Posts tagged ‘NY Times’

July 11th, 2012

Rift Forms in Movement as Belief in Gay ‘Cure’ Is Renounced

by tcjmhk

For more than three decades, Exodus International has been the leading force in the so-called ex-gay movement, which holds that homosexuals can be “cured” through Christian prayer and psychotherapy.

Exodus leaders claimed its network of ministries had helped tens of thousands rid themselves of unwanted homosexual urges. The notion that homosexuality is not inborn but a choice was seized on by conservative Christian groups who oppose legal protections for gay men and lesbians and same-sex marriage.

But the ex-gay movement has been convulsed as the leader of Exodus, in a series of public statements and a speech to the group’s annual meeting last week, renounced some of the movement’s core beliefs. Alan Chambers, 40, the president, declared that there was no cure for homosexuality and that “reparative therapy” offered false hopes to gays and could even be harmful. His statements have led to charges of heresy and a growing schism within the network.

“For the last 37 years, Exodus has been a bright light, arguably the brightest one for those with same-sex attraction seeking an authentically Christian hope,” said Andrew Comiskey, founder and director of Desert Stream Ministries, based in Kansas City, Mo., one of 11 ministries that defected. His group left Exodus in May, Mr. Comiskey said in an e-mail, “due to leader Alan Chambers’s appeasement of practicing homosexuals who claim to be Christian” as well as his questioning of the reality of “sexual orientation change.”

In a phone interview Thursday from Orlando, Fla., where Exodus has its headquarters, Mr. Chambers amplified on the views that have stirred so much controversy. He said that virtually every “ex-gay” he has ever met still harbors homosexual cravings, himself included. Mr. Chambers, who left the gay life to marry and have two children, said that gay Christians like himself faced a lifelong spiritual struggle to avoid sin and should not be afraid to admit it.

He said Exodus could no longer condone reparative therapy, which blames homosexuality on emotional scars in childhood and claims to reshape the psyche. And in a theological departure that has caused the sharpest reaction from conservative pastors, Mr. Chambers said he believed that those who persist in homosexual behavior could still be saved by Christ and go to heaven.

Only a few years ago, Mr. Chambers was featured in advertisements along with his wife, Leslie, saying, “Change is possible.” But now, he said in the interview, “Exodus needs to move beyond that slogan.”

“I believe that any sexual expression outside of heterosexual, monogamous marriage is sinful according to the Bible,” Mr. Chambers emphasized. “But we’ve been asking people with same-sex attractions to overcome something in a way that we don’t ask of anyone else,” he said, noting that Christians with other sins, whether heterosexual lust, pornography, pride or gluttony, do not receive the same blanket condemnations.

Mr. Chambers’s comments come at a time of widening acceptance of homosexuality and denunciation of reparative therapy by professional societies that say it is based on faulty science and potentially harmful.

A bill to outlaw “conversion therapy” for minors has passed the California Senate and is now before the State Assembly. Earlier this year, a prominent psychiatrist, Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, apologized for publishing what he now calls an invalid study, which said many patients had largely or totally switched their sexual orientation.

Defenders of the therapy say that it can bring deep changes in sexual orientation and that the attacks are politically motivated.

David H. Pickup, a therapist in Glendale, Calif., who specializes in the treatment, said restricting it would harm people who are unhappy with their homosexuality by “making them feel that no change is possible at all.”

Mr. Pickup, an officer of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, composed of like-minded therapists, said reparative therapy had achieved profound changes for thousands of people, including himself. The therapy, he said, had helped him confront emotional wounds and “my homosexual feelings began to dissipate and attractions for women grew.”

Some in the ex-gay world are more scathing about Mr. Chambers.

“I think Mr. Chambers is tired of his own personal struggles, so he’s making excuses for them by making sweeping generalizations about others,” said Gregg Quinlan, a conservative lobbyist in New Jersey and president of a support group called Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays.

Exodus International, with a budget of $1.5 million provided by donors and member churches, is on a stable footing, Mr. Chambers said. He said the shifts in theology had the support of the Exodus board and had been welcomed by many of the 150 churches that are members in North America, which increasingly have homosexuals in their congregations. More opposition has come from affiliated ministries specifically devoted to sex-related therapies, with 11 quitting Exodus so far while about 70 remain.

