LGBT Humanist News: 6 September, 2012 (vol. 1, issue 5)
Hello everyone and welcome to our fifth edition of the weekly LGBT Humanist News. First off, I hope that all of you had a great (and safe) Labor Day weekend. I spent my holiday with friends out in the depths of the desert. My best friend and I went to Death Valley for a couple of days to experience the splendor of the delicate dance of deadly Mojave heat with the astounding beauty of the lowest desert in North America. Because my short vacation delayed this bulletin, I am going to make my intro short to say that I will be calling each of the AHA’s chapters and affiliates to discuss the LGBT Humanist Council. I will be doing so in hope of participation in our projects, and the potential for forming satellite chapters of the LGBT Humanist Council. Our first such group is highlighted in this issue by their leader Lucas McCahill. In the next month, we will see another one of these groups appear in San Diego, California; and who knows, maybe a city near you? If you don’t have an AHA chapter nearby, we can help you start one (even if it is primarily a LGBT Humanist Council Affiliate).
So I hope that you enjoy this edition. If you haven’t already, please ‘like’ our LGBT Humanist Council Facebook page. If you are looking for a good place to make a tax-deductible donation, please go to www.americanhumanist.org, and earmark your donation to the LGBT Humanist Council in the comment section. Lastly, if you would like to start up a local LGBT Humanist Council satellite group, or to let us know what is happening locally, please email us at email@example.com. We need your help to grow, and will be contacting your local AHA groups very soon to help make this possible.
And while on the eastern edge of Death Valley National Park, in the small Nevada town of Beatty, a man stood to peruse a heterosexual male travel companion of mine; and boy did he take a long, good look. By the looks of the guy checking out my friend, I can now conclusively say, “Yes Virginia, there are leather daddies in the desert.”
Yours in Humanism,
LGBT Humanist Council Coordinator
Baltimore’s LGBT Humanist Council
(From Lucas McCahill, Lead Organizer, LGBTQ Humanist Council, Baltimore, MD)
Here in Baltimore we have started this LGBT Humanist Council affiliate in March. We are still young, but very much thriving. I took the honorable title of Lead Organizer as of early June. It has been amazing! I have always wanted something like this for Baltimore. One of the key things that we try to do is bring the prospective of humanism for LGBTQ people. So many LGBTQ people have a sense of shame and they think that they are going to answer to something eventually for being themselves. We want to get rid of that shame.
We have been making the connections with the prominent community groups and members. Last month we were interviewed by a local queer newspaper, "Baltimore Gay Life" about who we are and what we have been doing for marriage equality. With marriage equality being on the ballot this November in our state of Maryland; we have become coalition partners with the people fighting to keep marriage equality true here in Maryland. The coalition is called “Marylanders for Marriage Equality.” With them we have been aiding in getting the word out about the truth about marriage equality.
Maryland has a lot of churches preaching against marriage equality and they are twisting things to try and make it sound like pure evil. So we have been working in the community to bring clarity to this issue. Here in Maryland marriage equality does separate church from state. This, as you know, is a very Humanist point of view. So we are very glad to be working on this issue.
But marriage equality is not the only thing that affects our collective community. In the last few months here in Maryland 4 transgender people murdered. This is despite the transgender hate crimes protections being on the books. More than just being a Humanist, as a gender-queer person, I take this to heart. So we have partnered with the local LGBTQ community center and we will be working to educate both the community as a whole and the community of LGBT people about who we really are. All people, no matter how they identify in sexuality and gender-identity, deserve to live a full life without the fear of being murdered or attacked in any way for just living their lives. My co-organizer Nicole Stanovsky has been an amazing force in making connections in the art community as well bringing clarity to these topics. I am very honored to work with her.
I love this council. No other time have I seen a group who would start out with a trans- person as a leader and then do it again. That takes guts! Emil Volcheck is one of our founders and is an amazing ally. I am glad to know him and to work with him. I believe that when a group has a base of open communication, and respect with a mixed group of allies and inter community people, that we can thrive. We are the fruit of this belief.
