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‘Ex-gay’ group accuses Maryland school superintendent of ‘hate speech’

By David Edwards
Wednesday, May 16, 2012 12:09 EDT
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A group that claims LGBT people can change their sexual orientation has filed a complaint against the the superintendent of the Montgomery County Board of Education in Maryland over alleged sexual orientation discrimination.

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) Executive Director Regina Griggs told Raw Story that School Superintendent Joshua Starr engaged in “hate speech” by telling students that the group’s actions were “reprehensible and deplorable.”

During a student meeting earlier this year, Starr was asked why PFOX flyers, which claimed LGBT people can change their sexual orientation, were sent home with students’ report cards.

“I find the actions of PFOX to be repressible and deplorable,” Starr explained. “We are bound by law … to enable nonprofits to distribute flyers — I think it’s four times a year. And we can’t really do that much about it unless we wanted to cut off all flyer distribution, which is an option.”

“This group has figured out a way to use that law to spread what I find to be a really disgusting message, quite frankly,” the superintendent said. “I’m quite upset by it in a lot of ways and I wish there were more I could do, but I am bound by the law. And as it stands it allows for this kind of action that truly is reprehensible.”

In a media advisory on the Christian News Wire on Wednesday, PFOX announced that they had filed a complaint against Starr.

“Starr does not respect diversity and is creating an unsafe school environment,” the complaint charged. “Superintendent Starr cannot be allowed to use his official position to display hate against any group of people because he disagrees with their sexual orientation. Starr’s flagrant violation of the Nondiscrimination Policy demonstrates that he is a prime candidate to receive ex-gay tolerance training and diversity education.”

Griggs told Raw Story that Starr was “totally out of line.”

“He’s anti-ex-gay and he does not want us in the school and he does not want our flyer distributed,” she insisted, adding that her group was not intolerant of LGBT students. “People have the right to self determination. The real truth is ex-gays are hated by the homosexual community because they’ve become heterosexual. … They can’t play their innate, immutable game. [Homosexuality] is not innate, immutable. There is zero scientific evidence.”

“We are not a therapeutic or a ministry,” Griggs added. “People do change. Sexuality is fluid. How you feel today may not be how you feel tomorrow or ten years from now for that matter. So all we have ever said is that we want the same tolerance, the same equality applied across the board. … They are anti-heterosexual, they are anti-ex-gay. They are very unhappy people or they wouldn’t be out attacking others.”

While Griggs claimed that materials distributed by her organization did not prosthelytize or promote reparative therapy, the group’s website does offer Christian prayers for those “tired of living a gay life and wants a fresh start and a new life.” The website also includes a referral directory for obtaining “ex-gay” counseling.

With medical experts saying that reparative therapy can actually be dangerous, some states like California have moved to ban the practice.

Last month, a California state Senate committee approved a bill that aims to protect citizens against “reparative” therapies intended to change the sexual orientation of LGBT people.

SB 1172 would ban children under 18 from receiving so-called “ex-gay” therapies. Therapists would also have to provide adults receiving treatment with consent forms to warn them of potential dangers.

“An individual’s sexual orientation, whether homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual, is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming,” the bill states. “Under no circumstances shall a patient under 18 years of age undergo sexual orientation change efforts, regardless of the willingness of a patient’s parent, guardian, conservator, or other person to authorize such efforts.”

The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy are all on record opposing the use of such therapies because “[s]exual orientation change efforts can be harmful,” according to the bill. “The risks include, but are not limited to, depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.”

“The gay legislator is denying people the right to self determination because he doesn’t want people to change,” Griggs said of bill author Sen. Ted W. Lieu (D). “What gives him the right to tell children and teens you can’t have all the information? You may be unhappy with those feelings and they’re unwanted and too bad, you have no rights. What gives him the authority?”

The Montgomery County Board of Education did not respond by the time of publication.

Watch this video from the Montgomery County Board of Education, uploaded March 23, 2012.

Photo: Shutterstock

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
 
 
 
 
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