Mayoral Candidates Respond to Our Questions

Allow me to focus this week on a local matter happening here in Philadelphia.

2015 is a mayoral election year here in the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection. What that means, for the most part, is that whoever wins the Democratic Mayoral Primary in May typically wins the general election in November . . . Philadelphia is an irrefutable Democratic stronghold.

It is such a stronghold for Democrats that some people will greet the winner as Mayor Elect.

Because of this, QUEERtimes decided to focus this week on the Philadelphia race for mayor so as to help educate our community on the candidates and their positions and relationship with us. We asked all the Democrat mayoral candidates 17 questions and provided ample time to respond. Three candidates responded to all 17 questions and one candidate responded to us that they were too under resourced to answer all 17 questions . . . but more on that later.

QUEERtimes would like to thank Penn. Senator Anthony Williams, Former City Councilmember-at-Large, Jim Kenney, and Former District Attorney Lynne Abraham for taking the time from their busy campaign schedules to answer the QUEERtimes Mayoral Questionnaire and our follow up questions.

Doug Oliver wrote us to that, “Unfortunately, the Doug Oliver Campaign for Mayor, a resource constrained campaign, is not in a position to respond to each of the 17 questions that were asked. Instead, I welcome the opportunity to meet with you and your readership about these and other important issues facing the LGBT community.”

Oliver also wanted us to know at he is “committed to fairness, to inclusion, and to protecting the rights of all Philadelphians. As Mayor, I would work to address issues that concern the LGBT community including employment discrimination, public safety, and a means for the LGBT community’s voice to be heard by City government.”

Nelson Diaz did not respond to our request.

Milton Street could not be contacted by Qt.

But what of those who did?

Williams, Kenney and Abraham are all strong allies of the LGBTQ community and each in their own way have made a mark as LGBTQ advocates during their long service to the people of Philadelphia.

But only one can win and lead Philadelphia for the next 4 to 8 years. So who will you support?

We asked each responding candidates two follow-up questions which we feel are important to whom these candidates are in relationship to our community.

The first follow-up question asked was, “Who are your past and current advisers on LGBTQ issues?

They responded . . .

Williams: “I have family members who are LGTBQ, and consider Malcolm Lazin, Mel Heifetz, Tony Forte, and Wade Albert as key advisors.”

Kenney: “Alba Martinez is the Chair of my Policy Committee and she advises me on all manner of policy issues including LGBTQ.”

Abraham: “My Campaign Manager, Stuart Rosenberg, is a key advisor on LGBT issues.  He was the Midwest Field Director for the Human Rights Campaign from 2006 – 2008.  He also was the Campaign Manager for now Massachusetts State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry in 2005.  Upon her victory in a special election in March 2005 to the State House, she was the tie-breaking vote to keep an anti-marriage amendment off the Massachusetts ballot.  He has also served as the State Field Director for the now first openly gay U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and served as Campaign Manager for openly gay Houston Mayor Annise Parker.  Among many in the community who I seek guidance on LGBT issues locally, I consult with Chris Mallios, who served as my Hate Crimes and LGBT Liaison while I was District Attorney, and his husband, Dr. Bill McNett.”

Follow-up question two was, “What would you consider your defining moment when you realized you were an ally of the LGBTQ community?”

They responded . . .

Williams: “When I voted against the ban for same-sex marriage in 1996. I knew then that I had a unique opportunity as a state legislator to promote and advance fairness and equality for everyone, regardless of who they love.”

Kenney: “I fought for domestic partner benefits in the early 1990s. The public outcry from some conservative groups like the Archdiocese and the warm reception I received from the LGBT community made me realize I had found family.”