We have just under 30 members now, but I believe that we will grow if we just keep telling people about how things can be with Humanism. I know that we can't win everybody over, but I believe that we can win over many people and that is good enough for me, because they too will influence their surroundings. My hope is that people will see us and have hope because of it and maybe even start groups like ours in other states. We are shining lights for this dark, dark world. I know that my partners and I are very honored and proud to be those lights. As I took this position I found the courage to transition, that is just how amazing humanism is and how amazing this council is.
Thursday, some of us will be at a fundraiser for marriage equality in DC at the Washington Ethical Society. There the leader of the Baltimore Ethical Society will be speaking about their society and our council. He too is an amazing ally. We are so diverse, but so alike in who we are and where we come from. For example, I grew up in an evangelical household. I never knew then that something like this existed, but I am glad that it does. And thanks to people throughout everything that have come to me, I am now a proud secular humanist. With this council we want to bring hope for people that otherwise don't see hope. Humanism to me is what Christians see Jesus as, that warm and welcoming hug of hope. The only difference is that this hug does not need you to change to get the love. I think that we as people really need that right now.
Marriage Equality News
Marriage equality news from down under is both hopeful and disconcerting. According to Pink News, lawmakers in Tasmania have passed an equal-marriage bill in the lower house 13-11.[i] Hopefully this southern Australian state can start a national chain reaction, bending marriage equality throughout the Commonwealth of Australia in line with its northern neighbor, New Zealand. New Zealand currently has an equal marriage bill which passed in parliament (80/40) in Wellington.[ii] Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, according to Gay Star News, if an equal-marriage bill passes in New Zealand’s parliament, many New Zealand religious groups will “ignore” it.[iii]
To Stuff.co.nz, the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand President Anwar Ghani called “same-sex marriage unacceptable under Muslim law.” Ghani furthered, “Our opposition is very clear - Islam does not allow marriages of same sex. Islam views marriage not just for recreation, but for procreation. Lali Singh, General Secretary of the New Zealand Sikh Society said that “We will not allow any gay marriages in the temples... It’s against religious rules - it should be just between a man and a woman.”
This web was abuzz last week with both pro and anti-marriage equality sentiments from the religious disfavor to the more Olympic-mental gymnastics. According to The Advocate, A U.K. group, “Society for the Protection of Unborn Children” is claiming that “a ‘redefinition’ of marriage will lead to fewer people marrying and hence more choosing abortion.” The group said, “We must protect real marriage because it protects children in the womb. Statistics show that unborn babies are four or five times more likely to be aborted outside real marriage.”[iv]
Of course, the late Yale historian John Boswell would have disagreed by saying that social tolerance is not correlated to rates of homosexual occurrence (Boswell: 1980),[v] and Boswell would have certainly furthered this by saying that extending civil marriage recognition to equivalent same-sex couples would have no effect on heterosexual marital relationships that they are either already not participating in, or potentially sabotaging such spousal arrangements by dishonesty.
Beyond the heavy hand of government, the little things can compel us also. According to The Advocate, an opposite-sex Indianapolis couple made a statement recently when at their wedding reception, they offered the first dance to the gay and lesbian couples in attendance. Joe Ball and Meg Liffick read a statement that they “wanted to offer the privilege of the first dance to their LGBT attendees who are still legally denied the right to marry.”[vi]
Brazilian Man gets maternity leave
Parental-leave laws differ from country to country. For example, Canada is the only North American country with paid maternity leave.[vii] By the Family Medical Care Leave Act, Women in the United States receive three months leave after having a child. In Brazil, things are a little different, but have recently become more so. Until recently, in Brazil, women would receive four months of parental (maternity) leave, while men would only receive five days.[viii] Brazil also allows for same-sex couples to enter into civil unions nationally. The adoption of a child by Lucimar da Silva and his civil union partner Rafael Gerhardt led the couple to pursue the parental leave generally reserved for women.
Da Silva, a banker, had applied two years prior to receive the standard of leave reserved for new mothers. In Brazil women in same-sex civil unions are both eligible for the four month leave. According to The Guardian,[ix] Gerhardt and Da Silva argued that, “at least one of them should be entitled to a longer period of leave.”
