Posts Tagged As: Pennsylvania

PA Health Dept. sues to stop marriage licenses in Montgomery County

Timothy Kincaid

July 30th, 2013

StarTribune

The state Health Department filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Commonwealth Court against D. Bruce Hanes. He oversees the granting of marriage licenses in Montgomery County, just outside Philadelphia.

The lawsuit asks the court to prevent Hanes from giving them to gay couples because it violates state law.

So it appears that Governor Tom Corbett (R) has finally decided to act… and to do so in a way as far removed from himself as possible.

While it is sad to see a challenge, it is a necessary part of the process. Until a court hears the case, there is no certainty for those couples who have married using the licenses issued by Montgomery County.

It will be interesting to see the mechanics of the lawsuit. The Attorney General will not be representing the Health Department (as would usually be the case) and while I suppose that the Health Department has inhouse counsel, I don’t know if it has a great deal of trial experience. Perhaps the Governor’s office will get involved, but so far he’s done his best to pretend as if nothing unusual is happening.

Who will oppose Montgomery County marriages? UPDATED

Timothy Kincaid

July 26th, 2013

There is debate about whether the decision by Montgomery County (Pennsylvania) Clerk Bruce Hanes to issues marriage licenses to same sex couples is civil disobedience or lawlessness and no one know whether they are truly legal or not, but one question seems to me to be even more confusing: who will oppose him?

When I first heard the news I assumed that the Republican elected officials would step in to halt proceedings. But, so far, that doesn’t appear to be happening and even the expected fiery denunciations appear to be limited to a few fringe legislators.

The County’s district attorney decided that opposing Hanes didn’t fall within her job description: (PhillyMag.com)

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman, a Republican, said Wednesday evening that a same-sex marriage license wasn’t legally valid under existing Pennsylvania law but “the remedy for issuing an invalid marriage license does not include intervention by the office of the district attorney.”

“The register of wills cannot change the laws of this commonwealth by simply ignoring them,” Ferman said in a statement. “If that change comes, it will be through Pennsylvania courts or the Legislature.”

Pennsylvania Attorney General Katheen Kane, a Democrat, has stated that she will not defend the state’s anti-gay marriage law as she believes it is unconstitutional. And Republican Governor Tom Corbett has, so far, limited his response to a statement from his press officer:

Individual elected officials cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce. All officials are constitutionally required to administer and enforce the laws that are enacted by the Legislature. Only the courts have the power to declare a law to be unconstitutional and to suspend its effects.

But other than tsk-tsking, I can find no evident steps being taken to halt the marriages by those who are empowered to do so. I assume at some point Corbett will make some legal effort or some “family” group will seek to intervene. But I am fairly shocked that marriage licenses have been issued this long without the fierce and angry response that would have been the automatic reaction not so very long ago.

UPDATE:

Joining those who say that Mr. Hanes should not be issuing same-sex marriage licenses is the Registers of Wills and Clerks of Orphans’ Court Association, which has voted unanimously that they will not follow Hanes’ lead. (Patriot News)

Larry Medaglia, the Berks County Register of Wills, who authored the resolution, said all the members present at conference agreed they would not issue licenses to gay or lesbian couples.

“The only way that is going to change given the resolution and the sentiment in the room and all the discussion is if the Legislature and the governor enact a different law or if the courts should overturn it and mandate a change,” said Medaglia, a former president of the association. “We don’t have the authority to do what Bruce Hanes is doing in Montgomery County. Frankly he doesn’t have the authority to do it.”

Behaving exactly how one would imagine an association of county clerks to behave, the issue of whether same-sex marriage should be legal didn’t arise.

But irrespective of the resolution, they have no authority over Hanes or his decision and will take no steps to compel him to stop.

