Saturday, July 02, 2005

Update on Zach

Straight from The Washington Blade:

Tenn. opens new probe of ‘ex-gay’ facility
Experts say children should not be forced into counseling

By EARTHA MELZER
Jul. 01, 2005

The state of Tennessee continues to probe Love in Action, the Memphis facility that has drawn protests since a 16-year-old known as “Zach” blogged that his parents were sending him there for treatment intended to change his sexual orientation.

The Tennessee Department of Health has sent a letter to Love in Action notifying the group that it is suspected of operating illegally, according to Andrea Turner, communications director for the department.

Turner said that if the program is strictly faith-based it would not require licensing by the state, but that according to the group’s Web site, Love in Action has licensed counselors and provides services related to alcohol and drug addiction on site.
“If this is the case, they are required to be licensed as a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Tennessee,” Turner said.

If employees there are providing counseling on homosexuality, it is possible that they are operating outside their area of expertise, Turner added.

Legislation giving the health department the authority to issue cease-and-desist orders to unlicensed alcohol and drug treatment facilities goes into effect July 1. Turner said that the health department is considering whether the Love in Action facility is causing harm.

Rachel Lassiter, of Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen’s communications office, said that the Department of Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities has also begun research on Love in Action and is writing a letter of inquiry to the facility to determine whether an official investigation is warranted.

Lassiter said that only licensed professionals should provide mental health care in Tennessee and that the state has an interest in making sure that whatever services are offered are beneficial.

Last week, the Department of Child Services investigated allegations of child abuse at the facility and determined that the allegations were unfounded.

Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a psychologist at faith-based Grove City College in Pennsylvania and a leading advocate for the view that sexual orientation can be changed, said that he believes that Love in Action is mixing ministry with treatment and that people can be damaged by sexual reorientation therapies offered by unprofessional practitioners.

Throckmorton emphasized that while a parent might compel a teen to attend church, a professional counselor is bound to obtain informed consent from a client and should not treat a minor solely because his parents are upset about his sexual orientation.

Love in Action advertises a therapeutic environment in which professional counselors help people overcome “addictive behaviors including homosexuality.”

Insurance covers ex-gays?
Throckmorton serves on the professional advisory board of Magellan, the country’s largest behavioral health insurance manager. Magellan handles behavioral health coverage for hundreds of health care plans and Medicaid.

This year, Magellan removed Throckmorton from his advisory role after critics expressed concerns about Throckmorton’s efforts to advance the idea that sexual reorientation counseling should be available to gays.

Magellan restored Throckmorton to his post after pressure from LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, a Christian products and services company based in Nashville. Throckmorton said that he believes the fact that he was reinstated means that Magellan would cover patients’ costs associated with sexual re-orientation therapy.

Although homosexuality is not an illness, Jack Drescher, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual issues Committee, said that he believes some counselors offer therapies intended to reorient gays and bill insurance companies with the diagnosis “sexual disorder not otherwise specified.”

It is not clear how widespread this practice is. Magellan could not provide statistics on how frequently people are diagnosed with “sexual disorder NOS.” Some providers, including Throckmorton, do not accept insurance, and therefore would not be subject to monitoring by managed health plans.

Throckmorton said that most people who seek reorientation counseling are referred to practitioners through Exodus International, an umbrella group for “ex-gay” projects.

There is no referral system that guides people to professionals that specialize in sexual reorientation counseling. No schools provide specialized training in this area and so it is outside the area of expertise for most professionals.

Sexual reorientation and reparative therapy counseling presents ethical, legal and regulatory challenges.

The idea that sexual orientation is changeable is advanced by conservative groups like Exodus International and Focus on the Family.

In “Calculated Compassion: How the Ex-Gay Movement Serves the Right’s Attack on Democracy,” Surina Khan writes that the ex-gay movement provides political cover for anti-gay campaigns by repackaging them in kinder, gentler terms and attempting to ally itself with religious groups.

“The ex-gay movement is an integral part of the Christian Right, which promotes Christian nationalism, an ideology that seeks to use government laws and regulations to impose fundamentalist Christian values on the entire nation.”

Indeed, money from James Dobson’s Focus on the Family has funded both Exodus and the Alliance Defense Fund, a leading legal group opposing recognition of gay relationships. In her 1998 report Khan points out that Robert Knight of the Family Research Council has characterized the beginning of a major ex-gay publicity campaign as “the Normandy landing in the larger cultural wars.”