According to Gay Star News, Da Silva will receive the same parental leave as a woman. The Social Security Agency told the Brazilian TV network O Globo, “However unusual it may seem to grant maternity leave to a male person... this hypothesis is possible when the father takes care of the newborn.” Lesbian couples in Brazil get four months leave each. In 2011, Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that same-sex spouses were entitled to every legal right of marriage granted to their heterosexual counterparts. This does not apply to all same-sex parent couples. The Court cited that any future extension of four month leave to male parents will be on a case by case basis.
Brazil’s 3-Person Civil Union and the End to Bigamy in the United States
Polygamy tends to offend Western sensibilities. A family-unit in Brazil recently hit the headlines as being the South American nation’s first civil union of three adults. This received immediate consternation and criticism. Yet beyond instant reactions of disapproval, this civil union raises several questions. In the United States, we took at hard stance against multiples marriage in 1878, and with the recent extension of official state marital recognition to same-sex couples.
Generally when we speak of marital arrangements to simultaneous multiple partners, we are referring to polygyny (one man with multiple wives), as opposed to polyandry (one woman with multiple husbands) or other cases of mixed-polyfidelitous relationships. These spousal arrangements tend to be disproportionate, having one man having multiple wives who are exclusively monogamous to him. In other traditions, multiple marital arrangements occur culturally sanctioned. These polygynous relationships tend to exhibit coverture of the husband subsidizing his wives’ existences. These arrangements also tend to arise in authoritative and paternalistic contexts. They also tend to happen in cultural frameworks where polyandry is unthinkable. This would uphold the idea that proportionate marriage arrangements between each of the constituents would be seen with equal opprobrium.
According to USA Today one man and two women became the first people granted a three-way civil union in Brazil. Claudia do Nascimento Domingues called this union that she notarized a “polyfidelitous union.” Brazil defines a marriage between two people, and a civil union grants the rights of marriage. The head of the Family Law Committee of Lawyers Association in Sao Paulo Brazil, Regina Beatriz Tavares da Silva said that, “This union is void of any legality.” The “triple” in question is a group of three professions in their 30’s who cohabit and according to USA Today say that they “love one another as equals and are like any other no-married cohabiting couple.”[x]
According to Time’s Newsfeed, the three share a bank account, bills and expenses. “Nathaniel Santos Batista Junior, the jurist who drafted the official document, told Globo TV the purpose of the union was fundamentally practical: to ensure the rights of partners should one of them pass or separate.” Civil unions came to pass in 2004 in Brazil, mostly to accommodate same-sex couples.[xi] According to The Daily Telegraph,[xii] Domingues, “We are only recognizing what has always existed. We are not inventing anything.” The Mormon Church has plural marriage, but dropped it in 1890. Polygamy exists in almost 50 countries today.
According to The Week, Domingues says that there is no law prohibiting it, but since the triple won’t experience the same legal rights as marriage; this union may not technically count as polygamy. Lawyer Beatriz Tavares de Silva, president of the Commission for the Rights of the Family at Brazil’s Institute for Lawyers has called the union a violation against Brazil’s law against bigamy.
Though thoroughly grounded in religious doctrine where it occurs, the United States has a modest separation of church and state for which the issue of bigamy was firmly decided in 1878 by the U.S. Supreme Court (Reynolds v. United States (1878), 98 U.S. 145.[xiii]). In 1862, the U.S. Congress penned and passed legislation concerning the Territory of Utah. The Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act[xiv] criminalized the act of marrying others while being married. The next section of the act nullified the Mormon state of Deseret established by the Utah Territory legislature in 1852, thus construing the first section to be anti-Mormon. Mormon leader Brigham Young’s church secretary George Reynolds’ polygamous conduct led to his conviction for violating the Morrill Act, which was subsequently appealed to the highest court.[xv]
The Supreme Court has both appellate and original jurisdiction. When the Supreme Court hears an appealed case, they do not proceed to determine the facts. Their job at that point is to determine whether a lower court had properly ruled. The Reynolds Court was established to determine if there had been a proper jury size and selection, and if there was improper admission of evidence. Most importantly, Reynolds asked the question if the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment trumped Morrill. Would the Mormons’ religious obligations toward polygyny trump the State’s prohibitions against polygamy?