In another sign of change, the vice chairman of the Exodus board, Dennis Jernigan, was forced to resign in June after he supported anti-sodomy laws in Jamaica. The board pledged to fight efforts anywhere to criminalize sexual acts between consenting adults.

Robert Gagnon, an associate professor at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and author of books on homosexuality and the Bible, last week issued a public call for Mr. Chambers to resign. “My greatest concern has to do with Alan’s repeated assurances to homosexually active ‘gay Christians’ that they will be with him in heaven,” he said in an e-mail.

Gay rights advocates said they were encouraged by Mr. Chambers’s recent turn but remained wary of Exodus, which they feel has caused enormous harm.

“Exodus International played the key role in planting the message that people can go from gay to straight through religion and therapy,” said Wayne Besen, director of Truth Wins Out, a group that refutes what it considers misinformation about gays and lesbians. “And the notion that one can change is the centerpiece of the religious right’s argument for denying us rights.”

Many of the local ministries in Exodus continue to attack gays and lesbians, said David Roberts, editor of the Web site Ex-Gay Watch, and they often have close ties with reparative therapists. He speculated that Mr. Chambers was trying to steer the group in a moderate direction because “they were becoming pariahs” in a society that is more accepting of gay people.

Mr. Chambers said he was simply trying to restore Exodus to its original purpose when it was founded in 1976: providing spiritual support for Christians who are struggling with homosexual attraction.

He said that he was happy in his marriage, with a “love and devotion much deeper than anything I experienced in gay life,” but that he knew this was not feasible for everyone. Many Christians with homosexual urges may have to strive for lives of celibacy.

But those who fail should not be severely judged, he said, adding, “We all struggle or fall in some way.”

source: NY Times

June 6th, 2011

Coming out stories – New York Times Interactive

by tcjmhk

Check out some great coming out stories here:

Bullying and suicides of gay and lesbian teenagers are in the headlines, the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been repealed, and the debate over same-sex marriage continues to divide the country. Against this backdrop, many L.G.B.T. youth wonder how accepting society will be.

June 6th, 2011

Coming Out: Gay Teenagers, in Their Own Words

by tcjmhk

Source: NY Times

Published: May 20, 2011

The suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman who jumped from the George Washington Bridge last year after discovering that his roommate had secretly streamed his romantic interlude with another man on the Internet, captured worldwide attention. In the wake of his death, stories of gay youths being bullied and taking their own lives proliferated.

The subsequent outpouring of concern from parents, educators and those who had survived bullying themselves inspired “It Gets Better,” a campaign led by the columnist and author Dan Savage in which thousands of lesbian and gay adults shared their stories to assure all teenagers that society has a place for them.

Popular culture has reinforced this message of acceptance. For example, the hit TV show “Glee” has had three storylines involving gay teenagers this season, including the matter-of-fact courtship, with rare onscreen same-sex kissing, of characters played by Chris Colfer and Darren Criss. Lady Gaga has countered the antigay rhetoric that many young people hear in their churches and communities with the song “Born This Way,” increasing her already large fan base among gay and lesbian teenagers.

“The amount of attention that has been given to debates over L.G.B.T. issues in the last year is another sign of how deeply American society remains divided over L.G.B.T. issues,” said George Chauncey, a Yale University professor of 20th-century United States history and lesbian and gay history, referring to lesbians, gay men and bisexual and transgender people. “And it has made it clear to young people just how much opposition remains.”

The New York Times embarked on the project “Coming Out” as an effort to better understand this generation’s realities and expectations, and to give teenagers their own voice in the conversation.

The Times spoke with or e-mailed nearly 100 gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender teenagers from all of parts of the country — from rural areas to urban centers, from supportive environments to hostile ones. The newspaper contacted them through various advocacy groups, as well as through social networking sites like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

The Trevor Project, which provides counseling to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths in crisis, among other services, posted a call for teenagers to tell their stories to The Times, resulting in nearly 250 responses. At times, young people led The Times to others.

The youths who participated were in different phases of coming out: some had come out only to themselves, some to people in certain realms of their lives, some to only one trusted friend or family member. Some had come out to their family or community, and then, realizing they lacked the support they needed, rescinded the declaration — and came out again a couple of years later. Others spoke of hating themselves in the process of accepting who they are.

Some flaunted their sexuality, while others adhered to traditional gender norms. In English, Ind., one boy said that when he first came out, he wore eyeliner and skinny jeans. “But then when I stopped it and decided to be myself, it was like I no longer fit the stereotypes,” he said.