Civil Disobedience vs. Lawlessness

Rob Tisinai

July 26th, 2013

In Pennsylvania, as you may know, County Clerk Bruce Hanes has issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Here’s the reaction from NOM, called The Lawlessness of Gay Marriage Activists is on Full Display:

In Pennsylvania, Montgomery County’s Register of Wills (the person who issues marriage licenses) suddenly decided he can ignore Pennsylvania law and give marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The guy claims he did it only after reading Justice Kennedy’s opinion in the Windsor case striking down part of the federal DOMA law, and concluded that gay couples should have the right to marry even though Pennsylvania law defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Kudos to the Office of General Counsel for the Governor for insisting “Individual elected officials cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce,” as their press secretary Nils Hagen-Frederiksen wrote in a released statement. “All officials are constitutionally required to administer and enforce the laws that are enacted by the Legislature.”

The irony is so bright it burns my eyes. NOM has built fundraising efforts on the notion that Town Clerks in New York have the right to “pick and choose which laws to enforce” and to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as an exercise of their religious freedom.

NOM’s hypocrisy will surprise only those who haven’t been paying attention. But what about our own hypocrisy when we denounce the New York Town Clerks while praising Montgomery County’s Bruce Hanes? Is there a difference?

I think there is.

Civil disobedience has a long and proud history in the US. In its best form, though, it’s not a mere refusal to obey a law. It involves a person publicly breaking an unjust law and accepting the consequences precisely in order to force an examination of that law in the public eye, and if necessary, in court. This is not “lawlessness.” It’s a deliberate attempt to invoke our legal system.

That’s happening right now in Montgomery County.  It’s not quite what happened in New York with those Town Clerks. They didn’t do anything to force a re-examination of marriage equality. In fact, they were willing to direct same-sex applicants other Clerks. Unlike Bruce Hanes, they did not say the marriage equality law was invalid; they merely claimed that they personally did not have to obey it.

Now, that’s lawlessness.

Perhaps this isn’t entirely fair. Those Clerks might say they weren’t protesting marriage equality per se, but the laws that force them to sign documents for marriages they personally deem invalid. It’s hard to believe their sincerity, though. They’d have to argue that religious freedom means that government officials can demand you pass their personal religious test before they’ll help you, and that, of course, is the opposite of religious freedom.

I see another difference between New York and Montgomery County, though: Civil disobedience doesn’t usually involve someone using their power to victimize citizens. Civil disobedience doesn’t much involve victims at all — the lack of victims is a sign that the law being disobeyed is unjust! It’s easy to identify by name the victims of the New York Town Clerks. The victims in Montgomery County, not so much.

Before I close, I want to point out something NOM founder Robert George published two days ago on the question of religious freedom:

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., responded in his Letter from Birmingham Jail to those who criticized his program of civil disobedience as mere willful law-breaking:

I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

King turned not inward to his own feelings of being aggrieved by the law, not to the intuitions of his autonomous self, and not even to a claim of his own rights. Instead he turned to “moral responsibility”—to obligation, to duty. He, like Newman, understood this as a duty to principles of justice we did not create, but to which we must respond. As the Declaration of Independence teaches us, prior to any laws made by men are the immutable standards of justice—standards by which we judge whether the laws are just and can rightfully command our obedience.

Robert George, fierce opponent of marriage equality, goes on to identify those standards:

These standards, of the equal dignity of all human persons, of their equal freedom, and of the accountability of government to the people…

As I said above: The irony is so bright it burns.

Same-sex marriage takes place in Pennsylvania

Timothy Kincaid

July 24th, 2013

Basing his opinion on the language in the recent Supreme Court ruling on DOMA3, County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes determined that Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, had no reason not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (WaPo)

At least five same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses Wednesday in a suburban Philadelphia county that is defying a state ban on such unions.

Alicia Terrizzi and Loreen Bloodgood, of Pottstown, were the only couple to marry right away, exchanging vows in a park before a minister and their two young sons.

It is not immediately determinable whether these marriages will be reversed in court – or even if they will be challenged.

The ACLU has sued the state for marriage equality, and State Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, has said that she believes the law to be unconstitutional and will not defend it in court. Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, has as yet not stated his intent with either the ACLU lawsuit nor the Montgomery County marriages. Also silent is Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman, a Republican.

