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Posts for May, 2012

Lawsuits Planned To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage In Illinois

Jim Burroway

May 30th, 2012

As I said earlier in today’s Agenda, Lambda Legal and the ACLU will be filing separate lawsuits today in a bid to legalize marriage equality in Illinois. According to The Chicago Tribune:

The gay rights group Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois each plan to file a lawsuit Wednesday against the clerk of Cook County, claiming that not issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Illinois Constitution.

…A total of 25 couples from across the state are plaintiffs in the two lawsuits. Each couple tried to get a marriage license from the Cook County clerk’s office in May and was denied based on the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which prohibits marriage “between 2 individuals of the same sex” and states: “A marriage between 2 individuals of the same sex is contrary to the public policy of this State.”

Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office issued a statement from the clerk, who is out of the country: “The time is long past due for the state of Illinois to allow county clerks to issue marriage license to couples who want to make their commitment. I hope these lawsuits are the last hurdle to achieving equal marriage rights for all.”

Illinois has been providing civil unions for almost a year. The lawsuit is being filed on the basis that civil unions, rather than being equal to marriage, is actually reinforcing discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. According to The Chicago Sun-Times:

Illinois’ constitution, more than other states’ constitutions, spells out rights that advocates for same-sex couples see as guaranteeing a right for people of any gender to marry, despite laws the Legislature passed in 1996 prohibiting same-sex marriage.

…The ACLU case will argue that the right to privacy in Illinois’ Constitution protects against a ban on gay marriage. California’s constitution had a similar right to privacy cited by that state’s high court in upholding a right to same-sex marriage. That law is under review in federal appellate court.

Lambda also argues that Illinois’ ban on “special legislation” that benefits one group over another prohibits a ban on same-sex marriage.

Lambda Legal Sues Arizona To Block Elimination of Domestic Partner Benefits.

Jim Burroway

November 17th, 2009

During last year’s battle to place a ban on same-sex marriage into Arizona’s constitution, proponents for Proposition 102 argued that their efforts had nothing to do with Domestic Partner Benefits. Nope. Not one bit. Except that the ink was barely dry on the election results when the same lawmakers who put the proposition on the ballot turned right around and moved to strip domestic partner benefits from gay and lesbian state employees.

Today, Lambda Legal has announced a lawsuit in Federal Court in Tucson on behalf of ten state employees seeking to block the elimination of DP benefits. According to a press release from Lambda Legal (no link yet):

“This is an issue of equal pay for equal work,” said Tara Borelli, staff attorney for Lambda Legal. “By stripping away these vital benefits from loyal state employees, the state isn’t just paying them less for the same work than their heterosexual colleagues — it’s pulling away a vital lifeline that all workers need. This is simply cruel and saves the state next to nothing.”

…”This discriminatory elimination of vital health benefits denies equal pay for equal work to a small, politically vulnerable group of dedicated public workers who perform valuable services and pay equal taxes. By stripping gay and lesbian state employees of health coverage for a domestic partner, the new law unfairly and unconstitutionally inflicts severe hardship upon a targeted group of Arizona families,” added Borelli.

Federal Court Throws Out Suit Against Miami Hospital By Lesbian Barred From Dying Partner

Jim Burroway

September 29th, 2009
Janice Langbehn holding a photo of Lisa Pond

Janice Langbehn holding a photo of Lisa Pond

A federal court in Miami has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Janice Langbehn, a Washington state lesbian who was not allowed to visit her dying partner at Jackson Memorial Hospital in February 2007.

Lisa Pond suffered an aneurysm just before she, her partner, and three children were about to embark on a family cruise to celebrate Janice and Lisa’s eighteenth anniversary. Pond was rushed to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, but hospital personnel and social workers refused to allow Langbehn access to pond even after a power of attorney was sent to the hospital naming Langbehn. It was only because of the intervention by a Catholic priest who was called to perform last rites that Langbehn was able to spend a few minutes with Janice before she died. 