The Grant appointed Chief Justice Morris Waite issued the Court’s opinion. The Court found that outside of circuit and district courts, territorial courts were “free to act in obedience to the requirements of the territorial laws in force for the time being.” The Court also ruled that there was not a valid claim against a juror in a “presumption of partiality;” that the jury “could not have gone into the box entirely free from bias and prejudice, and that if the challenge was not good for principal cause, it was in favor.” Chief Justice Waite also ruled that “The Constitution does not guarantee an accused person against the legitimate consequences of his own wrongful acts. It grants him the privilege of being confronted with witness against him.” The Court had struck down appellate claims that there was a mishandling of the size and impanelling of the jury and an improper admittance of evidence.
Chief Justice Waite wrote, “The inquiry is not as to the power of Congress to prescribe criminal laws for the Territories, but as to the guilt of one who knowingly violates a law which has been properly enacted, if he entertains a religious belief that the law is wrong.” Waite wrote that as the word ‘religion’ is not defined in the Constitution, that the Court needed to look at the history of the meaning of the term in order to find the “the religious freedom which has been guaranteed.” Waite cited James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance; a document widely circulated and signed in response to a 1784 Virginia House of Delegates bill “establishing provisions for teachers of the Christian religion.” Madison’s response was “that religion, or the duty we owe the Creator, was not within the cognizance of civil government.”
Thomas Jefferson’s response to the provisions bill was his authoring of the “Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.” Jefferson defined religious liberty as, "that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty," it is declared "that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order.”
Looking at the will of Jefferson and Madison, Waite wrote that coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured. Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order.
Waite then turned to Polygamy and its social effects. “Polygamy has always been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe, and, until the establishment of the Mormon Church, was almost exclusively feature of the life of Asiatic and of African people. At common law, the second marriage was always void, and from the earliest history of England polygamy has been treated as an offence [sic] against society.”
Waite cited a deep traditional history against polygamy. Waite cited a certain Professor Lieber who said, “polygamy leads to the patriarchal principle, and which, when applied to large communities, fetters the people in stationary despotism, while that principle cannot long exist in connection with monogamy.” Waite also discussed potential conflict of religious-based human sacrifice and civil law. Outside of hyperbole, Waite got down to brass tacks.
So here, as a law of the organization of society under the exclusive dominion of the United States, it is provided that plural marriages shall not be allowed. Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances.
Waite went on to say that the petitioner knew that he was breaking the civil law, even for religious reasons. “Ignorance of a fact may sometimes be taken as evidence of a want of criminal intent, but not ignorance of the law. The only defence [sic] of the accused in this case is his belief that the law ought not to have been enacted. It matters not that his belief was a part of his professed religion: it was still belief, and belief only.”
Waite finalized the opinion by discussing that, “the statute immediately under consideration is within the legislative power of Congress. It is constitutional and valid as prescribing a rule of action for all those residing in the Territories, and in places over which the United States have exclusive control.”
While every appeal by the court to the passions or the prejudices of a jury should be promptly rebuked, and while it is the imperative duty of a reviewing court to take care that wrong is not done in this way, we see no just cause for complaint in this case. Congress, in 1862 (12 Stat. 501), saw fit to make bigamy a crime in the Territories. This was done because of the evil consequences that were supposed to flow from plural marriages. All the court did was to call the attention of the jury to the peculiar character of the crime for which the accused was on trial, and to remind them of the duty they had to perform. There was no appeal to the passions, no instigation of prejudice. Upon the showing made by the accused himself, he was guilty of a violation of the law under which he had been indicted: and the effort of the court seems to have been not to withdraw the minds of the jury from the issue to be tried, but to bring them to it; not to make them partial, but to keep them impartial.
