Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Power of Compassion

By Madame Curie

In the wake of my recent disaffection, I have been much more vocal about my support of same-sex marriage. This cause caused a lot of contention, particularly on places such as Facebook where my apostacy is not so widely known. Tonight, I got to thinking about where my change on this issue occurred. It wasn't so long ago that I seriously started questioning what my response would be if Prop 8 were in Philadelphia, rather than in California. I recall in those days (it seems like ages ago, really) wondering whether it is better to vote your conscience or to vote in accordance with the Prophet. I think I had decided that it was best to abstain from voting, rather than to cause offense either way. Obviously my feelings have undergone a radical transformation. So, what effected the change?

When I was in high school, my best friend Mary* and I fell in love. We meant everything to one another, I believe. We attended prom together, and neither of us dated anyone else while in high school. Our relationship continued through our first few years of college, although we attended different universities. We would travel to visit one another, enormous distances. As our friends married their high-school sweethearts, I remember in my mind thinking of how wonderful it would be to set up a home with my Mary. We would talk about growing old together, no matter where else our life's paths took us, grey and wrinkly on rockers in a cottage by a stream. At times, the situation was somewhat confusing, since I felt that there was nothing at all wrong with our relationship, but she would occasionally feel guilty about it.

When I joined the Mormon church my senior year of college, in my baptismal interview the Elders asked me if I had ever been in a homosexual relationship (this is a standard question in the baptismal interview, I believe). I was a little surprised by this question, as I wasn't expecting it. I answered "no," since I wasn't currently in a relationship with Mary (I had been dating a guy for the past year). However, that question and its implications haunted me for a long time thereafter.

This was honestly the first time in my life that I had ever considered my relationship with Mary to be "bad" in any way. It seemed like such a strange thing, that something so special as the tender love that we had for one another could be wrong. The phrase "harrowed up" goes a long way to describing my feelings for the next several years whenever I would think about myself and how evil and depraved I must have been. Nevermind that when we were dating (although we never called it that), I knew God smiled on us and had sent her to me. I also tried hard to never, ever think back to my relationship with Mary, casting it aside as a confusing and "evil" time in my life.

When Prop 8 hit the scene at the beginning of 2008, and the Church started taking such a strong stand in it, many of the memories with my sweet friend Mary came back to me. It seemed unfair that the Church would try to forbid other homosexuals from marrying, although I frequently told myself that God (through the Prophet) must know better than I. However, as I started seeing myself within the LGTB community, I began to deeply understand where they were coming from, what they wanted, and why it was not only acceptable, but necessary and just. I understood their plight, because it was my plight. Understanding brought compassion, love, and eventually, acceptance - both of the right for gays to marry, and of myself for my relationship with Mary.

Compassion is a powerful thing. It changes a man from mere mortal to something better than himself. Thank God for that.

*Name has been changed

Monday, November 2, 2009

Vote for Equality!!

Cross-posted from Main Street Plaza. Original post by Chino Blanco.
Progressives are closer than ever to a victory on health care reform. As 2009 comes to a close, we’ve also moved forward on other issues. But what’s looming up ahead could be a disappointment. Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009, there will be critical votes on LGBT equality in three states: Washington State, Maine, and Michigan. With so much attention devoted to other issues in the political realm, progressive bloggers are banding together to ensure we don’t forget the ones with a firm deadline next week.
In support of that effort, the Courage Campaign has put together a summary of the who, what, and how of these three contests. If you haven’t heard of these campaigns, and/or haven’t done anything yet to support them, please consider helping out. If you are a blogger please feel free to grab this content whole cloth and use it for your blog posts. Last year, as Obama and Democrats were winning across the country, we lost marriage equality in California. It was a bittersweet victory. Pitch in to make sure 2009 isn’t a bittersweet year. Take action to support LGBT equality TODAY.