Today, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal on behalf of Langbehn. According to a statement from Lambda Legal:

“The court’s decision paints a tragically stark picture of how vulnerable same-sex couples and their families really are during times of crisis,” said Beth Littrell, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. “We hope that because of Janice’s courage to seek justice for her family in this case that more people better understand the costs of antigay discrimination. This should never happen to anyone.”

…The court ruled that the hospital has neither an obligation to allow their patients’ visitors nor any obligation whatsoever to provide their patients’ families, healthcare surrogates, or visitors with access to patients in their trauma unit. The court has given the Langbehn-Pond family until October 16 to review the ruling and consider all legal options.

Jackson Memorial Hospital also issued a statement:

We have always believed and known that the staff at Jackson treats everyone equally, and that their main concern is the well-being of the patients in their care. …Jackson will continue to work with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community to ensure that everyone knows they are welcome at all of our facilities, where they will receive the highest quality of medical care.

Janice Lanbehn and her three childrenThe phrase “everone knows they are welcome” stikes me as perhaps the most cynical statement ever made. If they’ve changed any of their policies since Lisa’s death, I can find no evidence for it. Nor can I find any hint of recongition that they’ve done anything so vile and inhumane as to deny one of their patients the company of their family in their last dying hours. Their behavior toward Janice was outrageous and beyond contemptuous, and they offered not even so much as a “sorry” afterwards.

And to those who claim that marriage doesn’t matter because other legal arrangements are good enough, take a look at Janice Langbehn and her three children. Tell them that they weren’t discriminated against. I dare you.

Boies and Olson to go after ‘Yes on 8′ Campaign

Gabriel Arana

August 18th, 2009

I have been following the federal challenge to Prop 8, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, and thought I would give BTB readers an update (there’s not much in the rest of the LGBT press).

As you might remember, former Bush v. Gore foes Boies and Olson sparked controversy among gay legal rights groups after teaming up to file a federal challenge to Prop. 8 in California District Court. Organizations like Lambda Legal, which have spent years focusing on incremental legal wins are afraid it’s not the right time to put all the movement’s chips on the table, but seeing as Boies and Olson are going ahead anyway, they want in on the action and have asked to join the suit.

Judge Walker is set to hear opposing arguments tomorrow over whether they should be allowed in, a motion Boies and Olson have opposed. My guess is that the judge will allow Lambda Legal, the City of San Francisco, and similar organization to join the suit, or at least that’s what I hope; these organizations have been fighting the good fight long before the fame-mongering pair came on the scene.

Today, all parties to the suit filed another round of “case management statements,” proposals that outline what the trial will cover, what legal questions will be addressed, and which sort of evidence will be gathered and presented.  What is interesting about these statements is that the case is shaping up to be much broader than the state challenge to Prop. 8, which hinged on the technical distinction between an “amendment” and a “revision.”

Crucially, the plaintiffs plan to go after the Yes on 8 Campaign to show that they were motivated by anti-gay animus. This will involve having the Yes on 8 people testify and hand over documents relevant to the campaign.

If some gay rights groups were frustrated by the legal language and fine lines involved in the state challenge, this is looking like it will be the big fight they wanted.

Stay tuned.

Three Pro-Gay Groups Respond To AFER’s Letter

Jim Burroway

July 10th, 2009

Chris Geidner has gotten some reactions from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU concerning the letter from the America Foundation for Equal Rights (the group behind the Olson and Boies lawsuit challenging Prop 8) sent to those groups demanding that they not seek to intervene in the suit:

Looking at [AFER board president Chad] Griffin’s letter, it is clear that — far from being blindsided by the Perry lawsuit — the LGBT legal organizations were well aware of and chose not to participate in the filing of this lawsuit. It is also clear, though, that the groups have been working with the lawyers for the case since its filing to discuss strategy and a way to “integrate” the groups more fully in the case.

When contacted Thursday, James Esseks, the co-director of the ACLU’s LGBT Rights Project, said of the distinction between the groups’ initial response and their filing on Wednesday, “People can disagree about when and whether to jump into the pool, but once you do it makes sense to swim as hard as possible to get to the other side. . . . We’re all in the pool; it’s not just those plaintiffs.”

