Several dozen people demonstrated Saturday outside the DFW Airport Marriott, where the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality is holding its annual conference. Members are discussing new research in conversion therapy: the use of therapy to suppress someone’s homosexual desires. The message from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups protesting at both events is that homosexuality needs no cure because it is not an illness and that attempts to convert gays to a straight lifestyle are based on quack science. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote on today’s protest. Truth Wins Out will provide video of the demonstration and press conference in the coming days.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The long-raging debate over efforts by some religious and psychological groups to “cure” homosexuals is flaring anew this weekend on two battlegrounds: at a conference in Irving and at a Barack Obama campaign concert in South Carolina.
Several dozen people demonstrated Saturday outside the DFW Airport Marriott, where the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality is holding its annual conference. Members are discussing new research in conversion therapy: the use of therapy to suppress someone’s homosexual desires.
Protesters are also expected to stage a vigil today in Columbia, S.C., where a gospel outreach concert is being held to help Obama’s efforts to reach out to black voters in the pivotal South Carolina primary. At issue is one of the event’s featured stars: Grammy-winning gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, who has said he believes that homosexuality is a choice, one he was able to break loose from with the power of prayer.
The message from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups protesting at both events is that homosexuality needs no cure because it is not an illness and that attempts to convert gays to a straight lifestyle are based on quack science.
The views of the therapy association and McClurkin “are patently absurd, unscientific and have no basis in fact,” said Wayne Besen, an author and political organizer who helped arrange Saturday’s protest.
Besen also helped spark the national controversy over Obama’s concert by publicly challenging the Illinois senator to disavow McClurkin.
Joseph Nicolosi, the therapy organization’s president, said he co-founded the group in 1992 in response to the American Psychological Association’ disapproval of conversion therapy.
“In other words, if a client came in and said I’m unhappy with my homosexuality, their only proper treatment would be helping them accept their homosexuality,” Nicolosi said of the APA’s stance.
Therapy has been used to try to change sexual orientation since at least the 1950s, said Clinton Anderson, who directs the American Psychological Association’s Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns Office. He said it was often used on men who had been arrested for homosexual behavior, which was illegal.
The APA has maintained since the 1970s that homosexuality is not a mental disorder, Anderson said. While the therapy association and other groups say there have been successful conversions, the APA remains skeptical, noting that research has been biased and poorly documented.
Nicolosi said he believes that someone becomes gay because of early-childhood trauma from their same-sex parents. His organization’s members are interested in treating only gay people who no longer want to be gay, he said.
Critics have called conversion therapy dangerous to a gay person’ well-being.
“There’s no scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed,” said Chuck Smith with Equality Texas, an Austin-based gay rights group.
“What they’re calling ‘therapy’ ends up being harmful to people and only further increases these patients’ internalized homophobia,” Smith said.
The Obama campaign inadvertently stepped into the thorny issue this month when it announced that McClurkin would perform at tonight’s concert. McClurkin calls himself a “former homosexual” who found his way to the straight life through God.
Obama has denounced McClurkin’s views on homosexuality but, despite protests, allowed him to perform. As a result of the outrage from Besen and other gay activists, Obama invited an openly gay pastor from South Carolina to attend the event. By refusing to dump McClurkin from the concert, “Obama is missing a real opportunity to educate Americans and send a strong message that anti-gay rhetoric is repulsive and unacceptable,” Besen said.
It isn’t the first time the issue has come up in this election. Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, caught flak in August when, in response to a question at a debate, he said homosexuality was a choice. Richardson later apologized for the remark, saying jet lag caused him to misunderstand the question.
Along with potentially alienating a voting bloc, the debate has ramifications for public policy as well. Polls show that people who view homosexuality as a choice are far more likely to oppose same-sex marriage and civil unions.
The issue has surfaced mostly in the Democratic race.
Todd Hill, vice president of the Mid-Cities Democrats and a member of the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats, a gay and transgender political group, said he isn’t concerned about Obama’s association with McClurkin. What matters to him is that Obama has said publicly that he doesn’t believe being gay is a choice.
“Being a homosexual myself, I know that there’s no choice in the matter,” Hill said.
Rob Schlein, president of the Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, a gay Republican group, said politicians who don’t believe that homosexuality is a choice tend to be more friendly on other gay issues. He said he looks beyond gay issues when choosing candidates to support.
“Even though Republicans are far from perfect on our GLBT issues, their principals of limited government, lower tax rates, strong national defense, and victory in Iraq are more in line with my thinking,” Schlein said in an e-mail.