Who we are: Approve Referendum 71 is the campaign to preserve domestic partnerships in Washington State. By voting to approve, voters retain the domestic partnership laws that were passed during this year’s legislative session, including using sick leave to care for a partner, adoption rights, insurance rights, and more.
What we need: We need phone bankers to get our supporters out to vote. Washington is an all mail-in ballot state, and we need to ensure our supporters put their ballots in the mail. Also, youth turnout is a critical component of our campaign, and youth turnout historically drops in off-year elections. So we need a lot of help to turn them out.
How you do it: Sign up here to make remote calls for Approve 71. We’ll then contact you for a training, and you can make GOTV calls.
Who we are: The No On 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign is working to protect Maine’s recently-passed law legalizing marriage equality for same-sex couples. Our opponents have put the issue on the ballot for Nov 3, 2009. Because of Maine’s early voting election laws, people are already voting at the polls, so we need help immediately to turn out our side at the polls.
What we need: We need you to devote a few hours to Call for Equality. Call for Equality is a virtual phonebank set up so that you can call Maine voters wherever you are. Much of Maine is rural, where canvassing isn’t effective, so we need to reach these voters- along with other supporters- by phone. All you need is a phone and internet connection. No experience required! We’ll provide the training, and all you need is a a few hours to help get a win in Maine.
How you do it: Click here to sign up for a training and your shift. There are lots of times available for your convenience.
Kalamazoo, MI
Who We Are: The Yes on Ordinance 1856 / One Kalamazoo campaign is working in Michigan to support the City Commission of Kalamazoo’s twice approved ordinance for housing, employment, and public accommodation protections for gay and transgender residents. Opponents forced a public referendum on the ordinance so dedicated local volunteers, led by former Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jon Hoadley, are working to ensure voters say YES to fairness and equality and keep Ordinance 1856.
Why The Urgency: In the final weeks, the opposition has gone all out with aggressive disinformation and misleading red herrings to try to defeat the ordinance. This includes signs that say “No to Discrimination” (even though voting No actually supports continued discrimination of GLBT residents), transphobic door hangers and fliers, and now radio ads that falsely suggest that criminal behavior will become legal when this simply isn’t true. The Yes on Ordinance 1856 supporters are better organized but many voters who want to vote for gay and transgender people are getting confused by the opposition.
How To Help:
1) Help the One Kalamazoo campaign raise a final $10,000 specifically dedicated to fight back against the lies on the local TV and radio airwaves and fully fund the campaign’s final field and GOTV efforts.
Give here:
2) If you live nearby and can physically volunteer in Kalamazoo sign up here. If you know anyone that lives in Kalamazoo, use the One Kalamazoo campaign’s online canvass tool to remind those voters that they need to vote on November 3rd and vote YES on Ordinance 1856 to support equality for gay and transgender people.
Contact voters:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Deconstructing Elder Oaks' Prop 8 Devotional

By Madame Curie

In another in a long line of... interesting... publicity moves, the LDS church today decided to highlight in its newsroom a talk given by Elder Oaks yesterday (Oct. 13, 2009) to BYU-I. (Click on the link for the full talk). Unlike with Elder Hafen's infamous talk, this time the talk is featured front and center as the "Top Story".

So, despite the fact that I have three papers due to be edited by 5 am tomorrow morning, I am going to address yet another frustrating talk on politics from the LDS Church. In doing so, let me make it abundantly clear that I am not a constitutional expert or a lawyer. Rather, I am merely looking at this talk as an interesting, intelligent, analytical student of Mormonism. And since the talk was given as a general devotional to BYU-I students, I don't think a law degree should be necessary in dissecting what was said.

Sections I-III: The Consitution is Ordained of God
In the beginning of his talk, Elder Oaks discusses the importance of religious freedoms within the United States, and their role in allowing the Restoration to come to pass. I likewise believe that religious rights are important, as are any individual's rights to express her opinions - dumb or otherwise - untrammelled. This applies to all. I only have a frew nitpicking things to say about this section of his talk.

At the very beginning of his talk, Elder Oaks says:
I am conscious that I am also speaking to many in other places. In this time of the Internet, what we say in one place is instantly put before a wider audience, including many to whom we do not intend to speak. That complicates my task, so I ask your understanding as I speak to a very diverse audience.
Now, given that this talk was knowingly placed as the "Top Story" in the LDS Newsroom, this statement can be taken one of two ways. The first possibility is that he is saying, "Other people who were not my intended audience are going to read this talk, and take it out of context". The problem with that conclusion is that he says that his task is "complicated" by this fact and that he is speaking to a "diverse audience". This seems to indicate that the talk with written with the intent that it would be found on the LDS Newsroom within 24 hours. As such, the second possibility is that, knowing the press this talk would receive, Elder Oaks purposefully chose to make the devotional a political platform. I believe that this was most likely the case.

Elder Oaks continues, choosing to cite an "old military maxim that when there is a battle underway, persons who desire to join the fray should 'march to the sound of the guns,'" inevitably bringing up the thought of the "war on the family" rhetoric. Although it is not immediately clear that this is going to be a talk about same-sex marriage, since he launches into several minutes of discussing the Constitution, this immediate and early reference to war mentality does prep the hearer that the talk will be about Prop. 8.

In discussing the importance of our democracy and freedom from dictatorship, Elder Oaks says:
With freedom we can be accountable for our own actions and cannot blame our conditions on our bondage to another. This is the condition the Lord praised in the Book of Mormon, where the people — not a king — established the laws and were governed by them (see Mosiah 29:23–26). This popular sovereignty necessarily implies popular responsibility. Instead of blaming their troubles on a king or tyrant, all citizens are responsible to share the burdens of governing, “that every man might bear his part” (Mosiah 29:34).
One thing that I always find interesting about the Church's current disparaging remarks on the evils of kings and monarchs, using Book of Mormon citations as scriptural justification, is that the same BoM passages were used by Joseph Smith in the early days of the Mormon church, albeit with a perpendicular purpose. What Joseph Smith intended to form in Nauvoo and throughout the United States was a theocracy. He used King Benjamin from the Book of Mormon as an example of how the Lord actually would prefer that individuals be ruled by a righteous monarch (aka a Prophet). Indeed, records indicate that Joseph Smith had himself annointed King over his theocracy. Very ironic proceedings from a church that now clings to the idea of a democracy as God's ordained governmental institution.

