Sunday, February 12, 2012

Testimony before the Baltimore County Council

I am Grace Harley, speaking for Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays, known as PFOX, a non-profit organization that works to eliminate negative perceptions and discrimination against former homosexuals.

 

Last year PFOX met with Kevin Jennings, former Assistant Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Education.  Mr. Jennings affirmed the right of ex-gay organizations to have equal access in the nation’s public schools and agreed that former homosexuals should not be discriminated against.

 

PFOX also met with Joseph Wheeler, Attorney for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.  Mr. Wheeler agreed with the 2009 D.C. Superior Court ruling that ex-gays are a legally protected class.  PFOX had brought this lawsuit to ensure equality for the ex-gay community.  

 

Mr. Tom Quirk, because you are the sponsor of Human Relations Bill No. 3-12, we have sent you several emails requesting a meeting with you to discuss your adding an amendment to include ‘former homosexuality’ in your sexual orientation bill, but you have never answered. So we again repeat our request. 

 

Former homosexuals like me need protection from sexual orientation discrimination more than anyone else. We are the victims of hate.  We are ridiculed and condemned.  Many ex-gays are afraid to come out of the closet because of the harassment they will receive.   

Transgenders are affirmed for changing their gender but former homosexuals are ridiculed for changing their sexual orientation.  Ex-gay conferences and seminars across the country are frequently picketed by protestors.  Presidential candidate Barack Obama was criticized by some for allowing ex-gay singer Donnie McClurkin to sing at a fundraiser but our President refused to drop him from the program. An ex-gay volunteer staffing PFOX’s exhibit booth at the Arlington County Fair was physically assaulted.  After speaking at an ex-gay conference, Michelle McKinney-Hammond lost her radio programming on a broadcast station.  Other African-Americans have also been targeted for speaking out in support of the ex-gay community. 

The list is endless because every day is a new day.  Ex-gays are denied their pursuit of happiness because they are persecuted.  This irrational phobia of those who have overcome unwanted same-sex attractions perpetuates misunderstanding and harm against the ex-gay community.  It also demonstrates a disregard for diversity.

Your bill defines ‘sexual orientation’ as the “identification of homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality.” Mr. Quirk and councilmembers, you are sponsoring this bill to protect people who identify with the opposite gender, but you fail to protect people who identify as former homosexuals.  But why can’t your sexual orientation bill protect everyone?  Please, Mr. Quirk, stop ignoring us and amend your bill.  We need your protection and your compassion. To give sexual orientation protection to one group while excluding another is outright discrimination. 

 

Councilmembers, all it takes is to add two words, “former homosexuality,” to the bill’s definition to ensure protection from sexual orientation discrimination for everyone. Otherwise the bill is not about protecting people from discrimination but about giving preferred treatment to a special interest group, which is not what our country and county are about.

 

Unless the bill is amended, we urge you to vote against Human Relations Bill No. 3-12 because it is discriminatory on its face and does not serve the purpose its sponsors claim.