Ex-gays backers oppose forced treatment
But not even those who support making sexual reorientation available to adults believe that it is right to coerce a minor into undergoing such treatment.

Dr. Mark Yarhouse is often cited by the ex-gay movement. Yarhouse runs the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity at the religious Regent University in Virginia Beach. Yarhouse said that it is unethical to treat a minor against his or her will.

Arthur Goldberg is a board member of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality and co-director of Jonah, a Jewish ministry that addresses unwanted same-sex attraction. Goldberg said, “We tell parents that unless someone is motivated to want to change, they are wasting their money.”

Shannon Mintner, a lawyer with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, has worked on hundreds of cases in which teens are forced into various types of treatment scenarios because their parents disapprove of their sexual orientation.

Mintner first became aware of this phenomenon when he was contacted by a teenage girl who had escaped from a psychiatric facility where she was undergoing forced treatment for Lesbians. Mintner was able to help the girl find an adoptive home with a San Francisco lesbian couple.

Mintner said that Love in Action’s attempt to reorient kids is unique only in that they are so open about what they are trying to do.

In 1995, Mintner was involved in a case in Memphis in which the group Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays helped a 16-year-old gay male seek emancipation from his parents because they were forcing him to attend reorientation counseling with a Memphis psychologist, Dr. Duff Wright, and planned to send him to either Love in Action, or another similar program.

Minter said that the Memphis Circuit Court judge agreed that the boy would be harmed by this treatment and indicated that he would sign the emancipation order. In a settlement agreement, the parents abandoned plans to send the boy to reorientation treatment.

In April, the Tennessee Department of Health permanently revoked Dr. Duff Wright’s license to practice as a psychologist, due to alleged ethics violations.

Mintner said that while he has been able to help young people on a case-by-case level, “What we have not yet been able to find a way to do is to develop a systemic response that would get at the heart of the issue.”

Discussion of Love in Action has permeated the Memphis media in recent weeks and Alex Polotsky of the Queer Action Coalition said that the group will continue its campaign of demonstrations against Love in Action.

“We want every person in America to know about this. No reasonable sane person would support this program,” he said.

Twenty-one-year-old J.M., who spoke on condition on anonymity, said that he was sent to Love in Action by his parents at the recommendation of a Christian counselor when he was 17.

“The place was like a Nazi camp. I lost faith in God, friends, family.”

J.M. said he is glad that Love in Action has come into the spotlight.

“I am optimistic for some point in the future, I’ve lived for brief periods in New York, New Jersey, Philly. They are not as close-minded about this; it is not as cruel,” he said.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Resignation from Hell

And so the bloodfest begins... Sandra Day O'Conner resigns...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I guess this is worse than two mothers...

Straight from GenderPAC:
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"Next time you drop your child off at school, you better be sure you look like Ozzie if you are the dad and Harriet if you are the mom. At least, that’s how St. Mary Star of the Sea Preschool in Oceanside, California would have it. Last week, the school barred a three-year-old girl from enrolling because her father presents himself as 'feminine,' according to a news report in the North County Times.
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'It’s wrong to discriminate against anyone and it’s wrong to deny this little girl of her educational opportunities. No one has the right to sit as judge and jury over whether a dad looks like a dad to them,' said Riki Wilchins, Executive Director of Gender Public Advocacy Coalition.
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The school accepted the little girl when her mother, a teacher, filled out the paperwork. But officials changed their minds when her father showed up in a tie-dyed tunic and pants. The father told the newspaper, 'My lifestyle is so average. I’m a married, heterosexual, working parent.'
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The enrollment deadlines for other preschools have passed and the little girl will have to wait another year to apply to another school.
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'If a dad in a tunic is too feminine, is a mom in jeans and sneakers too masculine? I’ve heard of dress codes for students, but I’ve never heard of dress codes for parents,' said Wilchins."
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- Thanks C.D. Oldenburg for writing about this. Gender identity is a branch of the LGBT civil rights movement that I formally knew little about. This school should not have done this, in fact, something reeks here that is not legal.
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I visited this website which listed the rights of Parents regarding their child's school enrollment in California. They said nothing about barring rejection of Parents and their children from that school based on a parent's sexual or gender identity.
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Thus I e-mailed webmaster@fusd.net and asked him the following:
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To whom it may concern,
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I was brought to attention recently of a very disurbing and outragous act by a school to deny a student enrollment to their school based on her father's gender identity.
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The school was St. Mary Star of the Sea Preschool in Oceanside, California. Last week, the school barred a three-year-old girl from enrolling because her father presents himself as 'feminine,' according to a news report in the North County Times.
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The school accepted the little girl when her mother, a teacher, filled out the paperwork. But officials changed their minds when her father showed up in a tie-dyed tunic and pants. The father told the newspaper, 'My lifestyle is so average. I’m a married, heterosexual, working parent.'
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Now thanks to this action taken by the school, The enrollment deadlines for other preschools have passed and the little girl will have to wait another year to apply to another school.
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I am very concerned about parents not being able to enroll their children in basic schooling simply because of the way they dress or their sexual preference. the child's dad was not wearing anything flamboyant for that fact either, simply showing up in a tie-dyed tunic and pants.
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Please get back to me on this issue because I am very concerned, and am ready to take further action on this issue. I want to know if it is legal to deny a child a basic education based on the gender identity or sexual preference of a parent. Thank you very much, and I hope to hear from you soon.
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Sincerely,
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Your name here
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E-mail this to webmaster@fusd.net