The other difficulty with Elder Oaks' statement is his reference that because of democracy, each man and woman is judged according to his or her own decisions, and not those forced upon them. In other words, democracy allows personal responsibility. The difficulty with this statement is that the LDS Church is very far from a democracy! How is it personally responsible to vote a certain way because the Prophet told you to? Compound this fact with statements from LDS authorities indicating that "when the Prophet has spoken, the debate is over," suggesting that the Prophet can speak on any issues, including politics, and should be obeyed, and that you should follow the prophet even if what he tells you to do is wrong. These statements are at direct opposition with what Elder Oaks describes as the environment necessary for "personal responsibility".

Section IV: What is Religious Freedom?
In this section, Elder Oaks explains what religious freedom within the United States means and doesn't mean. He stresses that it is important that a government ensure that religions do not infringe on others' human rights, as defined in the constitution, such as property rights and the right to life. (Interesting note: What implication does this have on things such as the United Order, where the church basically owned everyone's property and goods?) This argument is carefully constructed so that Elder Oaks can argue that some human rights are acceptable, while others should not be considered rights in the first place.
As would be expected, most of the battles over the extent of religious freedom have involved government efforts to impose upon the practices of small groups like Mormons. Not surprisingly, government officials sometimes seem more tolerant toward the religious practices of large groups of voters.
In making this argument, I am reminded of the government's responses to polygamy. Perhaps this is not what was intended, but whenever a Mormon hears "persecution" and "Mormons" together, it is only natural to think of polygamy. If that is the case, then somehow Elder Oaks must make the cognitive leap that the definition of marriage is not something that the constitution can define, unless the Church agrees with it.

Furthermore, in his last sentence of that statement, he states something that is fundementally true: Government is more tolerant towards larger religious practices, because we are a democracy. Thats how a democracy works - the majority wins. In the case of polygamy, the church was on the "wrong side," and so Mormons cry persecution. In the case of same-sex marriage, the gays and lesbians are unfortunately on the "wrong side" of public opinion - therefore, since Mormons are of the majority, they really have no right to claim "persecution!".
Religious belief is obviously protected against government action. The practice of that belief must have some limits, as I suggested earlier. But unless the guarantee of free exercise of religion gives a religious actor greater protection against government prohibitions than are already guaranteed to all actors by other provisions of the constitution (like freedom of speech), what is the special value of religious freedom? Surely the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion was intended to grant more freedom to religious action than to other kinds of action. Treating actions based on religious belief the same as actions based on other systems of belief should not be enough to satisfy the special place of religion in the United States Constitution.
I am not quite sure what he is trying to say here - religious individuals should have more say in government than the average Joe? How does that work? Or religious individuals should be more protected than the average individual? This seems like shaky legal ground, to me the non-legal oberserver. It seems like Elder Oaks is indicating that Mormons should be extra priviledged politically, simply because they belong to a minority religion. That doesn't seem right to me.

Section V: Religious Freedom is Under Attack

Continuing with his indication that religions and religious persons should be held accounted special treatment from government, Elder Oaks goes into an attack on atheism. He first indicates that, as non-believers, atheists are therefore NOT covered by special privledges held in reserve for the believers:
Atheism has always been hostile to religion, such as in its arguments that freedom of or for religion should include freedom from religion.
In other words, Oaks seems to indicate that atheists should not be permitted in their practice or prosyletization of their non-belief, at least not on a governmental level, because the US Constitution does not validate their non-belief as it does another's belief. In other words, atheists should not have the special "protections" that religious individuals do. I am not sure, again, what Oaks is getting at here. Does he mean that belittling a rationalist's argument is ok, because they are not believers and therefore not covered by the Constitution, but that belittling a believer's argument is NOT ok? What special "protections" is he referring to, anyway?
As noted by John A. Howard of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society, these voices “have developed great skills in demonizing those who disagree with them, turning their opponents into objects of fear, hatred and scorn.”
Such forces — atheists and others — would intimidate persons with religious-based points of view from influencing or making the laws of their state or nation. Noted author and legal commentator Hugh Hewitt described the current circumstance this way:
“There is a growing anti-religious bigotry in the United States. . . .
“For three decades people of faith have watched a systematic and very effective effort waged in the courts and the media to drive them from the public square and to delegitimize their participation in politics as somehow threatening.”
It seems interesting that Elder Oaks would call out atheists for delegitimizing Mormon arguments in the public square, when talks such as this one clearly are meant to have the same effect on atheist's arguments. How else can one explain his statement that "freedom of religion is not freedom from religion"? Furthermore, the obvious analogy within the Mormon faith is striking. It seems to me that talks like this one and Elder Holland's in General Conference seek to "demonize those who disagree with them, turning [opponents of the Mormon Church] into objects of fear, hatred, and scorn." In particular, the words "pathetic," "crawling," and "silly" from Elder Holland's talk come to mind. Kettle, meet pot.