ACLU Announces Three Marriage Lawsuits

Jim Burroway

July 9th, 2013

Fresh off its victory in Windsor v. U.S. which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, the ACLU’s is filing three more lawsuits, in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia. In Whitewood v. Corbett, the ACLU is challenging Pennsylvania’s statute which bans same-sex marriage. In Fisher-Borne v. Smith, the ACLU will amend its lawsuit seeking adoption rights to include the right to marriage. In the Virginia case, the ACLU and Lambda Legal are still in the planning stages, with plaintiffs and precise details of the case still being worked out. They expect to file that lawsuit later this summer.

Meanwhile, the ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have filed a motion with the New Mexico Supreme Court, asking it to order state officials to allow same-sex couples to marry. State law is currently silent on the question. Other lawsuits are working their way through Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey and Michigan.

Pennsylvania GOP State Lawmaker Comes Out

Jim Burroway

December 3rd, 2012

Pennsylvania Republican State Rep. Mike Fleck made a few headlines over the weekend when he came out as gay, making him the first openly gay Republican state legislator in Pennsylvania. Fleck, identified as a devout Christian, first won his seat in 2006. He described his coming out this way:

Coming out is hard enough, but doing it in the public eye is definitely something I never anticipated,” he said. “I’m still the exact same person and I’m still a Republican and, most importantly, I’m still a person of faith trying to live life as a servant of God and the public. The only difference now is that I will also be doing so as honestly as I know how.”

Fleck, was an executive at the Boy Scouts of America, felt compelled to remain in the closet even though he knew he was gay. He married in 2000, but they divorced in the past year. He also tried ex-gay therapy:

“I sought out treatment from a Christian counselor, but when that didn’t work out, I engaged a secular therapist who told me point blank that I was gay and that I was too caught up in being the perfect Christian rather than actually being authentic and honest,” Fleck said.

He said the hardest part of the process has been reconciling his faith with his sexuality.

“Through years of counseling, I’ve met a lot of gay Christians who have tried hard to change their God-given sexual orientation, but at the end of the day, I know of none who’ve been successful,” he said. “They’ve only succeeded at repressing their identity, only to have it reappear time and time again and always wreaking havoc not only on themselves, but especially on their family.”

Fleck says that he and his wife remain close friends.

He will be joined in Harrisburg in January by Democrat Brian Sims of Philadelphia, who is the first openly gay candidate to run and win a state office in Pennsylvania.

Fleck is currently the only openly gay Republican state legislator in the country. But in January, he will give up that distinction when Ohio Republican Tim Brown is sworn in to that state’s House of Representatives in January.

Early reports had it that Fleck was the first openly gay GOP state lawmaker in the country, but that is incorrect. I don’t know who holds that distinction, but former Arizona Rep. Steve May came out in 1999 during a speech on the House floor. He was then discharged from the Army Reserves for violating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” May served as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee where he played a role in repealing the state’s sodomy law. He lost his House seat in 2002.

It’s not a gay thing

Timothy Kincaid

October 8th, 2012

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Every day en route to work, I’m greeted by a billboard telling me “Obama supports gay marriage.” It then asks if I do, while recommending that I “vote Republican.”

Really? That’s supposed to be my voting criterion? Why are decisions like choosing presidents or chicken sandwiches now a gay thing?

Go read the rest of it. And then read the comments.

Pennsylvania School Turns Away HIV-Positive Student

Jim Burroway

December 2nd, 2011

Honestly, I had to look at the calendar to make sure it wasn’t still 1985 when I saw this one:

The Milton Hershey School was founded by the chocolate tycoon as a school that “nurtures and educates children in social and financial need to lead fulfilling and productive lives.” But it seems that fulfillment won’t be coming for a 13-year-old honor student from Delaware County who is infected with the virus that causes AIDS. “I feel no other teenager should go through this, being denied just because they have HIV,” the boy said in an exclusive interview with NBC Philadelphia’s Denise Nakano.