..Toward the beginning of Griffin’s letter, he stated of the groups that “it is inconceivable that you would zealously and effectively litigate this case if you were successful in intervening.” Esseks, of the ACLU LGBT Rights Project took strong objection to that, saying, “Any suggestion that [the groups] would want to lose a marriage case is off-the-wall to me. It’s unfathomable.” Likewise, Shannon Minter, the legal director at NCLR responded in a statement that “Our only focus right now is on doing everything we can to help win the case.”

I don’t think the letter from AFER suggests that any of the groups would actually want to lose the case. What it does suggest is that a group that doesn’t believe that a case should have been filed may not be as effective as those who do.

Chris argues that the groups are right to try to intervene in order to broaden the factual record for the inevitable appeals to the appelate court.

Anti-Prop 8 Legal Team to Pro-Gay Groups: Back Off

Jim Burroway

July 8th, 2009

The American Foundation for Equal Rights has released a letter they wrote to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU of Southern California, asking the three groups not to intervene in the Boies and Olson challenge to California’s Prop 8 in federal court.  They recounted the many ways in which the three groups had previously opposed the lawsuit and raise a very legitimate concern now that those groups want to enter the lawsuit on the side of the plaintiffs:

In public and private, you have made it unmistakably clear that you strongly disagree with our legal strategy to challenge Prop. 8 as a violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution…. Having gone to such great lengths to dissuade us from filing suit and to tar this case in the press, it seems likely that your misgivings about our strategy will be reflected—either subtly or overtly—in your actions in court.

The letter provides an interesting detail surrounding the amicus briefs filed in the case calling for Prop 8 to be declared unconstitutional. According to the letter:

Even after you filed an amicus curiae brief urging the district court to grant our motion for a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of Prop. 8, you refused to characterize your position as one of “support.” Indeed, Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal went so far as to insist that we alter a press release that described your amicus curiae brief as “supporting” our suit. In response, we issued a second release addressing her concerns.

The letter also details several instances in which the Boies and Olsen team and AFER reached out to the three groups. After all that, AFER says that they “remain willing to work closely” with them, but not as co-council:

Your intervention would create a complex, multi-party proceeding that would inevitably be hampered by procedural inefficiencies that are directly at odds with our goal—and the goal of Chief Judge Walker—of securing an expeditious, efficient, and inexpensive resolution to the district court proceedings. As a result of your intervention, we could be mired in procedurally convoluted pre-trial maneuvering for years—while gay and lesbian individuals in California continue to suffer the daily indignity of being denied their federal constitutional right to marry the person of their choosing. … Delaying equal marriage rights in California serves none of our interests.

[Hat tip: Rex Wockner]

Click here to read the complete letter

Three Pro-Gay Groups Seek To Elbow Their Way Into Prop 8 Lawsuit

Jim Burroway

July 8th, 2009

My first reaction on learning that Attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies were filing a lawsuit in federal court to challenge the constitutionality of Prop 8, I was cool to the idea. But now with two other lawsuits from Massachusetts which are also challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as the frustrations many of us are feeling over the distinctly unfierce advocacy taking place in Washington, I’ve changed my mind. I’m glad that Olson and Boies are going forward.

That said, I have to wonder what’s going on with three pro-gay groups who have petitioned the court to be admitted as parties to the case. The three groups — American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights — have asked the judge to allow them represent three gay community groups in the lawsuit seeking to overturn Proposition 8.

These same groups were among the eight who immediately opposed the lawsuit when it was first announced. Last week, they reversed their position and filed amicus briefs in support of the plaintiffs, which is, I think, a very positive move. They seem to have warmed to the idea, much as I have.

But now all of the sudden they want to become parties of the lawsuit itself, even though they wanted nothing to do with the move in the beginning. Olson and Boies oppose their petition, saying that involving more groups would delay and unnecessarily complicate the proceedings. I agree. It worries me that one of the more important LGBT cases making its way in the federal courts could wind up having four different captains trying to pilot the ship. That alone should worry us.

