6 JUNE 17,2005
www.houstonvoicc.com HOUSTON VOICE
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Teen's blog sparks protests at 'ex-gay' facility
TENN. TEEN, continued from Page 1
wants me to be on. So I'm sitting here in
tears, [joining] the rest of those kids who
complain about their parents on blogs —
and I can't help it," Zach wrote.
"I've been through hell. I've been emotionally torn apart for three days... I can't
remember which days they were ... time's
not what it used to be." the teen wrote in
his last blog entry, posted June 3.
The teen also posted what he said were
an exhaustive set of rules for Refuge that
were e-mailed to his parents: "No hugging
or physical touch between clients. Brief
handshakes or a brief affirmative hand on
a shoulder is allowed ...
"[Love In Action] wants to encourage
each client, male and female, by affirming his/her gender identity," the rules
continued. "LIA also wants each client to
pursue integrity in all of his/her actions
and appearances. Therefore, any belongings, appearances, clothing, actions, or
humor that might connect a client to an
inappropriate past are excluded from the
"These hindrances are called False
ft MORE INFO
Love In Action
4780 Yale Rd.
Memphis, TN 38128
Queer Action Coalition
Images." according to the rules. "F.I. behavior may include hyper-masculinity, seductive clothing, mannish/boyish attire (on
women), excessive jewelry (on men), mascot-
ing, and 'campy' or gay/lesbian behavior
Camp participants are also forbidden
specifically from wearing any clothing by
Calvin Klein or Abercrombie & Fitch.
Refuge offers a two-week program for
$1,500 and a six-week program for $4,000,
according to its Web site. Since its inception three years ago, the program has hosted more than 20 participants, according to
Rev. John Smid, Love In Action's executive
director, who is married to a woman and
claims to have left behind "the homosexual
lifestyle," if not same-sex attractions.
'Founded upon deception?
Gay bloggers and allies who track the
teen's thoughts about being sent to the
program created additional blogs to support the teen and refute the reparative
therapy practiced by Love In Action.
Supporters also took part in daily
demonstrations that started June 6, Zach's
apparent first day in the program, at Love
In Action's Memphis headquarters.
"The history of organizations like Love
In Action are founded upon deception and
have been proven ineffective and damaging to people," said Morgan Fox, an organizer of Queer Action Coalition who said
she is a friend of Zach's.
The coalition formed in direct response
to the teen's blogs, Fox said.
"He's probably been there about two
weeks. But they shut you off from the
world when you're in," Fox said.
Zach's blog indicates that his cell phone
had been taken from him and he only
accessed his computer to post a blog entry
by waiting until his parents were asleep.
About 30 people take part in the daily
Blogger Tach,' 16, of Bartlett, Tenn.
protests, said Kevin Gilliland, a member of the
Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center
"We're in the buckle of the Bible Belt,
and [the teen] has brought a lot of attention
to [the ex-gay movement]. A lot of the people protesting are teens. This is an issue of
psychological abuse," Gilliland said.
Obligation' of parents
Supporters of the teen are emailing
Love In Action to express their opposition
to the program, said Smid, who underwent
the program in 1987 and is now the center's executive director.
"It appears to me, from what I am hearing, they feel a sense of bond with other
young people and they desire to rescue
them," Smid said in an interview
Smid declined to comment specifically
about Zach. But he said parents of gay
teens have an obligation to teach their
children to live "healthy lifestyles."
"There has to be a safeguard ... other
than a condom. We need to work with the
mind and intellect [of gay teens]," he said.
Smid acknowledged the teen blogger's
posts highlighted a breakdown in communication among the family members and
that Refuge works as a "bridge" to facilitate a better relationship between teens
and their parents.
Smid said Refuge's rules, including a
ban on secular music, specifically including non-Christian classical music by Bach
or Beethoven, are critical to the success of
"While here, they only listen to Christ-
centered music to help ponder their lives,"
Smid said. "We try to minimize external
resources and make sure they're not bombarded."
'Message in a bottle'
Love In Action International, founded
32 years ago. is the oldest known "ex-gay"
organization, said Besen, author of
"Anything But Straight."
"These organizations hold them captive, basically as prisoners. They are boot
camps," he said.
Besen commended Zach's courage in
taking his story to the Web.
"It's the modern-age message in a bottle,"
he said. "Here he is on this hideous island of
ignorance, and he's sent his message out
and now people are trying to rescue him."
"This is a new spin on a terrible old
story. He's very innovative — it shows the
power of the Internet for our community,"
The author said "ex-gay" organizations
that focus on adolescents are more difficult to track than programs for adults
because they often market their programs
as church camps.
"These groups inflict significant child
abuse. They destroy and demolish the self-
worth of young men and women," he said.
Task Force honors Daschle for opposing amendment
By EARTHA MELZER
Calling him the "architect of the defeat of
the Federal Marriage Amendment," the
National Gay & Lesbian Task Fbrce honored
former Senate minority leader Tom Daschle
(D-S.D.) with a leadership award in a ceremony
held at New York University last week.
Organizers said that an estimated 250
people attended the event and that it
raised $110,000 for the organization.
Daschle was the Senate Democratic
leader when the Federal Marriage
Amendment was first introduced last
year. The FMA, which would have amended the U.S. Constitution to prevent recognition of same-sex marriage, did not garner the support needed to proceed to a vote
on the Senate floor.
Social conservatives have argued that it is
necessary to amend the Constitution because
federal courts may one day overturn the 1996
Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA banned
same-sex marriage recognition under federal
law and specified that states would not be
required to recognize same-sex relationships
recognized by other states.
Daschle was among the many
Democrats to vote for DOMA, which
passed the Senate 85-14 and was signed
into law by President Clinton.
Last year, in a May 7 Washington Blade
editorial. Task Force Executive Director
Matt Foreman took direct aim at Daschle
for caving along with other Senate
Democrats on a pledge to kill the FMA. He
expressed frustration that gay groups
were spending money lobbying to defeat
the FMA, rather than state constitutional
amendments, because the Democrats were
not living up to their pledge to stop the federal measure.
"We've since learned that the Daschle
pledge was a classic display of
Washington legalese," Foreman wrote
then. "For me, it's appalling — indeed
sickening — that scarce resources are
being sucked into [fighting the FMA)."
Foreman said this week that shortly after
his Blade editorial was published, he participated in a meeting where Daschle reassured FMA opponents that he was serious
about fighting the measure.
"Daschle gave his word and kept his
word," Foreman said, crediting Daschle with
gathering 51 Democratic votes against moving the amendment toward a vote.
"He took a stand for us, and it hurt him,
and it hurt his political career and that is
something that deserves to be honored
and recognized," Foreman said.
Mixed record on gay rights
Foreman said that during Daschle's
2004 reelection campaign, his opponents
used Daschle's stance on the FMA against
him, arguing that he was out of touch or
too liberal for South Dakota.
"He always supported the hate crimes
bill and ENDA, he was a champion for
Native American rights, he had a very
strong environmental record, a strong labor
record and a good, though not perfect,
record on choice," Foreman said.
Daschle received a 63 percent pro-gay
voting record from the Human Rights
Campaign for his final year in the Senate.
During his reelection campaign last fall.
Daschle countered criticism about his opposition to the FMA by emphasizing that he
had voted for the Defense of Marriage Act
"This was a pathetic attempt to keep his
seat," Andy Thayer, of the Gay Liberation
Network and DontAmend.com said. "He
tried to appease the bigots and he still was
not bigoted enough for them. He should not
be trying to sell our civil rights down the
river to help his career."