In the face of competing messages, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths just want to be teenagers. While they envision a world where they can get married and have doors open to them, they do not want to be defined by their sexuality, regardless of how they are received by their community. It is just one part of their identity.

As Kailey Jeanne Cox, 15, said in her story: “I don’t want to have myself being seen by people as ‘Oh, she’s — she’s gay.’ I want them to see me as ‘Wow, she loves God, who cares what kind of people she likes? She is a Christian, she leads by example and she’s a wonderful person.’ That’s what I want people to think when they see me.”

Or Joel Brimmerman, 17, who cannot wait for the day he can begin the physical transition to male from female, summed it up this way: “I’d rather just get done with it and get on with my life. I mean, I have stuff to do besides transition.”

May 14th, 2011

Two Straight Athletes Combat Homophobia

by tcjmhk

Source: NY Times

Ben Cohen is a world-class English rugby star, and Hudson Taylor is a three-time college all-American wrestler. They live on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. They barely know each other.

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Hudson Taylor, left, an American, and Ben Cohen, an Englishman, say they help spread a message to a broader audience.

But they have something quite unusual in common. They may be the only two high-profile heterosexual athletes dedicating their lives to the issues of bullying and homophobia in sports.

The question that each one frequently gets — besides “Are you gay?” — is why are they involved in something that does not directly impact them, or so it would seem.

That is just the point, they said. In much the same way that the hockey player Sean Avery’s recent endorsement of gay marriage resonated in large part because it came from an unexpected source, their sexual orientation helps the message cross to broader audiences, Cohen and Taylor said.

“It’s massively important,” Cohen said Friday in New York, a stopover on a cross-country campaign for his fledgling Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation. “Massively. Of course it is. I’m the other side of that bridge.”

Gay slurs have emerged into the public consciousness recently. The Los Angeles Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant used one against an N.B.A. referee and was fined $100,000. The Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell was said to have made homophobic gestures and remarks to fans in San Francisco, and was suspended by Major League Baseball for two weeks. Widespread criticism of both men was seen as cultural progress by gay-rights supporters.

But in a world where no active American athletes in a major male team sport has declared his homosexuality, it remains rare for athletes to chime in on the issue of gay rights. Recent exceptions, beyond Avery, include Grant Hill and Jared Dudley of the Phoenix Suns, who recorded a public-service announcement decrying gay slurs in sports.

Cohen and Taylor are going much further.

Cohen, 32, just retired from a rugby career that included a World Cup title for England in 2003 and more than a decade with the Northampton Saints. Despite being married with 3 ½-year-old twin daughters, he has long had a huge following among gay fans.

“They probably see me as a sex object, I suppose,” he said. His shirtless photographs have done little to squelch his popularity.

With the surge in the use of social media in recent years, Cohen — whose Facebook page has been “liked” by more than 150,000 people — began hearing more and more personal accounts from fans who have felt ostracized for being gay. Some said they quit sports because of the harassment, or had been shamed into staying closeted, unable to find support from friends, family and teammates.

“It brings me to bloody tears,” he said, as he read a few e-mails aloud. He wore a T-shirt that read, “I stand up with Ben Cohen,” and included his silhouette as a logo.

But his quest to get involved is even more personal. In 2000, Cohen’s father, Peter, was attacked by several young men outside the nightclub he owned. He sustained severe injuries, including bite marks to his face, and died a few weeks later.

With those experiences as a backdrop, Cohen started this year what he believes is the first anti-bullying organization led by a straight athlete aimed at helping the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. After a couple recent stops in England, he is promoting the campaign in Washington, Atlanta, Seattle and New York in the next two weeks. Beyond raising his family on his English farm, he plans on making the foundation his postcareer priority.

“I can say something, and it can be so little for me,” said Cohen, scheduled to be a celebrity presenter at Saturday’s Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation awards in San Francisco. “But it can be so powerful for tens of thousands of people.”

Taylor, 24, finished a decorated wrestling career at Maryland last year and is an assistant coach at Columbia. In college, he said, he was struck by the disparity in how gay students in his theater classes were so warmly accepted and how easily gay slurs were tossed around the wrestling mats.

