D.C. Sued for Prejudice--Against ’Ex-Gays’

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Oct 15, 2008

Many right-wing organizations condemn legislation protecting minorities, especially members of the GLBT community. But one organization wants to be included in laws banning discrimination based on sexuality.

The support group for so-called "ex-gays," PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays), has brought suit against Washington, D.C.'s Office of Human Rights for not including "ex-gays" as a protected group under laws that bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to a PRNewswire-USNewswire story posted at

The executive director of PFOX, Regina Griggs, was quoted in the story as claiming, "The ex-gay community is the most bullied and maligned group in America, yet they are not protected by sexual orientation non-discrimination laws."

In Washington, D.C., discrimination based on several categories is banned, including "sexual preference," "sexual orientation," "gender identity," and "gender expression," the article noted.

"Ex-gays" are not distinguished from heterosexuals by the law and are not included in the protected categories.

The theory behind such laws is that GLBT people should not have their rights abrogated because of their sexuality; in other words, they should not be denied the same rights as heterosexuals.

Griggs mirrored this notion in asking, "Shouldn't ex-gays enjoy the same legal protections that gays enjoy?"

Asserted the PFOX executive director, "Former homosexuals and their friends have been fired from their jobs, repeatedly ridiculed, assaulted, and intimidated.

"This harassment is most often perpetrated by the same groups who demand protection under sexual orientation laws but work to deny ex-gays the same respect," claimed Griggs.

Griggs widened the focus from the city policies of Washington, D.C., to the national stage by claiming that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama had not responded to an inquiry by PFOX as to whether the Illinois senator, who has expressed support for a federal law to protect GLBT workers, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), would extend the protections ENDA offers to "ex-gays" as well as GLBT employees.

Under ENDA, GLBT workers could not be denied hiring or promotion, or fired or harassed at the workplace, due to their sexuality.

Said Griggs, "This far-reaching law which Obama plans to pass as President will grant rights to homosexuals, transgenders, and cross-dressers, but what about ex-gays?"

"Like Senator Obama, we believe in change. But others do not," Griggs asserted.

"When ex-gay gospel singer Donnie McClurkin sang at an Obama fundraiser last year, gay groups demanded that Obama remove McClurkin from the program."

Though Griggs did not specify it, Obama did not accede to demands to remove McClurkin from subsequent scheduled appearances.

Continued Griggs, "On CNN Prime News, former Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Wayne Besen insisted that Obama should fire McClurkin just for being ex-gay."

Griggs continued, "Former homosexuals should have the right to be out, open and safe in society."

PFOX bills itself as a group that "promotes an inclusive environment for the ex-gay community, and works to eliminate negative perceptions and discrimination against former homosexuals." Its Web site states that, "PFOX is not a therapeutic or counseling organization," although a motto appearing at the site claims that the group supports "the right of homosexuals to choose change."

Besen, who heads the "ex-ex-gay" group Truth Wins Out, responded to news of the suit at his blog, in an item that called the PFOX suit "bizarre" and asserted that claims of discrimination against "ex-gays" were "invented" and "exaggerated."

Stated the text at Besen's site, "PFOX has never offered any evidence and has long invented or greatly exaggerated potential cases.

"PFOX is a political organization that sells the idea that people can 'pray away the gay,'" continued the text. "It was founded by lawyer Roy Cohn's ex-boyfriend, Anthony Falzarono, and bankrolled by the [anti-gay, Colorado Springs-based] Family Research Council."

Added the text, "It was later run by therapist Richard Cohen, who was banned for life by the American Counseling Association."

The text continued, "The current leader is Regina Griggs, who has an openly gay son."

One comment posted at Besen's site by a reader noted, "So PFOX is finally admitting that 'ex-gay' means something other than 'heterosexual'?"

Added the commentator, "I suppose I'd be happy about that, if they weren't still insisting that 'ex-gay' means something other than 'homosexual' too."

Although some evidence does exist that certain (though not all) individuals can, with therapy, repress sexual urges, there is little indication that innate sexuality can be altered or that GLBT individuals can be "converted" into heterosexuals.

Reputable mental health professionals warn against attempts to "convert" gay people, fearing that more harm than good would result.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


  • , 2008-10-15 16:31:51

    Ex-gay is a sexual orientation! It’s already covered! Morons. Can’t say I’m surprised at their stupidity though. They think anti-discrimination laws only cover gays, but they don’t; they say no discrimination based on SEXUAL ORIENTATION. If you are fired because you are a man who is or claims to be now attracted to women when you were once attracted to men, you are being discriminated against based on SEXUAL ORIENTATION.

  • , 2008-10-29 16:31:27

    that’s the point, Anonymous. ex-gays should be covered under sexual orientation the same way gays are. unfortunately, they are not. the DC Office of Human Rights ruled that ex-gays are not covered under the DC Human Rights Act’s definition of sexual orientation. PFOX is appealing that decision to the the meantime, wouldn’t it only be fair to include EXPLICIT protection for ex-gay minorities, the same as for gay minorities, until the courts get out definitions straight?

  • , 2008-11-03 15:52:58

    If the DC Office of Human rights actually rejected a claim of discrimination based on sexual orientation based on someone being ex-gay, they are absolutely wrong and that decision should be overturned by the courts. However, legislation specifically listing ex-gay as a sexual orientation is not the answer; there is not legislation listing heterosexual or gay as sexual orientations. Just like laws don’t say "no discrimination based on being black, no discrimination based on being female," they say "based on race or gender" instead, the law shouldn’t say "no discrimination based on being ex-gay. Sexual orientation clearly covers this, and I think the courts will rule as such.

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