But there’s something else that’s troubling. Kristin Perry, Sandra Stier, Paul Katami, and Jeffrey Zarrillo are the four Californians named as plaintiffs in the suit. They have the grievance, they’ve selected their lawyers, and they are ready to go to court to have their rights upheld. That’s what plaintiffs do in lawsuits. And so it seems to me that those four plaintiffs should have a right to have their case argued on their behalf by lawyers of their own choosing. They shouldn’t have to contend with three other outside groups with differing agendas who think they know better on how to try the case — especially when their first stab at knowing better was to publicly denounce the lawsuit to begin with.

Reactions To Obama Administration’s Defense of DOMA

Jim Burroway

June 12th, 2009

Reactions to news that the Obama administration is defending the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” against a constitutional challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court are pouring in fast and furious. We go first to the Human Rights Campaign:

[HRC President Joe Solmonese said,] “Mr. President, you have called DOMA ‘abhorrent’ and pledged to be a fierce advocate for our community.  As we approach the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, it is time for you to use your leadership to translate these principles into meaningful action.”

HRC also has grave concerns about the arguments that the Administration put forth in this case, arguments that simply do not reflect the experiences that LGBT people face or the contributions that they make. The Administration’s brief claims that DOMA is a valid exercise of Congress’s power, is consistent with Equal Protection or Due Process principles, and does not impinge upon rights that are recognized as fundamental.  The brief further claims that DOMA is a “neutral” federal position on same-sex marriages, and permits the states to determine on their own whether to recognize same-sex marriages. The most alarming argument, grounded neither in fact nor in law, reads as follows:

[DOMA amounts to] a cautious policy of federal neutrality towards a new form of marriage. DOMA maintains federal policies that have long sought to promote the traditional and uniformly-recognized form of marriage, recognizes the right of each State to expand the traditional definition if it so chooses, but declines to obligate federal taxpayers in other States to subsidize a form of marriage that their own states do not recognize.

“Same-sex couples and their families are not seeking subsidies,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “We pay taxes equally, contribute to our communities equally, support each other equally, pay equally into Social Security, and participate equally in our democracy.  Equal protection is not a handout.  It is our right as citizens,” he said.

From Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund:

“DOMA is and has always been an immoral attack on same-sex couples, our families and our fundamental humanity. This law has only served to discriminate against Americans and belittle our nation’s heralded values embracing freedom, fairness and justice. The Task Force Action Fund demands President Obama and Congress immediately repeal this hateful law, which has left a moral scar on our nation and its worthy pursuit of equal justice for all.

“Unfortunately, the malicious and outrageous arguments and language used in the Department of Justice’s marriage brief is only serving to inflame and malign the humanity of same-sex couples and our families. This is unacceptable.

“This ugly chapter in our nation’s history must come to an end now with the repeal of DOMA.”

From Executive Director Geoff Kors of Equality California:

We are outraged the Obama Administration filed a brief defending the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act — a law Obama promised to repeal when running for President. It is unacceptable that he is defending DOMA instead of supporting its repeal as unconstitutional. And the justification that Congress has the right to deny one minority equal benefits as a way to save money is truly offensive. We not only call on President Obama to order the Justice Department to file a supplemental brief reversing its position and instead urging the repeal of DOMA, but we also demand the president demonstrates that he is the ‘fierce’ advocate he once claimed to be by publicly calling for the end to all discrimination against LGBT Americans — including the immediate repeal of this law so same-sex couples legally married in their home state receive the same federal benefits and protections as opposite-sex couples

From a broad coalition of advocacy groups (no link yet):

We are very surprised and deeply disappointed in the manner in which the Obama administration has defended the so-called Defense of Marriage Act against Smelt v. United States, a lawsuit brought in federal court in California by a married same-sex couple asking the federal government to treat them equally with respect to federal protections and benefits. The administration is using many of the same flawed legal arguments that the Bush administration used. These arguments rightly have been rejected by several state supreme courts as legally unsound and obviously discriminatory.