He attracted national attention when he wore a Human Rights Campaign sticker on his headgear. Earlier this year, he launched Athlete Ally, asking athletes of all ages to sign a pledge to help end homophobia in sports. Several thousand have made the pledge. Taylor suspended plans for law school and spends much of his time speaking at schools, mostly colleges.

He usually asks his audiences if they have recently heard someone or something derided as “gay.” Almost always, everyone raises his or her hand, he said.

Most raise their hands when asked if they have heard the term, used as an insult, in the past day, Taylor said.

“In a lot of people’s minds, it’s not a straight person’s issue,” said Taylor, who will marry his longtime girlfriend in September. “That’s an obstacle that has to be overcome.”

Taylor said that heterosexual athletes rarely get involved in the issue because they do not see how it affects them. He called it a “chicken-or-egg problem.” Most male professional athletes, as far as they know, do not have gay teammates. And people are less likely to fight for a cause when they do not have personal connections to it.

“How do you make it personal?” Taylor said. “That’s the question.”

That is what Cohen and Taylor hope to answer.

On Friday, the two men got together for a quick hello at the West Village apartment where Cohen stayed for a couple of nights. Taylor had just driven from Maine, where he spoke at Bates College and got most of its athletes to sign the pledge on Thursday evening. Cohen was about to leave for the airport and a flight to San Francisco, to be a celebrity presenter.

Their paths crossed, briefly, as they worked separately for the same cause.

“I love what he’s doing,” Taylor said over lunch Wednesday. “We need more Ben Cohens in this world. He has a platform that allows the message to carry farther and ring louder than my own. We need more allies in position of power to speak out.”

A version of this article appeared in print on May 14, 2011, on page D2 of the New York edition with the headline: Two Straight Athletes Combat Homophobia.
May 7th, 2011

On the US Supreme Court and the law

by tcjmhk

Recuse Me


However the courts eventually resolve the challenge to California’s ban on same-sex marriage, the record of the case will contain an ugly footnote: the last-ditch effort to retrospectively disqualify the federal judge who ruled that the ban is unconstitutional. It turns out that — horrors! — the judge, Vaughn R. Walker, is gay. Perhaps, his critics suggest, Judge Walker secretly intends to marry his partner of 10 years and has thus improperly placed himself in a position to reap personal benefit from his own ruling.

Vaughn R. WalkerBeck Diefenbach/Reuters Vaughn R. Walker

A motion to vacate his judgment was filed last week by opponents of same-sex marriage who are also pursuing an appeal of Judge Walker’s ruling last August on the ban, known as Proposition 8. (The State of California itself has declined to appeal.) Earlier, these same Proposition 8 supporters filed a motion to disqualify one of the appellate judges, Stephen R. Reinhardt. In that motion, they argued that the position of Judge Reinhardt’s wife, Ramona Ripston, as head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California placed in question the judge’s ability to rule impartially because the organization has been a leading advocate for same-sex couples wishing to marry.

Judge Reinhardt denied the request. Judge Walker, having retired from the bench in February, cannot rule on the motion to vacate his ruling, which will be heard next month by another judge.

The effort to force or shame off a case a judge deemed likely to be unsympathetic is becoming the latest weapon in a litigator’s arsenal — litigation by other means. The tactic is not limited to one side of the ideological spectrum. In January, the liberal organization Common Cause asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas should have recused themselves from participating in last year’s Citizens United campaign finance case “based on their attendance at secretive Koch Industries retreats.” If so, Common Cause asserted, the decision in Citizens United, which opened the door to unlimited corporate spending in federal election campaigns, should be vacated.

The Common Cause argument was thin on its facts, and the Supreme Court denied that either justice had ever participated in any such corporate strategy sessions. Common Cause did, however, succeed in getting its name into a few headlines, from which it had been absent for some years.

In 2004, the Sierra Club tried to get Justice Scalia to recuse himself from a case seeking to require disclosure of the names of members of Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy policy task force. The recusal motion argued that by joining the vice president on a duck-hunting expedition, Justice Scalia had raised the question of whether he could decide the case impartially.

Justice Scalia declined to remove himself in a 21-page opinion that I found persuasive. This was a case that named Vice President Cheney in his official capacity, Justice Scalia emphasized, meaning that the vice president faced no personal liability. These official-capacity suits are legion, he noted, adding that a “no-friends rule” barring justices from sitting in such cases involving government officials of their acquaintance “would be utterly disabling.”