Waite had said it best when he wrote that to consider religious doctrine above civil law was to make the latter subordinate to the former. The Brazilian civil-union-trio is an exceptional case that merits further discussion. What are your thoughts on polygamy? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Memoriam, Allan Horsfall
Five years before that summer when the queens picked up bottles to fight back against their NYPD oppressors, a Brit was fighting the good fight for our equality. His name was Allan Horsfall. Allan Horsfall, British Labour Party politician and one of the LGBT rights pioneers has died at 84 years old.[xvi] Horsfall helped set up the British Homosexual Law Reform Committee (later Campaign for Homosexual Equality) in 1964.
According to Gay Star News LGBT activist Peter Tatchell called Horsfall “arguably the grandfather of the modern gay rights movement in Britain. We all walk in Allan’s shadow. He was active in LGBT campaigning until a few months before his death. Allan deserves a Queer State Funeral.” A man who campaigned alongside Horsfall, Ray Gosling said, “Allan’s contribution to gay rights is he invented it. Allan was the founder of it all and a great inspiration to me and a lovely, lovely friend. He had a wonderful life until really his last few days.” LGBT activist George Broadhead said, “Like another prominent gay Humanist Anthony Grey who died in 2010, Allan, made an invaluable contribution to the campaign for LGBT rights.”
Part of the problem that plagues the LGBT community is that unlike other marginalized communities, we are not born with “gay grandmothers” to tell us the stories of those who fought hard for us (Boswell: 1980). Sure Sean Penn portrayed Harvey Milk, but how many of our people have heard of the Mattachine Society or Daughters of Bilitis? We should celebrate Horsfall’s memory with the same vigor as Harvey Milk. We should also remember others like Bayard Rustin who came before us and laid the groundwork on which our visibility and current (and expanding), social acceptance rests.
Here’s to you, Allan.
Labor Day marked the cultural end of summer as the warmth of the evening sun is replaced by the glow of the boob tube. Americans will be entranced by our national pastime, vegging. Some of our favorites will return and some will go. There is also brewing excitement over NBC’s The New Normal. One Utah station is refusing to air the new sitcom which highlights a gay couple pursuing having a child with a surrogate mother. Outside of one stations critique by refusal, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has released it’s Network TV LGBT Inclusiveness scorecard.
Starring the Book of Mormon’s Andrew Rannells and The Hangover’s Justin Bartha, The New Normal highlights a gay couple pursuing having a child with a surrogate mother (Georgia King). The inevitable conflict occurs when King’s character Goldie decides to serve as a surrogate for Bartha and Rannells. Goldie’s grandmother, an uptight, bigoted and exaggeratedly homophobic real estate agent (played by Ellen Barkin) gets word of this. I found this show a little rough around the edges, in moments bit too saccharine, but overall funny. The New Normal’s pilot can be seen on Hulu or as a free iTunes download.
A Utah TV station did not find the show as amusing as I, and did Ellen Barkin find that station’s refusal to air The New Normal even less gleeful. According to Queerty,[xvii] KSL-TV (Salt Lake City) has refused to air The New Normal. After meeting with representatives from Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center, KSL released a statement saying that the gay characters were not the determining factor, but because they felt that The New Normal “had a number of issues including sexually explicit content, demeaning dialogue, and inciting stereotypes.”
According to The Advocate,[xviii] in response to KSL-TV, The New Normal star Ellen Barkin came out tweeting against the Utah station’s decision not to carry the program. Barkin tweeted “So L&O SVU (rape & child murder) is ok? But loving gay couple having a baby is inappropriate?” adding “L&O SUV ... anal tearing not ‘explicit’ content, child slavery not ‘explicit’ content? But @NBCTheNewNormal, laughing & loving is? #KSLBigots.”
The New Normal is not the only program on this fall, and according to The Advocate, GLAAD has scored the fall TV lineup for LGBT inclusivity, with no network coming in as “inclusive.”[xix] With programs such as Modern Family, What Would You Do?, and Desperate Housewives, GLAAD rated ABC as “good.” Citing that Work It needs work in for its portrayal of two heterosexual male characters donning women’s apparel in order to get jobs, this derivative humor is said to have an heir of mocking transgendered persons. GLAAD considers 27 percent (302) of ABC’s 1101.5 prime time hours as LGBT inclusive.