Abraham: “Since the age of 17, I have been a full supporter of LGBT equality.  I have demonstrated my commitment to LGBT equality throughout my life and career.  I was a supporter of LGBT equality long before it became popular to do so, and consider myself a pioneer in advancing LGBT equality issues.  Whether supporting expansion of the state hate crimes law, supporting full marriage rights, or supporting equality in general, I have always stood alongside my LGBT friends and neighbors. I have been fortunate to have worked with great LGBT leaders.  William Way worked with me at the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, where he was a friend and, equally important, an exemplary city planner.  John Anderson and I worked literally as desk mates when I was at the District Attorney’s office and I supported his Council candidacy.”

We cannot tell you who the next leader of Philadelphia should be, we just know that we are fortunate to have three candidates who have made it clear they are undeniable allies. Not a bad situation to be in.

But we leave it to you to decide who the next mayor should be. Just know this, this election is going to be close. It’s not going to be a matter of who comes out to vote, it will come down to who they bring with them to vote.

Take some time and read the responses listed below and get to know the candidates so the the best ally is elected this May.

Related Links:

Anthony Williams’ Mayoral Questionnaire Responses
Jim Kenney’s Mayoral Questionnaire Responses
Lynne Abraham’s Mayoral Questionnaire Responses
The Fix Is In

The Fix Is In

Did we just see a big win in our battle for equality in Indiana? Under great pressure from CEOs of corporations, governors of states, religious organizations, celebrities and everyday citizens Governor Mike Pence of Indiana and the GOP controlled legislature capitulated to right and justice.

Yesterday Pence signed into law a “fix” to that state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a new law that nearly brought down the state economically and else wise with boycotts and protest.

The “fix” was requested by Pence after the national outcry against Indiana because of what was clearly a bill that was purposed to allow discrimination against LGBTQ people.

The changes prohibit businesses from using RFRA as a defense in court for refusing “to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing” to any customers based on “race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service.”

“There will be some who think this legislation goes too far and some who think it does not go far enough, but as governor I must always put the interest of our state first and ask myself every day, ‘What is best for Indiana?'” he said. “I believe resolving this controversy and making clear that every person feels welcome and respected in our state is best for Indiana.”

While this falls short of the goal of advocates, which was to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the statewide non-discrimination law, it is still a major step forward. A victory that could not have happened without our community’s loyal allies and the threat of a growing nation boycott against Indiana.

And because of our advocates, allies, members and citizens across the nation Indiana’s LGBTQ community are better off today than they were before Pence signed into law the RFRA. Now on the table is the obvious need to ensure that Indiana and the nation pass an inclusive nondiscrimination law that includes all the members of our community.

That debate, Indiana GOP legislators acknowledged, is coming soon. House Speaker Brian Bosma said the backlash against the religious freedom law has “opened many perspectives” and that the anti-discrimination law “needs to be discussed.”

It’s funny how while the GOP led legislature didn’t believe that a fix was needed they sure did change their minds on just what the RFRA is or isn’t.


Indiana, Nevermore

I’ve written about it in the past and some people have voiced the opinion that such legislation would never really pass, let alone signed into law by a governor, but Indiana now has the dubious distinction of being the first state to actually pass a law that allows businesses to legally discriminate against lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and queer citizens.

Such bills, in the name of “religious freedom,” are being pushed in some 12 states by the GOP and their social conservative members.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) signed the bill into law in the privacy of his office with at least a couple of dozen supporters on hand.

Pence, who has presidential aspirations, defended his support of the pro-discrimination bill by stating that, “there has been a lot of misunderstanding about this bill . . . This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would’ve vetoed it.”

This bill allows businesses to disregard any local anti-discrimination bill, of which there are 18 counties with bills in Indiana, and refuse service to LGBTQ people.

The shortsightedness of the GOP and conservative right is blinding. What LGBTQ, or allied person would ever want to visit a state where hate and discrimination is their new motto?

Businesses are already speaking out against the new law and local leaders are worried over the negative economic impact it will bring to cities like Indianapolis and the state as a whole.