He is suing the school in U.S. Federal District Court, alleging that the Hershey School is in violation of “multiple anti-discrimination laws.” The school has, in effect, admitted as such in a particularly ignorant fashion:

Milton Hershey School released a statement Wednesday saying in part that “in order to protect our children in this unique environment, we cannot accommodate the needs of students with chronic communicable diseases that pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others.”

Except he doesn’t pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others. He’s not a walking HIV virus, eager to infect everyone he comes in contact with.

Nation’s 10-Year-Old Boys: “If You See Someone Raping Us, Please Call The Police”

Jim Burroway

November 28th, 2011

That’s actually an Onion headline:

…”Many of you will no doubt be relieved to know the proper course of action is really quite simple: Just contact the police. Call 911, go to your local precinct, stop an officer on the street—the bottom line is, if you see one of us getting raped, notify the police, and do so as quickly as possible.”

“It doesn’t matter who the boy being raped is, and it doesn’t matter who is doing the raping, just please, please alert law enforcement,” Pearson added as the 10-year-old boys surrounding him nodded soberly. “And by the way, under no circumstances is it ever okay for an adult to rape a 10-year-old boy, so you really can’t go wrong by calling the police when something like that happens.”

Maybe it really does take satire to state the obvious.

High Crimes

Jim Burroway

November 14th, 2011

I’ve said this before and I’ll probably say it again a thousand more times: I cannot fathom what it is that gets into people who think that the appropriate response to witnessing the commission of a felony is not to call the police. Instead, they “report” it to a bureaucrat of an institution in whose best interest it is for the “scandal” — no, it’s not a scandal, it’s a crime — to be brushed under the rug and kept out of the newspapers. For decades, children were molested by Catholic priests and nobody thought to call the police. For decades, gay kids have been feloniously assaulted in the schools and an administrator is called upon to do what the prosecuting attorney is legally constituted to do.

And so we see the familiar pattern repeated again at Penn State. A grad student witnessed Penn State’s defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky raping a ten-year-old boy in the football team’s shower room and what was his response? If you had guessed that the burly former star Penn State quarterback stepped in to rescue a defenseless child from a rapist, you’d be wrong. Instead, he told Joe Paterno, who told someone in the administration, and everyone along the line let the matter drop after, I assume, a stern scolding of Sandusky. “Don’t do that again!”, I’m sure they told him. Except he did, of course, for more than ten more years and who knows how many more victims. Meanwhile, Mike McQueary, that grad student, went on to become an assistant coach. And Paterno, that paragon of virtue and civic responsibility, y0u know his response would have been very different had McQueary told him that something funny was going on between Sandusky and Paterno’s grandson. But that’s not who the victim was, and so Paterno revealed that all of his virtues went toward defending Penn State, and not an innocent young rape victim at the hands of his former employee in his own shower room.

Sandusky has finally been arrested, along with two Penn State officials who covered up his crimes and enabled him to continue raping God knows how many more kids in the decade since McQueary and Paterno’s shrug. The more he know about Sandusky, the more we can see that he fits an exceptionally well-defined pattern of a pedophile. First off, this case shows that heterosexual adult men — Sandusky is married and the upstanding father of six adopted children — can and do abuse boys. In fact, it’s the norm. Sandusky’s targets were mostly prepubertal males between the ages of 7 to 12. (Gay men, if they do engage in sexual conduct with underage males, are much more likely to choose post-pubescent males, not pre-pubescent ones.) A pedophile typically prefers a specific pre-pubertal male or female body type, but will sometimes abuse the other gender if their preferred type is not available, To a pedophile, pre-pubertal children’s bodies are sufficiently similar. He carefully selected his victims and “groomed” them with gifts, tickets to Penn State games, and access to the child’s football heros before and after the game. Plying them with gifts like these not only won over their trust — and their parents’ trust as well — but also ensured their silence when payback time came around:

The coach’s actions, according to his accusers, followed a pattern. He’d invite them places, pick them up in his car and then, they say, place his hand on their thigh while driving.