We disagree with many of the administration’s arguments, for example that DOMA is a valid exercise of Congress’s power, is consistent with Equal Protection or Due Process principles, and does not impinge upon rights that are recognized as fundamental.

We are also extremely disturbed by a new and nonsensical argument the administration has advanced suggesting that the federal government needs to be “neutral” with regard to its treatment of married same-sex couples in order to ensure that federal tax money collected from across the country not be used to assist same-sex couples duly married by their home states. There is nothing “neutral” about the federal government’s discriminatory denial of fair treatment to married same-sex couples: DOMA wrongly bars the federal government from providing any of the over one thousand federal protections to the many thousands of couples who marry in six states. This notion of “neutrality” ignores the fact that while married same-sex couples pay their full share of income and social security taxes, they are prevented by DOMA from receiving the corresponding same benefits that married heterosexual taxpayers receive. It is the married same-sex couples, not heterosexuals in other parts of the country, who are financially and personally damaged in significant ways by DOMA. For the Obama administration to suggest otherwise simply departs from both mathematical and legal reality.

When President Obama was courting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters, he said that he believed that DOMA should be repealed. We ask him to live up to his emphatic campaign promises, to stop making false and damaging legal arguments, and immediately to introduce a bill to repeal DOMA and ensure that every married couple in America has the same access to federal protections.

Signed:
American Civil Liberties Union
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders
Human Rights Campaign
Lambda Legal
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce

And from PFLAG:

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National expressed deep disappointment and strong opposition to the Department of Justice’s recent arguments regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the dismissal of a lawsuit filed on behalf of a gay couple who married in California.

“Since DOMA’s enactment in 1996, PFLAG has vocally opposed this blatant and malicious law, which enables legal discrimination against our gay and lesbian loved ones and denies them the right to protect their families and receive equal treatment under the law,” said Jody M. Huckaby, executive director of PFLAG. “We are deeply offended by the DOJ’s recent arguments and alarmed by the hurtful language that further denigrates our families and friends.”

“PFLAG continues to urge President Obama to explore options to repeal this immoral and unethical law that leaves our families and friends unprotected and unequal. DOMA hurts our families and friends by denying them more than 1,100 federal benefits legally recognized married couples currently receive from the federal government. When families are hurt, communities are weakened and all of America suffers. In the name of basic equality and fairness, we ask that the Administration fulfill its commitment to advancing equality for LGBT Americans by acting immediately to overturn this law,” Huckaby concluded.

Are Lawsuits The Best Way To Go?

Jim Burroway

May 27th, 2009

I welcomed conservative Attorney Theodore Olson’s eagerness to try to overturn Prop 8 in federal court. But when I wrote that, I only addressed the fact that even conservatives are coming around to the idea that discrimination is fundamentally un-American.

What I didn’t address was the wisdom of trying to bring about change in the courts, especially when this particular tactic has almost no chance for success. I don’t think it’s wise to proceed in the courts. Eight prominent LGBT organizations agree:

In response to the California Supreme Court decision allowing Prop 8 to stand, four LGBT legal organizations and five other leading national LGBT groups are reminding the LGBT community that ill-timed lawsuits could set the fight for marriage back. The groups released a new publication, “Why the ballot box and not the courts should be the next step on marriage in California” (PDF: 70KB/3 pages). This publication discourages people from bringing premature lawsuits based on the federal Constitution because, without more groundwork, the U.S. Supreme Court likely is not yet ready to rule that same-sex couples cannot be barred from marriage. The groups also revised “Make Change, Not Lawsuits” (PDF: 105KB/7 pages). which was released after the California Supreme Court decision ending the ban on marriage for same-sex couples in California. This publication encourages couples who have legally married to ask friends, neighbors and institutions to honor their marriages, but discourages people from bringing lawsuits. [Hyperlinks added]

I tend to agree. The problem though is this: the LGBT movement has never been a monolith. Unlike the caricature painted by our opponents, there really has never been a behind-the-scenes entity to dictate a coordinated strategy. Advancement has been a messy process, at the ballot box, in the legislatures and in the courts.