CEO Marc Benioff of San Francisco-based Salesforce.com, which bought Indianapolis-based Exact Target for $2.5 billion in 2013 and kept hundreds of employees in the city, stated that his company would abandon the state and its expansion plans there if he signed the measure into law. After Pence signed the bill Benioff tweeted, “Today we are canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination.”

The NCAA, who will be holding their Final Four in Indianapolis next week, is publically fretting over this new law. “We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

He said the NCAA will “work diligently” to ensure competitors and visitors at next week’s Final Four are not “negatively impacted by this bill.” Emmert also said the organization, which is based in Indianapolis, will “closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

According to CNN, Jason Collins, who last year became the first openly gay active NBA player, asked Pence in a tweet whether it is “going to be legal for someone to discriminate against me & others when we come” to the Final Four.

Indiana is the first of what might be a handful of states that actually pass such heinous laws against our community. People are going to be hurt from this ridiculous approach to beat back our advances in equality. But we need to stand firm and support our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in these states by not supporting the economy of these states. More and more businesses need to stand up as our allies and divest in Indiana so that equality can spread to all 50 states.


Trending This Week

Trending this week was definitely was Sunday’s Kiss me I’m Irish & Gay @ UBar. If you couldn’t make it you missed a wild party and a wonderful opportunity the raise critical funds for both qFLIX Philadelphia, the region’s only LGBTQ film festival, and City of Hope as they enter clinical trials for a vaccine for HIV.

Thank you for all who came and had a great time.

Also trending this week are the comments made by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, onetime lovers, longtime business partners at the famed fashion house Dolce and Gabbana. It appears that Domenico and Stefano are conservative Catholics who embrace the Church’s teaching when it comes to the traditional family and in vitro-fertilization.

Speaking to the Italian magazine Panorama, Domenico and Stefano said children should be born to a mother and a father.

“You are born to a mother and a father, or at least that’s how it should be,” Domenico said. He went on to criticize IVF and surrogate parents: “I call children of chemistry synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalogue.”

Stefano added: “The family is not a fad.”

“I am gay, I can’t have a child. I guess you cannot have everything in life. Sometimes it is beautiful to be deprived of something. Life has a natural course, some things cannot be changed. One is the family,” stated Domenico.

This has set off a shudder of disbelief across the globe with calls for boycotts against the famous D&G brand.

Does this warrant a boycott? Were Domenico and Stefano within their right to voice their belief in the tradition family? Yes and yes.

Domenico and Stefano have every right to believe what they want to believe, although they now seem to be back peddling on their comments a bit. But as I tell my students your decisions bring consequences. So as one who strongly disagrees with Domenico and Stefano’s position, believing it is not only hurtful to couples who rely on surrogacy or IVF, the comments are also harmful as they support the discrimination we have long fought hard against.

Personally I will boycott D&G once I can afford their products.

Lastly, but trending still as much, is the resignation of U.S. Representative Aaron Schock (R-Ill) amidst a possible spending scandal.   But some LGBTQ voices are seeking to use this opportunity to out Schock as being a closeted, self-hating homosexual homophobe who deserves everything he gets because of his open opposition to LGBTQ equality.

Frankly, closeted politicians who oppose LGBTQ equality seem to be open game for offensive maneuvers to defend and protect equality. These politicians live in glass houses and still throw stones.

I understand that the coming out process is personal and individual and Schock has the right to keep the door to his glass closet locked, but activists seem as if they will not be happy until to door is ripped off regardless of who gets hurt in the process.

Who’s right in this tug of war? Schock, who has denied being gay or certain LGBTQ voices who will not be happy till he “confesses?”


Welcome to Jamaica . . . NOT!

Welcome to Jamaica . . . NOT if you happen to be LGBTQ or an ally, then this is a place you want to stay clear save the homophobia the is rooted deep in Jamaica. So deep that daily LGBTQ Jamaicans live in danger of losing their lives.

Frommers.com describes Jamaica as “the most homophobic island in the Caribbean, with harsh anti-gay laws, even though there’s a large local gay population.”