The most incisive part of his response concerned the Sierra Club’s argument that because many major newspapers had called for Justice Scalia’s recusal and none had argued against it, it was clear that “the American public” had discerned “an appearance of favoritism.” It was thus clear, the motion concluded, that “any objective observer would be compelled to conclude that Justice Scalia’s impartiality has been questioned.” To which Justice Scalia appropriately responded: “The implications of this argument are staggering. I must recuse because a significant portion of the press, which is deemed to be the American public, demands it.”

The standard for judicial recusal is set out in Section 455(a) of Title 28 of the United States Code. It provides that “any justice, judge or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”As Justice Scalia’s response suggests, “reasonably” covers a lot of ground. And that was seven years ago, before the mobilizing potential of the Internet, making it possible to foment public outrage almost instantly over almost anything, was fully realized. In today’s superheated Web-driven world, what’s reasonable and who’s to say?

(To Justice Scalia’s credit, during the same term the Cheney case was pending, he recused himself from a constitutional challenge to the inclusion of the phrase “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance; before the case reached the Supreme Court, he had mentioned it during an appearance at a Knights of Columbus event and let slip his view that the phrase presented no constitutional problem.)

Back when the duck-hunting controversy was raging, I amused myself by asking friends who insisted that Justice Scalia should remove himself from the case how they would respond to a slightly different situation. Suppose, instead of Justice Scalia going duck hunting with Dick Cheney, it had been Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg going shopping with Lynn Cheney. Would they move to disqualify Justice Ginsburg? (Note to potential commenters: Yes, I know my hypothetical scenario is slightly inapposite and politically incorrect, so no need to point that out.)

My point was to challenge ethical sensibilities so conveniently aligned with desired outcomes. Never have I witnessed an effort on the part of anyone to disqualify a presumably friendly judge. If I ever do, I promise to be less skeptical of the entire recusal enterprise.

Which brings me back to the effort to wipe Judge Walker’s opinion in Perry v. Schwarzenegger off the books. There is some irony here. Vaughn Walker is a Republican whose initial nomination by President Ronald Reagan to the Federal District Court in San Francisco was blocked by Democrats who thought he was too conservative. To the extent that he had any public recognition in the legal community, it was for his vigorous representation of the United States Olympic Committee in a 1982 copyright infringement case against a new organization calling itself the Gay Olympics. There could be only one Olympics, Mr. Walker argued persuasively, thus forcing the other group to become the Gay Games.

President George H.W. Bush succeeded in getting him on the district court in 1989. Long rumored to be gay, he discussed his personal life publicly for the first time with a group of reporters last month. He and his partner, a doctor, have been together for 10 years, he said. Reflecting on his career, he observed wryly, “I was the ogre of the gay community when I was nominated, and a hero when I leave.”

The motion filed by the Proposition 8 supporters argues that “the pall cast by the palpable appearance of judicial partiality upon one of the most prominent and widely publicized constitutional cases in this country’s history threatens deep and lasting harm to the public’s confidence in our nation’s judicial system.”

I find this argument puzzling, given the very premise of the war against same-sex marriage being waged by the people and organizations involved in the current effort. Not for and the others is the libertarian view that if you don’t like same-sex marriage, then don’t marry someone of your own sex. No, their premise is that preserving “traditional” marriage as a union of one man and one woman is the urgent business of society as a whole. “Traditional marriage is the foundation of society,” Protectmarriage’s Web site declares.

The “Manhattan Declaration,” a foundational document of the “traditional marriage” movement, goes a step further. It is “the duty of the law to recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good” that marriage is the “covenantal union of husband and wife,” according to the widely distributed declaration, issued by a group of leading social conservatives in November 2009 as “a call to Christian conscience.” The document adds that “the common good of civil society is damaged when the law itself, in its critical pedagogical function, becomes a tool for eroding a sound understanding of marriage on which the flourishing of the marriage culture in any society vitally depends.”

The logical inference from this view of judicial duty is that if a gay judge has a stake in the outcome of a case about whether to recognize same-sex marriage, so presumably does a straight judge. Who, confronting stakes as high as the potential collapse of Western civilization, could reasonably be impartial? Who needs the Constitution when ideology and religious doctrine are at hand? I trust that the judges who rule on this latest effort to substitute recusal for legal argument will understand it for the subterfuge that it is.