Next, Elder Oaks specifically brings up the question of Prop. 8, and argues that:
At no time did anyone question or jeopardize the civil right of Proposition 8 opponents to vote or speak their views.
I am not sure what Elder Oaks considers necessary to "jeopardize" someones civil right to speak against Prop. 8, but I would think that threats of eternal salvation, ostracization by your family, friends, and religion, and strong urging by your bishop to give money (when he knows full well your financial situation) might make someone fell that their rights to freedom of speech within the church were certainly "jeopardized". However, since the church is not a democracy, feedom of speech can be restricted there. However, that doesn't mean we should cry foul the second someone calls us out on it.
Religious freedom needs defending against the claims of newly asserted human rights. The so-called “Yogyakarta Principles,” published by an international human rights group, call for governments to assure that all persons have the right to practice their religious beliefs regardless of sexual orientation or identity. This apparently proposes that governments require church practices and their doctrines to ignore gender differences. Any such effort to have governments invade religion to override religious doctrines or practices should be resisted by all believers.
I wasn't sure what he was referring to here, so I read all of the Yogyakarta Principles. These principles are a set of non-binding considerations to protect the human rights of LGBTQ individuals. They include the right to life, privacy, education, etc. The only principle pertaining to religion was the following:
PRINCIPLE 21. The Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. These rights may not be invoked by the State to justify laws, policies or practices which deny equal protection of the law, or discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

States shall:
a) Take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure the right of persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, to hold and practice religious and non-religious beliefs, alone or in association with others, to be free from interference with their beliefs and to be free from coercion or the imposition of beliefs;
b) Ensure that the expression, practice and promotion of different opinions, convictions and beliefs with regard to issues of sexual orientation or gender identity is not undertaken in a manner incompatible with human rights.
Considering this principle, I think Elder Oaks was trying to indicate that the above statement could potentially force the Church to perform same-sex marriages in the temple. But such an argument is as ridiculous as indicating that the government is able to force the Muslim faith to do away with burqas. This simply does not say that the government can impose on a religion, PARTICULARLY in a country where freedom of religion is respected by the constitution.

In a country where all-white country clubs still exist, I expect that religions will still be allowed to continue being homophobic and sexist.

Section V: What Should LDS Members Do to Protect Freedom of Religion?

In this final section, Elder Oaks gives words of advice for LDS Members as they fight the war for religious freedom against those evil gays and lesbians (snark mine):
First, we must speak with love, always showing patience, understanding and compassion toward our adversaries. We are under command to love our neighbor, to forgive all men, to do good to them who despitefully use us and to conduct our teaching in mildness and meekness. Even as we seek to speak with love, we must not be surprised when our positions are ridiculed and we are persecuted and reviled. As the Savior said, “so persecuted they the prophets which were before you”. And modern revelation commands us not to revile against revilers.
This quote is great, but seemingly at odds with his GC talk given only one week ago, where he indicated that:
God’s anger and His wrath are not a contradiction of His love but an evidence of His love. Every parent knows that you can love a child totally and completely while still being creatively angry and disappointed at that child’s self-defeating behavior.
Interesting parallels are make here between wrath, anger, and love. I am not sure that I understand how one can be patient, understanding, compassionate, mild, and meek, and not reviling, while simultaneously being justified in righteous wrath and anger.
While our church rarely speaks on public issues, it does so by exception on what the First Presidency defines as significant moral issues, which could surely include laws affecting the fundamental legal/cultural/moral environment of our communities and nations.
Our church "rarely speaks on public issues"??? What the hell Mormon church is he a member of? Surely not the one that advicated and then excommunicated people for practicing polygamy, urged church members to join the John Birch society, spoke out vehemantly against communism and socialism, daily decries the evils of feminism, intellectualism, and gay rights, and put every ounce of its weight behind getting the ERA to fail? What kind of church starts off as a theocratic institution that defines a new order of marriage and communal living, but then 100 years later works the system to block others from marrying?

This is tantamount to the church's explanation that we were "never a racist church" when our own prophets (Brigham Young) declared that any interracial couple deserved "death on the spot". You cannot change history simply by insisting that things occurred differently than they did. In a marriage relationship, this would be considered a form of emotional abuse. But at least a marriage relationship is a democracy - in a Mormon Church/Mormon member relationship, "when the prophet has spoken, the debate is over," and there is no form of redress.
Along with many others, we were disappointed with what we experienced in the aftermath of California’s adoption of Proposition 8, including vandalism of church facilities and harassment of church members by firings and boycotts of member businesses and by retaliation against donors...

These incidents were expressions of outrage against those who disagreed with the gay-rights position and had prevailed in a public contest. As such, these incidents of “violence and intimidation” are not so much anti-religious as anti-democratic. In their effect they are like the well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South that produced corrective federal civil-rights legislation.
Yes, illegal things done by some individuals to some individual members of the church were wrong, and legal redress should be attempted. However, the actions of individuals by individuals should be dealt with on an individual basis, rather than held up as a banner from heaven indicating that we are justified. Newsflash: The "victimization" card didn't work so well for Hillary Clinton in the last election. People can see right through it, and they hate it. If you are going to talk the talk, be willing to walk the walk. All is NOT fair in politics. That is simply how it is, and claiming special status as a "believer," indicating that special privledges are yours for belief in God is wrong.