“If you’re desiring a gay trip to get some sun, forget Jamaica unless you want to stay deep in the closet. Puerto Rico, notably Old San Juan, is a friendlier destination, certainly South Beach (part of Miami Beach) or Key West, but definitely not Jamaica where intolerance of gays is most pronounced. Local gay activists have been killed or had their homes set on fire.”

Many activities would agree that in Jamaica, attacks, murder, and rape are common occurrences against LGBTQ people, with little to no retribution or justice brought against those responsible. Many are forced from shacks, derelict buildings, and their own families, and many homeless LGBTQ Jamaicans have found refuge in the storm drainage systems of Kingston — known locally as the gully.

Then there are artists like Buju Banton, Vybz Kartel and Beenie Man, famous for their club music, but research shows club music is indicative ofof homophobia. Banton became famous at 15 when he wrote Boom Bye Bye. The lyrics go: “It’s like boom bye bye / Inna batty boy head / Rude boy nah promote no nasty man / Dem haffi dead.” Hard to decipher for someone not familiar with Jamaican patois, but Banton is essentially describing shooting a gay man in the head – he doesn’t want to “promote no nasty man.”

According to a report released last year by Human Rights Watch, the culture of Jamaica is deeply rooted in homophobia where LGBTQ Jamaicans are the targets of unchecked violence and discrimination, frequently refused housing or employment in the Caribbean country typically described as the region’s most hostile to LGBTQ citizens.

In its 86-page report titled “Not Safe at Home,” HRW noted that LGBTQ citizens in Jamaica are often driven from their communities by neighbors and sometimes even family. Some health professionals stigmatize them by casting judgment on their sexuality when they seek care. Police protection against bias and physical attacks is generally poor.

LGBT people in Jamaica “face intolerable levels of violence and cannot rely on the police,” Graeme Reid, HRW’s LGBT rights director, said in a release. “The authorities from the prime minister on down need to call a halt to the violence and discrimination, prosecute anyone responsible, and get homophobic laws off the books.”

A recent poll suggest that 91 percent of Jamaicans are opposed to repealing the anti-sodomy law.

Now a video has surfaced that reportedly shows the bloodied body of a gay Jamaican man who it is claimed was stoned to death.

In the video the young man lies motionless and bloodstained on the ground.

Anti-gay slurs, including the phrase “batty man” are repeatedly shouted by a man off camera, along with homophobic chants from other members of the crowd.

Unconfirmed social media reports suggest the youth was stoned in Montego Bay and it is believed to have happened in the last few weeks.

So why do I bring this up? Because our “allies” still travel there for vacation and that is a shame.

I believe that for every tourist that visits Jamaica, another LGBTQ citizen is made homeless, or lost their job, or persecuted or even killed. What good is there in spending your dollars if 91 percent of the population believes your brother, or sister’s sexuality should be criminalized?

Where is your loyalty to friends, family and social justice when it is traded for a little comfort in the sun? Welcome to Jamaica indeed.

words words words

Falling Over Politicians

Last Monday Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania announced that he supports legislation that would ban discrimination of LGBTQ people in the Commonwealth and this set of a reaction in our community that lauded praise upon the Governor. Directors of service organizations in the community felt the need to release a statement on the matter. Facebook lit up with positive comments about how great it is that Wolf is so supportive of our community.

I write this not to argue the merits of anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity . . . clearly I support such legislation . . . but I write because I don’t see the big deal in what Wolf has said, no matter the context.

I’ve said this in the past, I’m tired of politicians who show up at our events, say the right words to us, and promise to be supportive only not to be seen again until the next election.

Now I’m not say this is Wolf, but I expect more from our politicians the words. I want to see action.

Governor Tom Corbett, Wolf’s predecessor, also supported anti-discrimination legislation for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians, stating that he would sign it if it reached his desk. It never reached his desk. But when he offered his support there was not this visceral reaction as there was for Wolf’s announcement.

