any sexual orientation: homosexuals, bisexuals, or heterosexuals. In other words, it protects everyone equally. But there is a clause which specifically exempts religiously motivated speech. In other words, religious freedom always trumps hate speech in Canada according to this particular law. But again, Canada’s constitution does not prohibit curbs on speech the way the American constitution does.

But What About the “Philadelphia Eleven”?
But some claim that just such a curb on freedom of speech has actually happened here:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer claims the legislation “does not affect free speech or punish beliefs or thoughts. It only seeks to punish violent acts.”  But Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, says Hoyer is ignoring the case of eleven Christians in Philadelphia who were charged with hate crimes for sharing Scripture verses at a homosexual pride rally.

“Ask the Philadelphia 11. We know what these supposed ‘hate crime’ laws are meant to do. In Philadelphia, Christians were arrested and jailed based on hate crime law,” she points out. “So we know that what the other side is saying — that it will not affect pastors or youth pastors or Christians — we know that is not true.”

Philadelphia organizers, participants, and police were willing to tolerate the signs and taunts from a group of Repent America protesters when they remained at the edge of the event’s grounds. But then those protesters pushed their way onto the festival grounds to try to forcibly disrupt the event, they were surrounded by Outfest supporters armed with pink whistles and eight-foot-tall pink-colored boards mounted on sticks.

Repent America, who didn’t have a permit for their gathering, was trying to disrupt an OutFest rally which did have a valid permit. So police were called, and they instructed the demonstrators to go back out to the the edge of the Outfest area. The demonstrators ignored three separate orders to move. When they were told by police they would be arrested if they refused to move, they sat down, forcing the police to arrest them.

Prosecutors charged the protesters with violating several laws including the state’s hate crime law. But the court dismissed those charges, calling them an infringement on the protester’s First Amendment rights.That’s right. Just like with with the Klan and the neo-Nazis, Repent America’s actions were protected by the First Amendment.

This may be a case of overzealous prosecutors misapplying the law. But that doesn’t mean the law itself is flawed. We’ve had cases where overzealous prosecutors have pinned far worse charges on innocent people. Some have even ended up on death row for wrongful murder convictions. The answer to that problem isn’t the elimination of laws against murder, but to ensure that everyone has a speedy and fair trial — which is another of our cherished constitutionally protected rights.

And in this particular case, the problem wasn’t with the police who removed Repent America from OutFest; it was with the prosecutor’s decision to charge them under the state’s hate crimes law. In fact, when Repent America tried to sue the city of Philadelphia for wrongful arrest, that court ruled that the police acted properly. It was Repent America’s disruptive actions which led to their arrests, not the content of their speech.

Those who claim that the proposed hate crimes bill is a danger to free speech or religious freedoms need to not only dust off their copy of the Bill of Rights, but also look around at what a lot of people are already getting by with under the current hate crime law. Even if Repent America, Focus On the Family, or the American Family Association were to wind up in the same classy company of the KKK and neo-Nazis as Matt Barber fears, they will still be free to say whatever they damn well please.

See also:
Lying About The Hate Crime Bill, #2: “A Danger To Religious Freedom”
Lying About The Hate Crime Bill, #1: “The Thirty Sexual Orientations”

Sex With Ducks

Jim Burroway

May 30th, 2009

Building on the “thirty-sexual orientations” lie, Pat Robertson last month asked his “700 Club” audience if passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act would protect people having sex with ducks. Garfunkel and Oates has the answer:

YouTube Preview Image

Lying About The Hate Crime Bill, #1: “The Thirty Sexual Orientations”

Jim Burroway

May 11th, 2009

You can always tell when our opponents are really scared. Their lies become more ridiculous. Such is the case with the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (also known as the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act). The proposed legislation expands the already existing federal hate crime law to include violent crimes based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and/or disability. The current law already covers actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color and religion.

One of the most egregious lies is this one, as told by the American Family Association:

The Hate Crime law, S.909 (and HR1913), will make 30 sexual orientations federally-protected. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has published 30 such sexual orientations that, because of Congress’s refusal to define “sexual orientation,” will be protected under this legislation.