Yes, people were fired and businesses were boycotted. That is how things are done in diplomacy; we had an embargo against Cuba for who knows how many years. The UN frequently enacts economic sanctions on countries that they disagree with. When reason fail, when argumentation turns into "Well, my God says you are wrong," people must take action. The church knows this; they use their power to protect their image as well. "Protecting the good name of the church" is grounds for excommunication. Individuals have been fired from BYU for being openly gay or even for supporting gay or feminist movements. Reputations have been destroyed within the church when books are published that the church doesn't like. I may be ex-ed simply for writing this post. To someone who isn't Mormon, these may seem like small things. But when ones entire sense of self, world-view, cultual, family, friends and community are wrapped up in it - and sometimes their jobs as well - it is a BIG DEAL. So, as I said - if you can't handle the heat, get out of the kitchen. There can be no double standard here.

Furthermore, gays, lesbians, transexuals, and bisexuals have endured much more than just being fired from jobs. They have been discriminated against, killed in horrible fashions, subject to all sorts of intimidation and violence. There is simply no comparison with the push back experienced by LDS church members after Prop 8 to civil rights violations that homosexuals have endured for years.

I have not even touched the issue of civil rights in the South and how pathetic of a comparison it is to the backlash after Prop 8. Its just too ludicrous to compare. As stated in a rebuttal of the talk by the Salt Lake Tribune:
"Were four little Mormon girls blown up in the church at Sunday school? Were there burning crosses planted on local bishops' lawns? Were people lynched and their genitals stuffed in their mouths?" asked University of Utah historian Colleen McDannell. "By comparing these two things, it diminishes the real violence that African-Americans experienced in the '60s, when they were struggling for equal rights. There is no equivalence between the two."
That about sums up my feelings on that topic as well.

Finally, Elder Oaks makes some extensions that can only be understood in light of the fact that Mitt Romney was rejected as Republican nominee for president in 2008, and it clearly planning on a second run:
Fragile freedoms are best preserved when not employed beyond their intended purpose. If a candidate is seen to be rejected at the ballot box primarily because of religious belief or affiliation, the precious free exercise of religion is weakened at its foundation, especially when this reason for rejection has been advocated by other religionists. Such advocacy suggests that if religionists prevail in electing their preferred candidate this will lead to the use of government power in support of their religious beliefs and practices. The religion of a candidate should not be an issue in a political campaign.
Yes, and this clearly did not make a difference in Utah and Idaho, who voted nearly 100% for Mitt Romney in the Republican primaries. Furthermore, I received far more "Obama is a Muslim!" propaganda from my Mormon friends than from any other voting bloc.

I am left baffled as to why Elder Oaks would choose to give a lawyer-speech, chock full of difficult constitutional analyses and references, as a Tuesday devotional talk at BYU-Idaho. Surely most of the students left with their heads spinning. This talk can only be perceived as a marker of the church's stance on Prop 8, and its unwillingness to let the argument pass out of the public eye. I disagree with the victimization card, and with the blatent attempts to align the Mormon church with the evangelical Protestants. The Protestants are not going to accept Mormon doctrine as Christian, no matter how much we align ourselves with them or donate money to their causes. What the Catholic Church has been unable to do since the Reformation, Mormons are unlikely to succeed at in the Internet era.

UPDATE: Keith Olbermann had Elder Oaks on his Countdown tonight as the 5th "Worst Person in the World":

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Salt Lake Tribune Reports on Hafen's Talk

By Madame Curie

The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday reported on the furor surrounding Elder Hafen's talk to Evergreen. Here is the text of the report:

Is the LDS Church taking a step back on gay issues?
Some observers say that Elder Hafen's speech leads faithful in a new direction
By: Rosmary Winters, The Salt Lake Tribune