Nor were there any statements or praise leaped on Corbett when he announced that he would not appeal the Commonwealth Court striking down the same-sex marriage ban.

I do not want to believe that it was simply because Corbett is a Republican and Wolf is a Democrat. I would hope that we are more discerning than that.

It’s clear that we lean left as a community, but we should hold all elected officials to the same high standards.

Maybe that’s the problem, we have become so enamored by politicians who say the right thing that we forget about the need for action on the part of the politician themselves.

I’m happy that Wolf is on board with passing an inclusive anti-discrimination bill but so what? He needs to now show us that he is willing to expend political clout, work the offices of the Representatives and Senators, and get the legislation passed. Anything less is simply words, words, and more words.

ISIS Anti-Gay Murder

Let’s Not Repeat History with ISIS

I am far from a hawk regarding military intervention overseas, but when it comes to ISIS I say the world needs to stand up and throw everything is has to militarily blow the bastards out of existence.

History is replete with conquering armies spreading across the globe while innocent blood is shed and cultures are destroyed. ISIS is a plague lead by falsehoods and lies. They represent no true religion or state, and are motivated only by hate towards others, not themselves. The men are pigs and the women who support them are equally barbaric.

In January ISIS threw a man off a building in al Abyad, Syria, and when he survived the fall he was stoned to death by the crowd because the man was gay.

In its latest video, the militant group showed the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians.

As concerns grow that ISIS is plotting to use its foreign militants to infiltrate Europe and conduct random attacks, an ISIS-linked Twitter account has vowed they will conquer Rome, install Sharia law and throw homosexuals off the top of the “leaning tower of pizza.”

“#We_Are_Coming_O_Rome, we will conquer & establish the justice of #shariah,” the ISIS supporter posted using the Twitter handle @abu_britani2. “We will use to the leaning tower of pizza [sic] to throw off homosexual.”

“We_Are_Coming_O_Rome, we are coming with slaughter,” @abu_britani2 continued in another tweet.

With ISIS establishing strongholds in North Africa, they are now only a few hundred miles away from the European coastline separated by the Mediterranean, which has been called the “soft-underbelly equivalent to the U.S.-Mexican border.”

Last year 150,000 immigrants attempted to cross from North Africa to Italy. ISIS has recruited over 20,000 foreign fighters, and as such the group’s foreign operatives will have an easier task of infiltrating European nations. All they need to do is follow the daily wave of people and ISIS is there prepared to recruit and attack.

Why am I, an LGBTQ rights advocate, writing about ISIS? Because to me it needs to matter to all good people throughout the world. ISIS is seriously dedicated to the destruction of humanity, and they are far worse than Al-Qaeda ever dreamed of being.

Just this week a young Delaware man was arrested by the FBI, who had been radicalized by ISIS and was preparing to travel to join their ranks. He is just one of what will be many seeking to join the false jihad.

So I write not to scare you about ISIS or warn you of an impending attack, but to raise your awareness of both the global threat and local concern this radical terrorist group has become. Am I worried you might ask, well yes I am. I’m more concerned about a radicalized American citizen doing us harm and disrupting our lives and communities now than I was after 9/11.

Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who opposed the Nazi regime and spent seven years in a concentration camp said on many occasions, post-war, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

We cannot be complicit in the silence as during the Nazi imprisonment, persecution, and murder of millions of people. Our community needs to be just as vocal on this issue . . . before they come for us and there is no one left to speak for us.

Pope Francis.01

The Pope Greets us

To the pleasure of many LGBTQ Catholic leaders this has been a busy three weeks for Pope Francis when it comes to the LGBTQ community starting on January 24 when he met privately with a transgender Spaniard at the Vatican.

“I think that his meeting with the transgender man was a gesture not only of pastoral care, but of genuine interest in learning about the transgender experience from a firsthand source,” Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, told National Catholic Reporter.