Focus On the Family’s James Dobson also jumped on the bandwagon as well:

As I’m recording this video greeting, there’s a so-called hate crimes bill that’s working its way through the congress that contains no adequate safeguards to protect the preaching of God’s word. Because the liberals in Congress would not define sexual orientation, we have to assume that protection under the law will be extended to the 30 sexual disorders identified as such by the American Psychiatric Association. Let me read just a few of them: bisexuality, exhibitionism, fetishism, incest, necrophilia, pedophilia, prostitution, sexual masochism, urophilia, voyeurism, and bestiality. Those are just a few. And I have to ask, have we gone completely mad?

Well, it appears that Dobson has. He, the AFA, the Traditional Values Coalition, Liberty Counsel, and many, many others, are pushing this obnoxious notion. Let’s break it all down, shall we?

“Congress would not define sexual orientation”
This line was brought up when the Hate Crimes Act was working its way though the House Judiciary Committee. During the hearing, Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) sought to add an amendment to the bill indicating that the term sexual orientation does not include pedophilia.

This attempted amendment was, of course, a deliberate attempt to play on the slander that homosexuality is equivalent to child molestation — a slander that has no basis in the professional literature. But Rep. King pressed on in his attempt to write that slander into U.S. law, claiming that the law doesn’t define sexual orientation.

The problem, of course, is that the federal law which directs the FBI to collect hate crime statistics already includes a very specific definition of sexual orientation. The law’s definition goes like this:

As used in this section, the term “sexual orientation” means consensual homosexuality or heterosexuality.

It couldn’t be much clearer than that. Sexual orientation is exactly what everyone knows it to be: an orientation based on one’s own gender and the gender to which that individual is sexually attracted.

“The APA Defines Thirty Sexual Orientations”
But what if Federal law hadn’t already defined sexual orientation and we had to fall back on the American Psychiatric Association’s definition? Well, it turns out that the APA’s official definition is not much different from the federal government’s. The APA’s official handbook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV-TR, 2000) offers a very precise definition of how clinicians should describe a client’s sexual orientation:

Specifiers
For sexually mature individuals, the following specifiers may be noted based on the individual’s sexual orientation: Sexually Attracted to Males, Sexually Attracted to Females, Sexually Attracted to Both, and Sexually Attracted to Neither. [Emphasis in the original]

In other words, the APA defines only four sexual orientations. And they do so in order to provide a consistent description of an individual’s sexual orientation. It is not a diagnosis itself, since homosexuality is not listed as a mental disorder.  And just so everyone’s clear on exactly what the APA means by their very short description of sexual orientation, they provided an expanded discussion on their web site:

Sexual orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectional attraction toward others. It is easily distinguished from other components of sexuality including biological sex, gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female), and the social gender role (adherence to cultural norms for feminine and masculine behavior).

Sexual orientation exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality and includes various forms of bisexuality. Bisexual persons can experience sexual, emotional, and affectional attraction to both their own sex and the opposite sex. Persons with a homosexual orientation are sometimes referred to as gay (both men and women) or as lesbian (women only).

So where did the list of thirty “sexual orientations” come from? Let’s turn again to the APA’s DSM-IV-TR under the heading of “Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders,” namely the APA’s examples of sexual paraphilias:

The Paraphilias are characterized by recurrent, intense sexual urges, fantasies, or behaviors that involve unusual objects, activities, or situations and cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The Paraphilias include Exhibitionism, Fetishism, Frotteurism, Pedophilia, Sexual Masochism, Sexual Sadism, Transvestic Fetishism, Voyeurism, and Paraphilia Not Otherwise Specified.

The DSM goes further, identifying specific criteria for diagnosing these various paraphilias, something that the DSM does not do for sexual orientation. And the reason is simple: sexual paraphilias are mental disorders according to the DSM, while homosexuality is not. Which is why the DSM devotes several pages to sexual paraphilias — and describes them as an impairment to normal functioning — but just a few words to consensual adult homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality, which the APA reminds us “is not an illness, a mental disorder, or an emotional problem.”

So just to be clear:

  • Sexual orientation is strictly limited to the realms of homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality.
  • All the other stuff — pedophilia, exhibitionism, masochism, and the other twenty-seven paraphilias are not sexual orientations. Homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality are not paraphilias.
  • The proposed hate crime laws covers only sexual orientation, and not paraphilias.

In other words, you can still punch a pedophile and not risk running afoul of the proposed hate crime law. I wouldn’t recommend it — you’d still be liable for assault charges, but there would be no federal hate crime enhancements involved.

