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Prop 8 trial reveals abuses of reparative therapy

If you haven’t heard, a civil trial is underway in California contesting the constitutionality of Prop 8.  If you don’t know about Prop 8, it was a California referendum that passed by a slight majority in the 2008 election, and its effect was to preclude same gender marriage in California.

This is a much ballyhooed trial, not merely for its subject but also for its participants.  The two main attorneys that are pursuing the case are the same who opposed each other in Gore v Bush, the 2000 presidential election Florida recount case, who now join in common cause to have Prop 8 overturned as unconstitutional.   One of these is well known Republican and conservative attorney Theodore Olson, formerly of the Bush and Reagan administrations.

Attorney Olson explains his views in a Newsweek article, entitled The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage.

My involvement in this case has generated a certain degree of consternation among conservatives. How could a politically active, lifelong Republican, a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, challenge the “traditional” definition of marriage and press for an “activist” interpretation of the Constitution to create another “new” constitutional right?

My answer to this seeming conundrum rests on a lifetime of exposure to persons of different backgrounds, histories, viewpoints, and intrinsic characteristics, and on my rejection of what I see as superficially appealing but ultimately false perceptions about our Constitution and its protection of equality and fundamental rights.

Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one’s own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.

Pastor Candice Chellew-Hodge is “the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as associate pastor at Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, S.C.”  A religious progressive, her blog post today carries the subtitle, “testimony shows the ugly side of religion”.  The subject is the discredited and abusive practice of reparative therapy—the misguided attempt to turn gay persons straight.  (See my prior blog post about reparative therapy here.)

The testimony, as reported by Pastor Chellew-Hodge, is compelling and heart wrenching.

I’m gay. I’m short and half Hispanic those things aren’t going to change.”

Those are the words Ryan Kendall uttered in a federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday as the trial over whether or not to overturn Proposition 8 that stripped gays and lesbians of their right to marry in California, got into its second week.

Kendall took the stand to recount his harsh treatment in an “ex-gay ministry.” His deeply religious parents forced him into so-called “reparative therapy” after finding a note that Kendall had written to himself confessing his sexual orientation at the age of 13. Kendall said his parents “flipped out, (they were) very upset, yelling. I don’t remember a lot of what they said, but it was pretty scary the level of their reaction. I remember my mother telling me I was going to burn in hell.”

Read the rest of the blog post and more testimony here.

2 Responses

  1. Obie, this is a valuable summary of what’s coming to light re: the ugly side of religion in the prop 8 trial–about the demonic face some people of faith show to their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

    I have just read your essay in tandem with Lisa Leff’s article at Huffington Post today, about the testimony of Hak-Shing William Tam at the prop 8 trial. Tam is one of the five California citizens who signed on as official proponents of the prop 8 ban, to get it onto the ballot.

    In his testimony yesterday, Tam repeated statements he has published on a Chinese Christian website, which claim that gays are far more likely to be pedophiles than are the rest of the population, and that permitting gay marriage will open the door to polygamy and incest.

    When pressed on his reason for believing that gays are pedophiles, when strong empirical evidence shows over 90% of cases of child abuse involving heterosexual men, he simply said that he “believes” this is true.

    When pressed about his false claim that the Netherlands instituted polygamy after permitting same-sex marriage, he stated that “it’s on the internet.”

    My question is why some people of faith seem to imagine that they have free rein to tell ugly and dangerous lies about their gay brothers and sisters, while claiming that they have the moral high road. And why some churches seem so intent on promoting these lies that they take up funds and organize politically to remove the right of civil marriage from their gay brothers and sisters–as the prop 8 documents show the LDS and Catholic church did in California.

  2. Bill,

    Twenty five years ago, when my small town ELCA congregation was in danger of being swallowed up by “the ugly side of religion”, a perversion of the good news into a battering ram, I faced a decision whether to leave my church or stay and fight. My wife and I chose to fight, and we prevailed on that day.

    I guess that is my answer to those who ask why I’m in this fight at this time since I’m not gay nor do I have any gay family members. To walk away from this struggle is to walk away from my church and allow “the ugly side of religion” to hold sway.

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