Ex-gays claim ‘illegal discrimination’ over flyers

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A national ‘ex-gay’ support organisation which distributes flyers to students in Maryland has called today for an official to be disciplined after he described the publications as “reprehensible”.

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) says it aims to “eliminate negative perceptions and discrimination against former homosexuals”.

A PFOX spokesperson said the official’s comments amounted to illegal discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

Montgomery School Superintendent Joshua Starr had been urged to stop the group from distributing the ‘ex-gay’ flyers which said such people “demonstrate that those with unwanted same-sex attractions can seek help and information on overcoming their feelings.”

Superintendent Starr said the school was legally bound to allow the group to spread their message, as it is with all non-profit organisations, even though the group’s message that sexuality can be changed is rejected by medical professional bodies.

He reportedly told students: “This group has figured out how to use that law to spread what I find to be a really, really disgusting message, frankly.”

The group distributed 8,000 flyers at five Montgomery County schools this week.

Regina Griggs, executive director of PFOX said: “We call on the Montgomery County Board of Education to enforce its Nondiscrimination Policy and censure Starr immediately.

“The Policy mandates that schools provide ‘an atmosphere where differences are understood and appreciated, and where all persons are treated fairly and with respect in an environment free of discrimination and … abuse.’ Clearly Superintendent Starr has violated the Board’s Policy.

“Starr’s verbal abuse, disrespectful behavior, and slurs against the ex-gay community amount to hate and illegal sexual orientation discrimination, which are all forbidden by the Policy.”

The group Truth Wins Out wrote an open letter to Starr saying: “While non-profit literature must not be blocked based on viewpoint, it can and should be prohibited if it contains blatant misinformation that jeopardizes the health and well being of students.

“The PFOX flier easily fits this description and the group has a dubious history that includes bizarre and bigoted practices that have no place in your public school system.”

Truth Wins Out is the group which infiltrated the clinic of former presidential candidacy hopeful Michele Bachmann’s husband, Marcus Bachmann.

The school board wrote back: “Although we cannot stop the distribution of such fliers, we in [Montgomery County Public Schools] are committed to promoting values of diversity and acceptance in our school system by teaching students how to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate information.

“Please rest assured that we in Montgomery County Public Schools are always extremely receptive to the community and towards promoting a culture of the twenty-first century.”

PFOX’s website says the “demonisation” of ex-gays “is a sad end to the long struggle for tolerance by the gay community. That ex-gays and their supporters are now oppressed by the same people who until recently were victimized themselves, demonstrates how far the gay rights movement has come.”

So-called gay cure treatments have been making headlines on both sides of the Atlantic.

In her column in the Daily Express last week, Ann Widdecombe questioned the lack of availability of therapy for “gays who do not want to be gay”.

She argued that if a gay person wants to change their sexuality, professional help should be available to them, despite there being no scientific evidence for it and numerous medical bodies’ warnings against it.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, backed the appeal by Lesley Pilkington, who was found guilty of malpractice by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy last year.

He wrote to the BACP, which is hearing the appeal, with other bishops to say that ‘gay cure’ attempts do not “produce harm despite the Royal College of Psychiatrists and others maintaining the contrary”.

A regional Jewish paper prompted outrage after publishing an opinion piece on the issue which said while ‘gay cures’ may not always work, medical procedures fail and “patients are still encouraged to try them”.