At the Penn State football facility, the grand jury alleges, he’d take them to work out and then suggest they shower together, where the touching progressed: soap fights, back rubs and naked bear hugs. It would allegedly lead to more.

Some accusers described a basement room in Sandusky’s house where they stayed overnight. He’d lie down and tickle them, rub their backs, and blow on their stomachs, they said. One alleged victim, now 24, told the grand jury he “would roll over on his stomach to prevent Sandusky from touching his genitals.”

If any of the boys tried to avoid him, the coach would stalk them by calling dozens of times and by visiting their homes, according to the grand jury report.

He’d try to regain their favor by buying them gifts: shoes, electronics, clothes, anything a kid might want.

Sandusky’s tactics didn’t always work. Many boys resisted. But others didn’t. And in the most insidious aspect to this whole mess, Sandusky set up an entire charity which may well have done some good in the lives of some of these young boys, but we also know it served as a conduit of victims for Sandusky’s ongoing criminal activities. That alone makes this case rather unique. Most pedophiles don’t have the resources to create their own supply chain. But other than that, Sandusky’s case represents a textbook case of what has been identified as a “regressed” type pedophile. For more information into this phenomenon, please see our report, Testing the Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

And finally, some on the extreme right are taking this case as a reason why gays and lesbians shouldn’t be around children. That reaction is as predictable as it is nonsensical. If there had been a nationwide ban on gays being within 100 yards of a child, these crimes would have still gone on undetected. Remember, he was married and would have been completely protected by both this imaginary ban and the ongoing collusion of Penn State officials. This has about as much to do with homosexuality as the Charles Manson murders has to do with gun control or John Lennon.

Penn State Student Schools Santorum on Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2011

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzzDrOR30U8

Sen. Rick Santorum held a Q&A at Penn State on Tuesday, where he entered into this exchange with a Penn State student about the social science showing that kids in families headed by gay parents have just as good outcomes as children in families headed by heterosexual parents.

Santorum: The interview was yesterday, but it’s going to be shown tomorrow night on CNN. I had Piers Morgan call me a bigot. Because I believe what the Catholic Church teaches with respect to homosexuality, I’m a bigot. So, now I’m a bigot because I believe what the Bible teaches. Now, 2000 years of teaching and moral theology is now bigoted. And, of course, we don’t elect bigots to office, we don’t give them professional licenses, we don’t give them preferential tax treatment! If you’re a preacher and you preach bigoted things, you think you’re going to be allow to have a 501(c)3 as a church? Of course not.

This has profound consequence to the entire moral ecology of America. It will undermine the family. It will destroy faith in America. And does anybody go out there and make the argument as to why this is a good thing because it will happen. Make the argument why this is right. I don’t hear those arguments. I don’t hear them making….

Student: There is plenty of social science…

Santorum. What’s the social science?

Student: I’m not going to attempt to say that there is this one and this one and this one. But it is extremely unfair for you to say that there are no social science reports that suggest that children are okay in a same-sex relationship. There are plenty of statistical studies that they are just as happy and successful and everything else as long as they have two parents supporting them.

Santorum: I see. And so you…

Student: The American Psychological Association…

Santorum: But wait! But isn’t … I mean you’re a lawyer. [unintelligible]…

Student: The American Psychological Association has enumerated – in 1974, that gay marriage does not prohibit [unintelligible]…

Santorum: I understand that, but the American Psychological Association is made up of people who agree with the American Psychological Association, just like the AMA… A lot of psychologists don’t belong to the American Psychological Association. A lot of doctors don’t belong to the American Medical Association. All these associations prove is that they have a point of view and the people who join them agree with that point of view

Student: You just asked for evidence and you got evidence…

Santorum: That’s not evidence! An organization supporting a position is not evidence of a benefit to society.