TAKE ACTION!

"Common Sense New Yorkism" is devoting its entire blog (and spare time) to fighting for Zach!
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UPDATE: I am enrolling my local GLSEN and ACLU branch into this fight. Today I am visiting personally my local ACLU, GLSEN, and GLAAD. To make a difference, mail the below letter to Donna Lieberman, Exec. Dir., NYCLU, 125 Broad St. - 17th fl, NY, NY 10004
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I am formulating a draft letter with a Texas-based GSA (Gay Straight Alliance), and some local LGBT civil rights groups and we will be taking action on this. If YOU want to take action, e-mail or mail the following letter which I wrote myself to groups listed after the letter (PLEASE feel free to edit):
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To whom it may concern,

You may or may not have heard of the growing controversy over the program sponsored by Christian group
Love in Action that takes gay youths and "indoctrinates" them into a straight lifestyle. This has been reported on by such bloggers as popular Daily Kos and it has even been reported on CNN.
Recently, Love In Action has taken in a youth known as Zach, who wrote about the program on his
myspace before he was forced to go to the camp by his parents. His postings inspired LGBT groups to protest outside the Tennessee camp, as well as leading to outpourings of support from all over the nation, including from celebrities such a Margaret Cho.
While it is revolting to see such groups trying to convert gays into heterosexuals, it is fine if it involves a consenting adult voluntarily entering into the program. It becomes different when a gay child is forced into such a program, and indeed may in fact be very dangerous. I really am concerned for Zach, but in a broader sense I am concerned that there is not more outrage in regards to LGBT youth being forced to attend such camps.
I am concerned about the legality of such practices, and the effect that this program is having on Zach, who has written on his blog that the program has made him suicidal, In fact, Rev. John Smid, the head of this camp, said the following: "I would rather you commit suicide than have you leave Love In Action wanting to return to the gay lifestyle." Some of the rules of the group which outrage me include the use of public humiliation and solitary confinement as punishments, as well as kids not being allowed to have any physical contact with another human being besides an authorized hand shake or pat. These rules are posted on Zach's blog.
Please contact me as soon as you can. I feel strongly about this, but I'm just one person, I need help trying to figure out how I can take action. Thank you.

Sincerely,

[your name]
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Send to:
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- ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)
Website: www.aclu.org
Email: contact form on site
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- Amnesty International (USA Branch)
Website: www.amnestyusa.org
Email: admin-us@aiusa.org
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- Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
Email: hrc@hrc.org
Fax: 202/347-5323
Website: hrc.org
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- Oprah Winfrey
Contact Form: http://www2.oprah.com/email/reach/email_reach_fromu.jhtml
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- Lambda Legal (A Gay-Centric Legal Service)
Website: www.lambdalegal.com
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- Tennessee Equality Project (A Gay Rights Group In Tennessee)
Email: info@tnep.org
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- National Libertarian Party (political party dedicated to human rights)
Website with Contact Info: http://www.lp.org/organization/lncdirectory2.shtml
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- News Networks:
CNN:
http://www.cnn.com/feedback
MSNBC:
viewerservices@MSNBC.com
FOX:
Viewerservices@foxnews.com
Memphis Local:
ABC/UPN:
jimturpin@clearchannel.com
NBC: pphillip@wmctv.com
CBS: sengstacke@wreg.com
FOX:
fox13news@foxtv.com
Independent Media:Free Speech TV:
eric@freespeech.org
Democracy NOW!:
http://www.democracynow.org/storyidea.pl
Independent World Television: contact@iwtnews.com