Fox’s The Simpsons, Glee, American Dad, House, and So You Think You Can Dance are among the 176.5 hours (out of 722) of Fox’s inclusive programming, resulting in a rating of “good.” With shows like Gossip Girl, 90210, The L.A. Complex, and Vampire Diaries; The CW was given a “good” rating, with 29 percent of its programming saying that America’s Next Top Model and a lesbian character on Emily Owens, M.D. contribute to the level of inclusiveness.
GLAAD called NBC’s lineup “adequate,” with its 198.5 out of 1072 programming hours (19 percent). NBC’s score may rise however this fall when The New Normal joins Smash, America’s Got Talent, and The Office. TLC was also rated “adequate.”
CBS was given a failing grade with only eight percent of its prime time programming baring LGBT-inclusive programming. GLAAD suggested that NCIS should work to develop the gay character of agent Dorneget, not simply out him. GLAAD says that the new sitcom Partners may increase the inclusiveness rating, however they frown on gay-defamatory humor at LGBT characters’ expense in much of the programming. The History Channel joins CBS with a failing grade only offering three percent inclusive programming. GLAAD considers Top Gear, and Full Metal Jousting as “inclusive” programs.
Of course, if you really are looking for some entertainment this autumn; I suggest that you press the off button on your remote, head to your computer type in www.americanhumanist.com, and search for “local groups.” Remember, real people are much more engaging than the scripted shows that are set to distract us long enough to sell us cars, beer and fast food.
Isaac blamed on gays
Like clockwork, when disaster strikes the fundamentalists tend to point their crooked finger of blame our way. This time Hurricane Isaac is the fault of gay men just looking to have a good time in the Big Easy.
According to Gay Star News,[xx] on his website “Defend Proclaim the Faith,” John McTernan has said that his god sent the hurricane to disrupt annual gay festival “Southern Decadence.” Southern Decadence was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, August 29th. McTernan cites the hurricane’s seven-years-to-the-day-after-Katrina occurrence as “biblically significant.” McTernan also said, “Let’s all watch this very closely, because if New Orleans is destroyed, it is a sure sign that the final judgment for the national sin of American has arrived.”
McTernan was not alone. According to The New Civil Rights Movement,[xxi] On August 30th, the American Family Association’s General Manager Buster Wilson said on his radio program that “I can think of example after example after example where the people don’t live right, God will come in sometimes – not always, but sometimes – and literally destroy a place.” Wilson cited San Francisco as having “the most devastating earthquakes in American History,” as well.
Reparative Therapy & Regnerus
“Reparative therapy” (RT), also known as “conversion therapy,” is set to take a major hit in California. The efficacy of the so called “pray the gay away” treatment has been repudiated by professional organizations, its greatest academic supporter, and its greatest organizational proponent. A new bill prohibiting professionals practicing RT on youth has been passed by the California state legislature, and is heading for the governor’s desk. The bill “[prevents] licensed psychologists and therapists from attempting to change the sexual orientation of anyone under the age of 18.” California’s Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign it into law (The Advocate).[xxii] How did we get to RT and how was it undermined?
In 1973, Robert Spitzer, M.D. was pivotal in removing homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)’s list of diseases and disorders. The APA’s dismissal of pathological attributions of homosexuality did not stop other organizations from recognizing them. Concurrently, several groups including the National Association of the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) sprung up. The idea was that homosexual desire was something that could be eliminated, occluded, or otherwise controlled. The major proponents of RT were Evangelical Christian organizations, thus “pray the gay away.”
In response to groups like NARTH and Exodus International, the other APA, the American Psychological Association, released a 1997 statement on RT.[xxiii] They released their four basic principles on RT that August. The APA said that homosexuality not being a mental disorder, it was not in need of treatment; that “Psychologists do not knowingly participate or condone discriminatory practices with lesbian, gay and bisexual clients;” that “Psychologists respect the rights of individuals, including lesbian, gay and bisexual clients to privacy, confidentiality, self-determination and autonomy;” and that “Psychologists obtain appropriate informed consent to therapy in their work with lesbian, gay and bisexual clients.”