If you won’t believe me, then how about Dr. Jack Drescher? He’s a member of the APA’s DSM-V Workgroup on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders, one of the groups working on the next revision of the APA’s manual. He confirmed everything I said, and went further:

Pedophilia is not a sexual orientation, nor would pedophiles be covered by a law protecting people for their sexual orientation. Religious social conservatives who oppose gay rights are using terms that sound like science, as opposed to actual science, to make unwarranted and malicious comparisons between homosexuality and pedophilia. Not only is this scare tactic untruthful, it reveals how little respect some religious conservative leaders have for the intelligence of the people they are trying to persuade.

It is indeed a scare tactic, and anti-gay activists know full well that it is a blatant distortion of the APA’s position on sexual orientation and paraphilias. Remember, Dobson holds a Ph.D. in psychology. He clearly knows that he’s lying, and he has chosen to do so as a deliberate tactic. There’s simply no other plausable explanation. And as the bill comes closer to passing and being signed into law, their rhetoric is likely to get worse, not better. Stay tuned.

See also:
Lying About The Hate Crime Bill, #2: “A Danger To Religious Freedom”
Lying About The Hate Crime Bill, #1: “The Thirty Sexual Orientations”

White House Changes LGBT Civil Rights Commitments On Web Site

Jim Burroway

April 30th, 2009

Several readers contacted us to point out that there was a radical change to the White House’s page of Civil Rights commitments for LGBT people. Where once there was a detailed eight-point commitment to improving LGBT rights in America, there is now only this three paragraph statement:

CIVIL RIGHTS
Progress

  • The President signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, restoring basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers.

President Obama recognizes that our civil rights laws and principles are at the core of our nation. He has spent much of his career fighting to strengthen civil rights – as a community organizer, civil rights lawyer, Illinois State Senator, U.S. Senator, and now as President. He knows that our country grows stronger when all Americans have access to opportunity and are able to participate fully in our economy.

Strengthen Anti-Discrimination Laws
On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act to ensure that all Americans receive equal pay for equal work. The President is committed to expanding funding for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to ensure that voting rights are protected and Americans do not suffer from increased discrimination during a time of economic distress. President Obama also continues to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. He supports full civil unions and federal rights for LGBT couples and opposes a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. He supports changing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security, and also believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Lead Criminal Justice Reform
The President will lead the fight to build a more fair and equitable criminal justice system. He will seek to strengthen federal hate crime legislation and will work to ensure that federal law enforcement agencies do not resort to racial profiling. He supports funding for drug courts, giving first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, if appropriate, in drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than prison terms in changing behavior. President Obama will also improve ex-offender employment and job retention strategies, substance abuse treatment, and mental health counseling so ex-offenders can successfully re-join society.

On Inauguration Day, we were pleasantly surprised to see a much more comprehensive list of objectives. The latest updates represent a deep dissapointment. Missing from the new page is any mention of promoting meaningful AIDS prevention and the enactment of the Microbicides Development Act to empower women to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The latter, strictly speaking, isn’t necessarily an LGBT issue. But given all that we’ve been through the past quarter century, I think it’s safe to say that the LGBT community is very sensitive to how HIV/AIDS affects everyone. And given the neglect from many previous administrations to domestic HIV/AIDS initiatives, many in the LGBT community look at commitments like this as a possible bellwether.

Also gone from the web page is Obama’s campaign promise to repeal the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act.” This was one area in which then-Sen. Obama set himself apart from Sen. Hillary Clinton during the race to capture the Democratic nomination. Obama was among the few who called for the full repeal of DOMA. Sen. Clinton, for example, only advocated a partial repeal. Seeing DOMA missing altogether from the re-vamped web site is particularly disturbing.

And then there’s the mention of “changing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in a sensible way.” That looks like a clear backtrack from his earlier promise to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” This critical change only serves to reinforce growing suspicions that the administration is backing away from this important, high-profile promise. [Update: The line has now been changed to “He supports repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in a sensible way…”]

It’s unclear how much of this represents a genuine policy shift, or just a reshuffling of the web site’s focus. A letter sent to Joe.My.God suggests the latter. But whatever the case may be, we will continue to hold the Obama administration accountable to the promises he made throughout his campaign and confirmed on Inauguration Day. In case there’s any confusion as to what was originally promised, I’ve reproduced those original commitments below.

Support for the LGBT Community

“While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It’s about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect.”