Said New Ways Ministry’s co-founder Sr. Jeannine Gramick, “Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s devotion to Mary, Untier of Knots, found expression in Pope Francis’ embrace of the transgender Spaniard.”

“This was a worldwide hug that has reverberated to transgender people across the globe,” she told NCR, referring to reports that Francis hugged Diego Neria Lejarraga, a 48-year-old transgender man, when the two met at the Vatican.

Lejarrega, a practicing Catholic, said local clergy had rebuffed him and said one parish priest had called him “the devil’s daughter.” It was then Lejarraga reportedly wrote to Francis, hoping he could explain to the Pope transgender issues and even possibly receive a papal blessing.

He was surprised when Francis invited him to come to the Vatican for a personal meeting and offered to pay for it.

Lejarraga reportedly attended the meeting with his fiancée. During the meeting, Lejarraga asked Francis if, after his gender reassignment, there was “a place somewhere in the house of God for him.” He told the Spanish daily Hoy Francis responded by embracing him.

DeBernardo said while he was pleased with the development, he was also cautious.

“At this time, I wouldn’t use the word ‘acceptance’ to describe the Vatican’s stance toward the transgender community. I think ‘dialogue’ would be a better word,” he said.

“The Vatican’s reluctance to verify the meeting is another indication of why I don’t think their attitude can yet be called ‘acceptance,’ ” DeBernardo said.

But in a just released book published in Italy, Pope Francis: This Economy Kills, called on Christians to safeguard God’s order of creation, where Francis reportedly compared transgender people to nuclear weapons, saying both do not ‘recognize the order of creation.’

The Holy Father has claimed that people who “manipulate” their bodies are similar to “Herods” that “destroy, that plot designs of death that disfigure the face of man and woman, destroying creation.”

“Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings,” he writes.

“Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.”

“With this attitude, man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator,” the Pope adds.

“The true custody of creation does not have anything to do with the ideologies that consider man like an accident, like a problem to eliminate.”

“God has placed man and woman and the summit of creation and has entrusted them with the earth,” Francis writes. “The design of the Creator is written in nature.”

“If we fail in this responsibility, if we do not take care of our brothers and of all creation, destruction advances,’ he added.

But this book was written before Francis met with Lejarraga and I wonder if that experience changed Francis’ heart. Would he say the same thing of a person born with a cleft lip or another disfigurement that we know can be cured with surgery? I believe the Pope needs to reconsider his Ill thought out words.

Then on February 18, at the Wednesday Papal audience, the Vatican welcomed a group of LGBTQ pilgrims from New Ways Ministry with VIP seating with Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, the “prefect of the papal household.” The ministry told AP that the last two popes had refused requests for VIP seats for its members. Under Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy, the New Ways Ministry co-founders were forbidden from ministering to gay Catholics.

“Pope Francis gives me hope,” Sister Jeannine Gramick, one of the New Ways Ministry co-founders, told AP. “To me, this is an example of the kind of willingness he has to welcome those on the fringes of the church back to the center of the church.”

I agree with Sister Gramick, the Pope has a new openness to members of our community. Despite the missteps of the current Pope, who has made so many positive advances to the LGBTQ community, unlike his predecessors who shunned and condemned us, he is at least reaching out to us.

As LGBTQ Catholics we should be cautiously joyous that the Church after more than 2000 years is not damning us to hell but embracing us where we are. For non-Catholics this should bring good news that the massive ship that is the church is slowing turning around, looking for its lost sheep and in the process affecting LGBTQ peoples worldwide.


Conversion Therapy is a Fraud Court Says

In the past I’ve written about the ills of conversion therapy and the efforts of progressive states to ban its use for children under 18 years of age. Well, good news concerning the legitimacy of the claims of proponents of such therapy that describe homosexuality as a curable mental disorder has come from a judge’s ruling in New Jersey. In a word, gay conversion therapy claims are a “fraud.”