RT proponent organizations received a significant boost in clout when Spitzer released a study suggesting that “highly motivated individuals could change their sexual orientation through reparative therapy.” This was the same Spitzer who played a critical role in removing homosexuality from the DSM. Earlier this year, May 2012, Spitzer changed his tune. Spitzer recently penned a letter to Ken Zucker, M.D. (editor of Archives of Sexual Behavior) saying, “I apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some ‘highly motivated’ individuals.”
According to Psychiatric New Alert, (21 May, 2012),[xxiv] psychiatrist Jack Drescher, M.D., told Psychiatric News that “The ‘patina of scientific credibility’ to which leaders of the so-called ‘ex-gay’ movement have been clinging in their embrace of a deeply controversial 2001 study on ‘reparative therapy’ has been taken away.” Drescher was referring to Robert Spitzer’s (M.D.) repudiation of Spitzer’s study saying that “highly motivated” individuals could change their sexual orientation through reparative therapy. Drescher said, “There’s very little scientific evidence that people can change their sexual orientation, but individuals in the ex-gay movement try to lend their beliefs a patina of scientific credibility... Spitzer’s study seemed to give them that patina, which he himself has just taken away.”
On May 21st, 2012, Spitzer appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation hosted by Neal Conan.[xxv] When Neal Conan asked if he thought homosexuality was a choice, Spitzer replied, “Is it a choice? No, for sure, that’s the one thing I have no doubt about, it’s no choice.” NPR reached out for comment from Exodus International on this story. Exodus said that they are “not a reparative therapy organization,” but a “gospel-centric organization that seeks first to equip the Church to be the primary outreach and support for individuals and families impacted by same-sex attraction, and secondly, through the 260 organizations under our umbrella, a support community for individuals and families.” Exodus’ statement continued, “We do not believe that same-sex attraction in itself is sinful.”
Exodus has since publicly rejected its promotion of RT. And now California has taken the first steps to officially eliminate its practice by licensed mental health professionals. According to The LA Times,[xxvi] the bill was written by state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance). “Even the World Health Organization has pronounced conversion therapy ‘a serious threat to the health and well-being – even the lives – of affected people.’” The bill passed with a “comfortable margin” along partisan lines.
Reason can prevail if we are vigilant, yet it is not always permanent. The RT sponsors and supporters used Spitzer’s (later repudiated) study to diminish the worth of LGB persons to that of the diseased. Last week I covered the National Family Structure Study (NFSS). According to LGBTQ Nation,[xxvii] a University of Texas advisory panel has found that Mark Regnerus “had not published or committed falsification of data, plagiarism or other ethical breaches constituting scientific misconduct.” In the NFSS claimed that “the adult children of gay parents reported significantly different, and often worse, life experiences than the children of married, heterosexual biological parents.” The Journal of Social Science Research “found ‘serious flaws’ in the peer review process and concluded that the journal never should have published his report.”
Much like a gauntlet, the Regnerus study will undoubtedly be cast at our feet for the foreseeable future. This is a situation where those who generally reject science when it is inconvenient to their faith, thrust it upon us when it is ever too easy to put out bad science in the cause of terrible ideas. Rather than pursue legitimate scientific discourse, those who fund and funnel studies such as these do so to muddle Hume’s distinction of ought vs. is. They push forward in order to bend spurious conclusions into expeditious results for their delusion value appraisals of the worth of individuals. This is a value that the numbers they are so quick to wield in front of those without a basic statistical literacy, a value that those numbers are incapable of saying. Regnerus took his data, which essentially showed that stable family units are connected to kids who turn out well, and construed it for us to say that children with gay parents turn out screwed up.
This is why we need to be ever vigilant on this. We need to keep ourselves informed, and we will keep monitoring this issue and inform you about the latest news.
[v] Boswell, J. (1980). Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.