– Barack Obama, June 1, 2007

Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. President Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, President Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.

Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees’ domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. The President also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.

Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.

Repeal Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.

Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.

Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, President Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The President will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma — too often tied to homophobia — that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.

Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. President Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.

LaBarbera Award: Rep. Virginia Foxx

Jim Burroway

April 29th, 2009

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is our latest winner of the LaBarbera Award for her explanation of why she opposed the The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, otherwise known as the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. That bill passed the House this afternoon.

During the debate leading up to the vote, Rep. Foxx lambasted the bill and the young man for whom the proposed legislation is named. While Matthew’s mother, Judy Shepard watched the debate from the House gallery, Foxx called Matthew’s hate crime murder a “hoax”:

The hate crimes bill that’s called the Matthew Shepard Bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay. This — the bill was named for him, hate crimes bill was named for him, but it’s really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills,” Foxx said from the floor of the House of Representatives.

A hoax? Really? That’s not what Laramie investigators found:

…[D]etectives dismissed the idea that the murder was the mere result of a robbery gone bad.

“Far from that!” scoffed Sgt. Rob DeBree, the chief investigator in the case. “They knew damn well he was gay … It started out as a robbery and burglary, and I sincerely believe the other activity was because he was gay.”

…[Convicted killer Russell] Henderson provided a detailed account of that plan. The killers identified Shepard as a lonely homosexual, an easy mark, and retreated to the bathroom to hatch their plot. Henderson made the first advance by whispering a come-on in Shepard’s ear, and “McKinney tried to feminize his voice to continue the lure,” DeBree said.

Laramie’s detectives and prosecutors had no doubts whatsoever that Matthew Shepard’s murder was a hate crime, and that he was specifically targeted because he was gay. The only hoax here is the reprehensible comment by Rep. Foxx. Making those comments in front of Matthew’s mother is beyond all measures of human decency. Which is exactly the sort of behavior we expect from a LaBarbera Award winner.

Hate Crimes Bill Passes the House

Timothy Kincaid

April 29th, 2009

NYT

The vote was 249 to 175, with most Democrats voting in favor and most Republicans against. The bill, H.S. 1913, defines hate crimes as those motivated by prejudice and based on a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

The measure would provide grants for state and local authorities to investigate and prosecute hate crimes, and it would empower the federal government to prosecute cases if states asked for Washington’s help or were reluctant to exercise their own authority.

Obama’s First 6.8%

Jim Burroway

April 29th, 2009

Barack Obama's LGBT Civil Rights ScorecardThe airways and the Internet are saturated, literally dripping with analyses and discussions of President Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office. This despite the fact that he was actually elected to fill a 1,461 day term. That means that he’s only about 6.8% of the way through his term of office. My background is in engineering where we prefer to look at trends in a linear fashion. When I look at Obama’s first 100 days, 6.8% isn’t much to go on.

When Obama was sworn in, the White House announced an eight-point civil rights agenda for LGBT Americans. Using that as a score card, if he had ticked of just one item, he’d take what we call a “step function” and go from 0% to 12.5% of the way through his agenda. But since he’s only at 6.8% on the proverbial x-axis, it’s hard to say whether he’s behind or ahead of schedule.

In assessing Obama’s progress in fulfilling this agenda, it bears remembering that each of the goals listed require action from Congress. None of these can be addressed by a presidential order. But we’ve already been disappointed to see foot-dragging on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” not just in Congress but at the White House as well.

But on the positive side, hate crimes legislation is moving forward in Congress with the White House urging its passage. If it passes both houses and garner’s Obama’s signature by July 21 — that’ll be 12.5% of the way through Obama’s term — we’ll be on track. In this engineer’s mind at least.

You can do your part to help. Please call your representative and urge him or her to support the Hate Crimes bill.

Obama Urges Action On Hate Crimes Bill

Jim Burroway

April 28th, 2009

The White House has released this statement:

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON H.R. 1913, THE LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT HATE CRIMES PREVENTION ACT OF 2009
This week, the House of Representatives is expected to consider H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.  I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance – legislation that will enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association.  I also urge the Senate to work with my Administration to finalize this bill and to take swift action.

The House is expected to debate and vote on the bill Wednesday. The Human Rights Campaign urges everyone to call their representative and ask them to vote for the bill’s passage.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) introduced the hate crimes legislation in the Senate. Co-sponsors include  Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Arlen Specter (R D-PA).

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