LDS general authority Bruce C. Hafen's speech last week about homosexuality sounded like a throwback.
He told those assembled at a conference for Mormons trying to "overcome" same-sex attraction that being gay is "not in your DNA." He talked about the 1970s, when psychology manuals listed homosexuality as a mental disorder and gay-rights activists were working just to get anti-sodomy laws off the books.
Was Hafen speaking for himself or the church? Were LDS leaders backing away from statements that they "don't know" if a person is born gay? Has the church changed course?
The church isn't saying yes, and it isn't saying no.
But observers are.
"It was a big step backwards," said Gary Watts, a Provo physician who, for decades, has watched the church's position on homosexuality evolve. "The church has a long way to go to get into the 21st century. They're making incremental movements. What Hafen has done is take them back 25 years."
In the past decade, the church has moved away from 1970s teachings that emphasized psychosocial causes of homosexuality, including parenting, toward a "we don't know" approach -- not denying the possibility of biological factors. In a 2007 article in the LDS magazine Ensign , apostle Jeffrey R. Holland stressed that "no one," not parents nor people who experience same-sex attraction, should be blamed.
"The church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction," fellow apostle Dallin H. Oaks said in a 2006 interview posted on the church's Web site. "Those are scientific questions -- whether nature or nurture -- those are things the church doesn't have a position on."
Even then-President Gordon B. Hinckley, when asked on "Larry King Live" in 2004 whether people choose to be gay or are born that way, responded: "I don't know."
But Hafen, speaking at Evergreen International's 19th annual conferencea week ago, went further in trying to explain the causes.
He told listeners -- many of them Latter-day Saints trying to heed church teachings not to act on homosexual feelings -- that they may not have "consciously chosen" to have same-sex attraction. But he dismissed the mainstream idea that sexual orientation is inborn and unalterable as an "untrue assumption."
Hafen suggested most lesbians were sexually abused as children and that gay men, during a crucial stage of puberty, may have become "fixated" on the notion they were gay.
"What he said was just flat wrong," said David Melson, executive director of Affirmation, a support group for gay and lesbian Mormons, many of whom have left the faith. "Scientific evidence has shown ... the factors that make one gay take place before birth."
Telling people who are gay or lesbian that, with enough faith, they can change their sexual orientation, Melson added, "borders on being cruel."
The Foundation for Reconciliation, a group that hopes to foster greater understanding between the LDS Church and the gay and transgender community, posted an online "First Aid Kit" for gay Mormons who were hurt by Hafen's remarks ( They also requested a meeting with Hafen, a former dean of Brigham Young University's law school and a member of the church's First Quorum of the Seventy. Hafen has not responded.
"I was happy to see he had a lot of compassion" for people with same-sex attraction, said Peter Danzig, a Salt Lake City spokesman for the foundation. "But, on the other hand, I thought he probably didn't understand how hurtful some of this advice is going to be."
Contrary to what Hafen said, Danzig argued, many gay Mormons find "spiritual peace" when they accept their sexual orientation isn't going to change. They can choose to live by the church's rules about chastity -- no sexual acts outside of a heterosexual marriage -- and give up the inner turmoil caused by false hopes of becoming straight.
Hafen, whose speech was posted on the church's Web site ( also pointed to the American Psychological Association's 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, saying it was based more on politics than science.
The "longstanding consensus" of the behavioral and social sciences, the APA stated in a resolution passed last month, is that homosexuality is a "normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation."
The measure advised mental health professionals against telling their clients they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments. No solid evidence exists that such efforts work, the APA concluded, and some studies suggest the potential for harm, including depression and suicidal tendencies. A task force reviewed 83 studies on sexual-orientation change conducted since 1960.
An LDS Church spokesman declined to say whether Hafen was speaking on behalf of the church or whether his remarks represent a shift in the faith's views. Scott Trotter also did not say whether the church believes homosexuality should still be considered a mental disorder.
"Elder Hafen's talk is self-explanatory," Trotter wrote via e-mail.
Watts, the Provo doctor, who has a gay son and a lesbian daughter among his six children, thinks the speech doesn't necessarily reflect a major policy change for the church as a whole. (Watts and his wife, Millie, led Family Fellowship, a group for LDS families with gay kids, for more than a decade.)
"It might just be Elder Hafen," he said.
Melson suggested Hafen is among LDS leaders who take a "more hard line" when it comes to homosexuality.
"There are a significant number of church leaders," Melson said, "who understand the scientific research, who are willing to listen to alternate views, who are a little bit more moderate in their statements."
Hafen also took a step back from declarations the church made in the wake of Proposition 8 -- the ballot measure it helped pass in California outlawing gay marriage in the Golden State -- that it does not oppose some rights for same-sex couples.
He suggested the law need only "tolerate" homosexual behavior not "endorse" it, which he said was accomplished when gay sex was decriminalized.
But, in a news release last November, the church said it does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization, medical care, fair housing and employment or probate rights.
Utah gay-rights supporters are pushing for precisely those kind of protections. Their bills fizzled in the 2009 Legislature but will return in 2010. Advocacy group Equality Utah has invited the LDS Church to join the so-called "Common Ground Initiative."
So far, the church has not responded.

Here's how statements made by Bruce C. Hafen, a member of the LDS First Quorum of the Seventy, last week compare with some made in 2006 by LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks and a 2008 church statement.
Hafen: "Having same-gender attraction is not in your DNA."
Oaks: "The church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction. Those are scientific questions -- whether nature or nurture -- those are things the church doesn't have a position on."
Hafen: "Evidence that people have indeed changed [their sexual orientation] threatens the political agenda of the activists, because actual change disproves their claim that homosexuality is a fixed condition that deserves the same legal protections as those fixed conditions like race and gender."
Church statement: "The church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights or probate rights."

My two cents: Unless I hear it in General Conference, I will not admit that this is in any way representative of the "Church's stance," just Elder Hafen's opinion (or even "pep talk") to Evergreen. I do think that it was an unfortunate talk for all of the reasons outlined previously. But I don't know that I would say it was a "step back". I just don't think that the Church (define as: the First Presidency) properly vetted the talk or anticipated that a talk to an LDS ex-gay support group would get so much publicity in the Bloggernaccle.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rebutting Hafen - Part 2