But the whole reason that we have courts is they are the ones charged with dispensing justice for those with legitimate grievances. And when someone has a legitimate grievance, it’s hard to argue that they should not exercise their constitutional right to their day in court. This true whether that grievance is against negligent employer operating an unsafe work environment, a drunk driver whose recklessness resulted in the death of a loved one, or a state with discriminatory laws.

But I do think that the LGBT advocacy groups’ advice is what we need to heed now (PDF: 70KB/3 pages):

Rather than filing premature lawsuits, we need to talk to our friends, family and neighbors, and help them understand why denial of the freedom to marry is wrong. We need to build a vigorous, aggressive campaign to overturn Prop 8 and restore the freedom to marry in California. This is the moment to convince California and America that we should have the freedom to marry.

I hope Mr. Olson will consider deploying his considerable legal talents to help us win in other ways.

Lambda Legal Urges Federal Court to Reject Gay Defamation Claim

Gabriel Arana

March 13th, 2009

Lambda Legal has filed a brief in Howard K. Stern v. Rita Cosby et al., a defamation suit in which Howard K. Stern alleges he was defamed by being falsely labeled as gay. You can read more about the case and the issue here the brief is available here. The organization’s press release follows:

Saying that someone is gay is not an insult. Being identified as gay is neither bad nor shameful – in life and under the law.

NEW YORK — Today at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Lambda Legal filed a brief arguing that the Court should reject Howard K. Stern’s claim that being called gay is defamatory per se and entitles him to collect damages.

“Saying that someone is gay is not an insult. Being identified as gay is neither bad nor shameful – in life and under the law,” said Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal. “At its core, defamation is about disgrace. Recognition of this defamation claim would demean gay men and lesbians by giving credence to antigay biases that New York has repeatedly rejected.”

In 2007, Howard K. Stern filed a lawsuit claiming that he was defamed by passages in a book titled Blonde Ambition: The Untold Story Behind the Death of Anna Nicole Smith. Lambda Legal’s friend-of-the-court brief argues that Stern’s first two claims of defamation rest on the flawed premise that being called gay would expose someone to public hatred and shame – a premise that is disproved daily throughout New York, including through the service of New York’s many openly gay and lesbian public officials. Validation of this type of defamation claim, and its underlying premise, would have a demeaning effect toward gay men and lesbians, similar to the effect caused by state sodomy laws before they were struck down by the US Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, Lambda Legal’s 2003 landmark victory. These claims are out of step with New York law and public policy, which has repeatedly affirmed the rights and dignity of gay men and lesbians.

Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal is handling the matter for Lambda Legal.

Ex-Gays And The Law: Truth Wins Out and Lambda Legal Offer Legal Advice

Jim Burroway

February 21st, 2009

Truth Wins Out and Lambda Legal have released a booklet, Ex-Gay & The Law (PDF: 1.4MB/12pages), which provides an excellent overview by Wayne Besen of the ex-gay movement and its practitioners. The booklet aims to educate ex-gay survivors who believe they were harmed by their experiences about their legal options. From TWO’s press release:

Ex-Gay & the Law helps survivors of ex-gay programs explore their legal rights if they believe they have been harmed,” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. “This groundbreaking publication offers practical legal advice so important questions can be answered.”

“We are pleased to help support this publication and to be a part of this effort,” said Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director of Lambda Legal. “Groups that proclaim to ‘cure’ gay people of their sexual orientation lack any legitimate medical backing, cause harm, and sometimes operate unlawfully and unethically. If you have experienced any of the scenarios outlined in the last pages of Ex-Gay & the Law, we welcome you to contact or Legal Help Desk.”

I’ve looked over the pamphlet. While it is definitely an advocacy piece, it certainly matches what I’ve witnessed first-hand from personally attending Love Won Out conferences, the week-long Exodus Freedom Conference in Irvine, CA., the Family Impact Summit in Florida (where Exodus International president Alan Chambers described gays as following an “evil agenda”), and by talking with survivors of the Love In Action live-in ministry.

