’Ex-Gay’ Group Accuses Ms. School System Head of Discrimination

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Thursday May 17, 2012

An "ex-gay" group filed a sexual orientation discrimination complaint with the Montgomery County, Maryland, Board of Education against a school superintendent, the Christian News Wire reported.

The Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) claim that Joshua Starr "publicly denigrated" the organization after bashing their tactics of distributing "ex-gay" flyers to high school students. The superintendent said PFOX's actions were "reprehensible and deplorable" and called the flyers "a really, really disgusting message."

Last February, students from Einstein High School in Montgomery County, which is located just north of Washington D.C., were sent home with an anti-gay flyer created by the PFOX. The letter goes against Lady Gaga's philosophy and says that no one is "born gay."

Karen Yount-Merrel's son received the flyer with his report card and she says she doesn't agree with it.

"I don't like it," Yount-Merrell said. "Everything in this flyer makes it sound like the goal is to be [an] EX-gay, [or an EX]-lesbian. It is not embracing of a different orientation. It reiterates a societal view that there's something 'wrong' with you, if you're not in the norm. If you aren't heterosexual. And teenagers have a hard enough time dealing with whom they are and feeling good about themselves."

Regina Griggs of PFOX defended their actions and criticized Starr.

"PFOX's flyers provided information on unwanted same-sex attractions, discouraged student name calling and labeling, and urged tolerance for former homosexuals," Griggs said.

"Starr does not respect diversity and is creating an unsafe school environment. As School Superintendent, Starr's actions make it impossible for Montgomery County public schools to provide an atmosphere where differences are understood and appreciated, or where everyone is treated fairly and with respect free of discrimination and abuse, as mandated by its Nondiscrimination Policy ACB."

"The School Superintendent is a vital role model. When the School Superintendent promotes intolerance of former homosexuals and organizations that support them, students and teachers will follow his example and learn to also disrespect sexual minorities like the ex-gay community," she added. "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."

PFOX also defended their flyer back in February when they first distributed the anti-gay content.

"If people were to actually read the content of the flyer that we're distributing, they will see there is nothing in here that is insulting or even critical of homosexuals," said PFOX board member Peter Sprigg. "All it is telling kids [is] that you don't have to be gay if you don't want to be."

The "ex-gay" movement and its supporters are a controversial subject among the LGBT community as they claim that they can turn gay men and woman into heterosexuals through "conversion therapy." In March the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, said that the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuals (NARTH) (a leading "ex-gay" group that offers conversion therapy) is the "preeminent source of what many regard as junk science for the religious right."

Last month, a California Senate committee passed a bill that would protect citizens from having to undergo "ex-gay" therapy. The legislation says that anyone under the age of 18 is prohibited from receiving "sexual orientation change efforts." It also requires patients to sign an "informed consent form" that reads: "Having a lesbian, gay, or bisexual sexual orientation is not a mental disorder. There is no scientific evidence that any types of therapies are effective in changing a person's sexual orientation."