By Madame Curie

A continuation of Rebutting Hafen, Part 1. Please read Part 1 first, since this jumps right in where I left off:
The third misconception is that most Americans favor same-gender marriage, which means the Church is outside the mainstream in opposing it.
41. What do public policies have to do with doctrine? See comments 20, 22, 27.
For example, last June Time magazine carried a story that described the aftermath of California’s Proposition 8 campaign as a “vicious backlash from gay-rights activists, some of whom accused Mormons of bigotry and blind religious obedience.”
42. This reference is misquoted. The actual date is from June 22, 2009, and the title of the article was, “The Church and Gay Marriage: Are Mormons Misunderstood?” Here is the full statement:
Even as Mormons have become more prominent, they have struggled to overcome lingering prejudices and misrepresentations about the sources of their beliefs. Polls suggest that up to half of Americans would be uncomfortable with a Mormon President. And though the Prop 8 victory was a high-water mark for Mormon political advocacy, it also sparked a vicious backlash from gay-rights activists, some of whom accused Mormons of bigotry and blind religious obedience.
Polls go both ways; if you can use them to support Prop 8, then you should also be able to conclude that no Mormon should ever be president.
This statement ignores the fact that aggressive intimidation has long been a primary political tactic of these activists against any group that opposed them — including their intimidation of professional associations in the early 1970s.
43. Intimidation can take many forms. Here are some additional quotes from the Time Magazine article cited above:
Prop 8 constituted a kind of perfect political storm of theology, demographics and organization. At the Alameda Meeting House last June (as at other Mormon churches statewide), a letter from Monson and his counselors advised believers to "do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time"… Alaina Stewart, a church member, was asked to employ a list of "who in the ward we thought could contribute. We'd call and say, 'We're asking you to give such and such an amount,'" she says.
Personally, I would find it “intimidating” to have the Prophet tell me to work for a political cause. Most Mormons would feel that the Prophet was speaking for God, and therefore, that their eternal salvation was on the line. I would also find it “intimidating” if my RS president called and asked me to contribute money to a cause I did not personally support. How do you answer that under such circumstances?
A senior church official had promised Mormons who disagreed on Prop 8 that "we love them and bear them no ill will"… But the general authorities in Salt Lake City increased the pressure. A broadcast to all churches outlined the pro-8 ground campaign, with titles like "Thirty People in Each Ward" and "More than Four Hours per Week." Craig Teuscher, the Alameda ward's regional stake president, reiterated in church the seriousness of Monson's request to congregants.
I would find it “intimidating” to have such numbers-based broadcasts be a regular part of my worship.
Says Stewart: "The Prophet's telling us to stand up. When he speaks, you're realizing that there may be things that I don't see." Asks Gayle Teuscher, the stake president's wife: "If I believe that the Prophet is a true prophet of God and disregard his counsel, what does that say about my belief in God?" Sunstone's Carter says most Mormons who explained their stance for his publication "said, 'The Prophet has a longer view than we do' or 'It was revealed to me.'" Clark Pingree, a Bay Area Mormon gay activist, says that of the various Mormon pro-8 rationales, the Prophet-made-me-do-it line was "the most infuriating, because people say, 'I'm showing my faith by voting against what I know in my heart.' It's a force field you will never penetrate."
It seems as though others felt that way, too.
The Time writer went on to say that “Gay marriage…belongs to a class of behaviors increasingly tolerated in the broader society.”
44. This is misquoted. It was not the author who said this, but Christopher Bigelow, author of Sugar Beet (an LDS e-zine similar to The Onion):
Not everyone is as upbeat. Christopher Bigelow, a publisher and satirist (he edited the Sugar Beet, a kind of LDS Onion), says, "In the 20th century, we were allowed to grow and even gain a measure of respect." But Bigelow sees that as a mere "doughnut hole" in a darker dynamic. Gay marriage, he says, belongs to a class of behaviors increasingly tolerated in the broader society that the church must nonetheless oppose. He dips into an old but potent vocabulary: "As civilization keeps moving from standards we think God wants people to hold, it's inevitable that we expect persecution."
Furthermore, his comments in the larger context concern the Mormon “persecution complex” idea, which Hafen also seems to be supporting in his choice of words and misquotes.
It is true that six American states now permit same-gender marriage. But 40 states have already passed laws opposing such marriages. And the most recent national polls reinforce that large majority opinion, despite some modest recent gains by the activists. For example, last June a CBS News/New York Times poll asked whether U.S. adults favored gay marriage, gay civil unions without marriage, or no legal recognition for same-gender couples. Only 33% preferred gay marriage; 30% favored civil unions; and 32% would give no legal recognition. When civil unions were not offered as an alternative, the percentage favoring same-gender marriage was higher. A recent USA Today/Gallup Poll also asked whether allowing people of the same gender to marry will improve society, have no effect, or will harm society. Only 13% thought gay marriage would make society better, while 48% thought it would make society worse, and 35% thought it would have no effect.
45. What do public policies have to do with doctrine? See comments 20, 22, 27, 41.

46. This CBS poll was not last June, but this June (2009). Similar polls were conducted over the same time periods and gave markedly different results. For example, a poll by CNN in May, 2009 revealed that 45% of 1,010 adults favored gay marriage and 54% did not (1% were unsure). That USA Today poll cited above also found that 40% of respondents favored same-sex marriage and 57% did not.