The significance of this cannot go unnoticed. If the opponents of “gay” conversion therapy are successful in their suit against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, this case could set a precedent on the basis of consumer fraud and be a death knell for such clinics across the country.

According to CBS News, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso Jr. ruled Tuesday in the case involving the Jersey City-based JONAH and said that those claims are illegal based on the state’s Consumer Fraud Act. Bariso also said it’s fraudulent to offer “success statistics” because “there is no factual basis for calculating such statistics.”

The men alleged that JONAH’s methods don’t work. The four men said they went through the therapy and were forced to do activities including being made to strip naked while standing in a circle with other boys, and be naked with their fathers at bathhouses.

Is this “conversion therapy” or “perversion therapy?”

On its website, JONAH describes itself as a non-profit organization that “works with those struggling with unwanted same-sex sexual attractions.”

JONAH attorney Charles LiMandri said the group’s use of the word “disorder” was based on their interpretation of Jewish law and not intended to describe homosexuality as a psychological disorder. He said JONAH expects to win when the case goes to trial in June.

JONAH provided data meant to persuade potential clients that its reparative treatments were effective, something that multiple clinics do despite the many instances where “cured” gays admit to they haven’t changed. That data, Bariso reasoned, was tantamount to misrepresentation and fraud.

“For the first time, a court has ruled that it is fraudulent as a matter of law for conversion therapists to tell clients that they have a mental disorder that can be cured,” said David Dinielli, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “This is the principle lie the conversion therapy industry uses throughout the country to peddle its quackery to vulnerable clients. Gay people don’t need to be cured, and we are thrilled that the court has recognized this.”

Gay Rainbow Mormons

The Mormon Move

Have the Mormons gone crazy? Did you feel the earth shake recently? One of the biggest bastions of conservatism, the Church of Latter Day Saints, has come out in full support of local, state and federal LGBTQ anti-discrimination bills. Well short of . . . more like an olive branch to our community in that they are offering a compromise in that in return they seek some form of protection for people who claim a religious reason for being exempt from the law.

Yes the devil will be in the details. But what is so significant is that the Church of LDS has publicaly come out and recognized that LGBTQ discrimination exists and that it is necessary that there be protections against such discrimination.

This cannot be underestimated. Imagine if the Catholic Church dropped its opposition to the LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws, we would have more states, like Pennsylvania, that have such needed such protections.

But open and frank dialog is necessary and it appears the Mormons have made the first move.

However, there is a wide chasm between sides. The religious right believes that applying such protections to LGBTQ peoples would protect individuals on the basis of behavior, rather than “immutable characteristics” individuals are powerless to change. They believe that it would be offensive to their religious liberties to have to serve LGBTQ people in any capacity.

But the clear problem here is that we LGBTQ people are NOT able to change. We, who are born this way, believe that our sexuality and gender are “immutable characteristics” that cannot and should not be changed.

But should we LGBTQ people run away from religious exceptions to anti-discrimination laws?

Some argue no, that we should welcome them, rather than force the religious right into the closet. Because of their belief let them be. Allow them to serve who they want. Allow them to discriminate and let the free market run its course, hoping that businesses who discriminate would eventually go out of business.

Others, and I included, feel that it’s not a matter of putting anyone in the closet or denying their freedom to worship their religion as they see fit, but a matter of justice and dignity.

Would we even consider allowing religious exceptions in this country to permit the lawful discrimination of black people or women? Would we permit hospitals, pharmacies, restaurants and other business such a right to discriminate due to one’s religious beliefs?

No, we would not! We would be outraged at such actions. Than why would anyone ask us LGBTQ people to deny our dignity and our rightful place as free and equal citizens of this great nation?

I applaud the direction the Mormon Church has taken, but the call to compromise our personal freedoms and liberties is not realistic and justified. Compromising on rights we have yet to receive I believe is not acceptable in our modern day civil rights movement.