In fact, if anything I think Wayne might have soft-pedaled some of what goes on at the Love In Action live-in ministry on page 6. The worst abuse I learned — and this was confirmed by three separate people who attended Love In Action — occurred at the so-called “Friends and Family weekend.”

It goes like this: during the “client’s” stay at Love In Action, they are required to undergo an exhausted “personal inventory” in which they recount in explicit detail each and every sexual “sin” they have ever committed — whether it was detailed descriptions of sexual acts, or if they had been celibate then detailed descriptions of their sexual fantasies. Over the course of weeks and months, they revisit their personal inventory and add to it anything else that they may remember.

During the “Friends and Family Weekend,” friends and family members are invited to come to the Love In Action campus to visit with their “struggling” loved one. After a counseling session beforehand, they are ushered into a room and are seated on one side. The clients are then brought into the room and made to stand before their families and friends. They are then ordered to read aloud from their personal inventory — with complete details over their most humiliating sexual act or fantasy. This, they read aloud in front of their parents, friends, siblings — whoever happens to be there for the weekend.

Now I mentioned the counseling session beforehand. That is key. Visitors are advised ahead of time that they will likely hear something very disturbing from their loved one, and that a key component of this “therapy” is that they are not to offer any approval for their client. They can’t say, “we love you anyway”, they can’t say “we forgive you,” they can’t say anything positive. Instead, they are instructed to condemn their loved one, to tell them how disappointed they are, how disgusted they are, and so forth. The effects of this encounter have often been devastating to clients and family members alike.

As I said, I have independent corroboration from three different former clients. Some have been able to repair their relationships with their parents.  But I do know that this isn’t always the case. The ruptured relationships between some and their family continues to this day. For too many fathers and mothers who heard their own son describe the intimate details of a sexual hook-up, they simply cannot look at him the same way again.

Lambda Legal advises:

Anyone who may have been harmed by any sort of counselor or therapist should contact Lambda Legal or a local lawyer as soon as possible. All states have a “statute of limitations” which limits the length of time for filing a lawsuit. These periods vary greatly, and may have exceptions if the patient is a minor. To best protect your legal rights, it is very important to consult an attorney sooner rather than later.

Whether or not someone can take legal action against an “ex-gay” counselor or facility will depend on factors including the law of the state where you met with the practitioner and the specific facts. There are many reasons “ex-gay” programs or practitioners may be liable for harm. If representatives of an “ex-gay” program make false claims, they may have committed fraud, breach of contract, or violated state laws against unfair business practices. If a practitioner does not adequately describe the potential harms of an “ex-gay” program, he or she may be liable for violating the duty to get consent from a person seeking care. If a practitioner is not qualified to provide therapy for a specific mental health condition and fails to refer to a qualified doctor or psychologist, he or she may be liable for negligence or violating rules governing professional licenses. If a counselor threatens to “out” you to your community if you decide you do not want to continue therapy, he or she may be liable under state law. If a practitioner tells third parties about details of your life or your same-sex attractions, that could violate your right to privacy. It is impossible to list all of the factors that might be important in evaluating whether or not someone harmed by an “exgay” program or practitioner may be able to sue in court or take other legal actions, so it is important to consult an attorney. Minors as well as adults have legal rights, including the right to consult with an attorney.

You can call Lambda Legal toll free at 866-542-8336.

For-Profit Fundraisers Rip Off Non-Profits and their Donors

Jim Burroway

July 6th, 2008

Private, for-profit companies which contract their services to non-profit organizations for fundraising have become a major rip-off, according to the Los Angeles Times this morning.

For-profit campaigns, which often employ telemarketing, mass mailings or one-time events, account for a small fraction of $223 billion in charitable giving each year in the United States. But they collect significant sums and help shape public perceptions of charities. Pairing computer-controlled dialing systems with low-wage workers, such firms can reach a large number of people in a short time.