Student: Are you a psychiatrist? Are you a medical doctor?

Santorum: My dad was. I’m not but that’s not the point, lawyer! Okay? Let’s be a lawyer here.

Student: Well wait, if we’re going to be a lawyer here…

Santorum: Time out! Time out. Time out. [Crosstalk] Time out, I’ve given you a chance … Time out! Time out! Time out. The American Psychological Association is not proof of anything. Okay? It’s proof that a group of people agree with you. That’s all it’s proof of. Okay?

That’s the way they use science these days, isn’t it. They’re only looking for proof among people who agree with you. Unfortunately, the only way to come up with that proof is the misrepresent the science that’s already out there.

Any hope for Toomey?

Timothy Kincaid

January 3rd, 2011

Here’s a odd little note about Pat Toomey, the incoming Republican/Tea Party Pennsylvania Senator: (NYT)

But as he prepared to take office this week, Mr. Toomey hardly sounded like a partisan rabble-rouser.

For one thing, he supported repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

On “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Mr. Toomey said that since the military brass believed that allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly would enable the armed forces to execute their mission better, he was supportive of a repeal. He also said that the previous policy was wrong because it forced gay service members to “live a lie.”

I’ve bought into the portrayal of Toomey as extremist and assumed his Tea Party fiscal conservatism was a cover for his right-wing social agenda. I hope this is an indication that perhaps there is a more nuanced Toomey than has been portrayed, and that he is approachable on some of our issues.

NOM’S Sodomy-Obsessed Supporters and “Piggybacking”

Jim Burroway

August 16th, 2010

This NOM supporter in Harrisburg sums it all up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tauRek-Du20

Remember, they really don’t hate us.[

Pennsylvania Lutherans confirm pro-gay positions

Timothy Kincaid

June 26th, 2010

elca
Last August the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to revise its policy on sexuality to allow member congregations freedom to decide for themselves whether they would now accept ministers in committed same-sex relationships. Conservatives predicted schism.

To date only a few dozen churches have left the denomination over the decision, but the “conflict” is enticing to news sources so each disgruntled congregation receives breathless coverage. Less dramatic, but no less important, was a decision this week by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod. (readingeagle.com)

Delegates failed to approve a resolution that would have petitioned the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America churchwide assembly at its next meeting in 2011 to rescind actions of 2009 relating to persons in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”

An exact vote tally was not yet available, but the Rev. Catherine A. Ziel, executive associate of synod Bishop Samuel Zeiser, said the resolution was resoundingly defeated.

Anti-gay marriage bill dies in PA Judiciary Committee

Timothy Kincaid

March 16th, 2010

Perhaps Pennsylvania Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr. though that his marriage amendment bill would fare well in the Senate Judiciary Committee. After all, with an 9 to 5 Republican majority it would just be expected.

No such luck, Eichelberger. (On Top)

Eichelberger’s resolution would insert the following language into the state constitution: “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid and recognized as a marriage in this Commonwealth.”

But three Republican and five Democratic lawmakers disagreed. Joining all the committee’s Democrats in killing the resolution were Republicans Pat Browne, Jane Earll and Mary Jo White.

It must have Eichelberger wondering why (PhillyBurbs)

The latest effort to amend Pennsylvania’s constitution to effectively ban gay marriage appeared dead today after three senators who supported an even broader measure two years ago changed their vote in committee, according to the Associated Press.

But there was no debate whatsoever on the bill, so we can only speculate about possible motivations. It may well be that these Senators have come to know and love gay people in their lives. They may have found a new respect for equality.

Of course, there is also another possibility. (Pennsylvania Progressive)

I spend a fair amount of time in Harrisburg. I know who is closeted. Any closeted Senator who votes for Eichelberger’s bill will be outed. I also know a State Senator who is wildly homophobic and is also an alcoholic. One of her rants will also be made public depending on her vote. This is fair warning.

We’ll probably never know what led to their decisions. I’m just happy they voted as they did.

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