The Joys of Being Private: Ex-gays Keep Out

Gay activist groups must really want to avoid ex-gays. Now that’s a bold statement but witness the new love of the First Amendment by some gay rights organizations and their supporters.

For instance, the oldest gay activist group in the nation, the Gay Activists Alliance of Washington (GLAA) came out this week in support of the National Education Association’s refusal to allow the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gay and Gays (PFOX) to exhibit at the NEA’s national conventions.

This support is no surprise but the rationale is remarkable given the antipathy of most gay groups and the NEA towards those who wish to exercise their First Amendment rights to exclude gays from various private or religious functions.

In a letter from GLAA president Kevin Davis to the D.C. Office of Human Rights, GLAA supported the NEA’s action to refuse PFOX convention space based on NEA’s status as a private organization. Davis likened the NEA’s exclusion to the 1995 Supreme Court case allowing the Boston Allied War Veterans to exclude the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston from the veteran’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Simply, the veterans excluded a gay advocacy group so the NEA can exclude an ex-gay advocacy group.

OK, I understand the analogy as far as it goes. But what I don’t understand is what the NEA gains by exercising its right to discriminate. When the Boy Scouts of America exercises its right to carry out its mission, the NEA and gay activist groups deliberately attempt to undermine the workings of this private group.

GLAA recently opposed the appointment of a commissioner to the D.C. Office of Human Rights simply because he had past involvement in the Boy Scouts. The same GLAA lauded a D.C. Office of Human Rights decision to fine the Boy Scouts $100,000 for removing two openly gay scouts from the private organization.

By resolution in 2001, the NEA went on record as opposing the use of public school buildings by groups that discriminate against gays and lesbians (read: Boy Scouts of America). Since the NEA is now admitting to discrimination against ex-gays, will it pass a resolution asking school boards to boycott the NEA? Absurd, huh?

Absurd, yes, but so what? Here’s the so what: The NEA through its teacher training materials, curricular recommendations and political action arguably has more impact on schools than any other professional group. Impact on schools could mean impact on our kids. Although many local schools work hard to screen materials for appropriateness, other districts simply pass on NEA recommended materials to their administrators, teachers and counselors.

Thus, what kids hear about sexuality in public schools may be influenced by NEA materials. With the NEA blatantly excluding any information about the flexibility of sexual orientation and options other than gay affirming, how will impressionable and confused school kids get a fair chance to evaluate all their options’

As an outside observer, GLAA writes, “It appears that NEA has only restricted PFOX because of their (PFOX’s) expressive message which is at odds with NEA’s own mission and message.” The NEA mission statement is “to fulfill the promise of a democratic society, the National Education Association shall promote the cause of quality public education and advance the profession of education; expand the rights and further the interest of educational employees; and advocate human, civil, and economic rights for all.”

Now what is it about the expressive message of PFOX that compromises NEA’s mission? The PFOX message is that science has not proven the origins of sexual orientation to be genetic or inborn, that people change their sexuality frequently and that identifying as gay or lesbian too early can lead to risky sexual experimentation. Do the leaders of the NEA think there are no ex-gay teachers, ex-gay school counselors, ex-gay parents of school students or adolescents with same-sex attraction who refuse a gay identity? This is another good question for us to pose to the NEA.

So I ask again: what harm would the PFOX ex-gay message do to the NEA mission and message? Unless the NEA has become an arm of the Human Rights Campaign or changed its name to be the Gay Education Association, I cannot see how letting PFOX in the NEA convention would undermine NEA’s mission.