But after these companies bills are paid, what’s left over? Often nothing. And yet the fundraising business is growing. Since 2000, the number of campaigns and amounts raised by for-profit firms has risen by about two-thirds in California alone.

To see how did your favorite LGBT charity do in California, here’s the list. GLAAD did the best, keeping a little over 70¢ of every dollar collected. Lambda Legal was very close behind at nearly 68¢. The Gay and Lesbian and Straight Education Network appears on the list twice, once under its full name, and once again under its initials. Combined, the two entities kept a little more than 59¢ of every dollar earned. Losers include the Horizon Foundation (8.6¢ of every dollar) and NGLTF (13.5¢ of every dollar, when combined with the NGLTF Foundation).

There is one caveat to these figures — they do not include fundraising which is conducted in-house.

Gay Groups Ask for Leniency in Lawrence King Murder

Jim Burroway

April 15th, 2008

Lawrence KingA coalition of 27 LGBT activist organizations is urging the Ventura County, California District Attorney to charge 14-year old Brandon McInerney, Lawrence King’s murderer, as a juvenile. McInerney shot King, 15, point blank in the head on February 12th at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California. With hate crime enhancements, McInerney faces up to 27 years in prison if he is charged as an adult. But citing an overall “climate of intolerance and fear about sexual orientation and expression,” the coalition feels that prosecuting McInerney as an adult would “compound this tragedy with another wrong.”

The press release, which is not yet available online, reads:

A coalition of 27 groups fighting for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights today is urging Ventura County prosecutors to try 14-year-old Brandon McInerney in juvenile court, and not as an adult. McInerney has been charged as an adult in the February 12 murder of his E.O. Green Middle School classmate, 15-year-old Lawrence King. Students say McInerney targeted King because the victim was openly gay and because he wore women’s jewellery and makeup.

LGBT civil rights organizations, including Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center, have delivered a short statement to Ventura County District Attorney Gregory D. Totten, calling on him to try McInerney as a juvenile.

“We are saddened and outraged by the murder of junior high school student Lawrence King,” the statement reads. “At the same time, we call on prosecutors not to compound this tragedy with another wrong “we call on them to treat the suspect as a juvenile, not as an adult.

“The facts in this matter seem clear: one boy killed another in a climate of intolerance and fear about sexual orientation and gender expression. The alleged perpetrator, who turned 14 years old less than three weeks before the shooting, should be held accountable for his actions. But we support the principles underlying our juvenile justice system that treat children differently than adults and provide greater hope and opportunity for rehabilitation. In addition, public safety is not served by treating children as adults. According to research released by the Centers for Disease Control in 2006, children transferred to adult court are more likely to re-offend than those committing similar offenses who remain in the juvenile justice system. California law does not require District Attorneys to prosecute 14 year-olds as adults, even in circumstances such as these, and we oppose them doing so. We are issuing this joint statement because we believe so strongly in principles of justice that protect all our young people and know that, even in the face of strong emotions, we should not abandon them. We refuse to let our sense of outrage blind us to the fact that the suspect is only 14 years old.

“Prosecuting the alleged perpetrator as an adult will not bring Lawrence King back nor will it make schools safer for LGBT youth. We must respond to this tragedy by strengthening our resolve to change the climate in schools, eliminate bigotry based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and hold schools responsible for protecting students against discrimination and physical harm.”

The list of signatories include: American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California; American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties; American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California; Ally Action (CA); Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE; national); Community United Against Violence (San Francisco); Different Avenues (DC); Equality California; Gay Straight Alliance Network (CA); Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD); Human Rights Campaign; LAGAI – Queer Insurrection; Lambda Legal; LifeWorks Mentoring (Los Angeles); Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center; National Black Justice Coalition; National Center for Lesbian Rights; National Center for Transgender Equality; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National; Safe Schools Coalition; San Francisco LGBT Community Center; Sylvia Rivera Law Project (New York); TGI Justice Project (CA); Transgender Law Center; The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (NY); TransYouth Family Allies, Inc.