47. I am sort of at a loss as to how public opinion can really indicate whether society is harmed by same-sex marriage. I would leave those kinds of questions to the sociologists and psychologists, and not to random people I call on the phone. The only thing this parameter indicates to me is the percentage of respondents who had negative feelings about homosexuals.
These poll numbers hardly put the Church on the public fringe with its view that same-gender marriage is not a good idea.
48. What do public policies have to do with doctrine? See comments 20, 22, 27, 41, 45.
The fourth misconception is that there are no rational, non-religious reasons for opposing same-gender marriage. The Time magazine writer said the only “rational side” to the Church’s efforts in California was its fear of losing its tax-exempt status. He acknowledged no serious sociological or other argument for limiting marriage to a man and a woman. That description of the marriage debate is so limited that it invites a response. I therefore briefly offer a non-religious case against same-gender marriage. First, the American public has always distinguished between what the law tolerates and what the law should endorse - a clear line between “passive toleration” and “active support” of homosexual conduct. To tolerate behavior is to move it, legally, from being prohibited to being permitted, which we did in deciding not to prosecute homosexual behavior as criminal.
49. The original article being cited does not discuss the criminality of homosexual behavior – it discusses anti-discrimination laws, with the idea that anti-discrimination is “passive tolerance”:
"That is the great American question," said Suzanne Goldberg, a lawyer with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay-rights group that helped prepare the legal case in Colorado. "How do we insure constitutional equality and, at the same time, recognize individual freedom? I think that the answer is basically that while people are free to pick and choose their friends, the question is a different one when we are talking about commercial interactions or transactions. There, it is for the Government to insure equal opportunity for all people."

Nobody is being compelled to accept any particular opinion about homosexuality, Ms. Goldberg maintains. "Anti-discrimination laws are not about an endorsement of a particular group of people, or a race or religion or a gender," she said. "They aim at promoting equality in society." Homosexuals are asking, as Paul Gewirtz, a professor of constitutional law at Yale put it, "not to be treated worse than other people are treated" -- they are not asking to be treated better…

Clearly, the Colorado courts and others have not been convinced by this reasoning. They have, in essence, been maintaining that homosexuals should simply not be treated any less favorably than other people. "Does that constitute approval?" Mr. Gewirtz asked. "There is no doubt that it places the government behind the proposition that it is unfair to treat gays worse than other people. But it's certainly not approval in the sense that society is saying, 'We like people to be gay,' or, 'We're going to spend some of our money to support and encourage homosexuality.' "
50. Hafen implies that the loss of criminal laws against homosexuals was a concession, which implies he would be in favor of their continuation. See comment 19, above.
The New York Times, a few years ago, reported a “powerful consensus” in the social science research that children do best when they live with their own mom and dad. The research clearly shows that, by every measure of child well-being - such as health, emotional stability, education, and avoiding crime, drugs, and abuse - children do far better in a two-parent, married heterosexual family.
51. The article being cited here had NOTHING TO DO with heterosexual vs. homosexual living arrangements. It compared welfare reform: specifically, highly urban families with a single parent vs. those with two parents in the home. A commentary on welfare reform and improving the number of two-parent households cannot be used to indicate that “children do far better in a two-parent, married, heterosexual family.” They are comparing apples to oranges.

Furthermore, the citation is twisted from what was initially shown:
In the partisan minefield of American welfare policy, a powerful consensus has emerged in recent years among social scientists, as well as state and federal policy makers. It sees single-parent families as the dismal foundries that produced decades of child poverty, delinquency and crime. And it views the rise of such families, which began in the early 1960's and continued until about five years ago, as a singularly important indicator of social pathology. From a child's point of view, according to a growing body of social research, the most supportive household is one with two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.

Yet, in many of the two-adult households that have been cobbled together by necessity in Milwaukee and across the country in the wake of the welfare overhaul, a primary ingredient for child development - stability - often goes missing. "You just can't say that these are low-conflict families and they are not likely to be any time soon," said Ramona Bell, who counsels families for Community Advocates.
The commentary concerned domestic violence and welfare issues – NOT gay marriage.

52. When you search for information regarding children of same-sex couples, the consensus is that:

A number of professional medical organizations -- including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association -- have issued statements claiming that a parent's sexual orientation is irrelevant to his or her ability to raise a child. For the most part, the organizations are relying on a relatively small but conclusive body of research -- approximately 67 studies -- looking at children of gay parents and compiled by the American Psychological Association. In study after study, children in same-sex parent families turned out the same, for better or for worse, as children in heterosexual families. Moreover, a 2001 meta-analysis of those studies found that the sexual orientation of a parent is irrelevant to the development of a child's mental health and social development and to the quality of a parent-child relationship.

Researchers looked at information gleaned from 15 studies on more than 500 children, evaluating possible stigma, teasing and social isolation, adjustment and self-esteem, opposite gender role models, sexual orientation, and strengths. Studies from 1981 to 1994, including 260 children reared by either heterosexual mothers or same-sex mothers after divorce, found no differences in intelligence, type or prevalence of psychiatric disorders, self-esteem, well-being, peer relationships, couple relationships, or parental stress. "Some studies showed that single heterosexual parents' children have more difficulties than children who have parents of the same sex," Perrin says. "They did better in discipline, self-esteem, and had less psychosocial difficulties at home and at school." Another study of 37 children of 27 divorced lesbian mothers and a similar number of children of heterosexual mothers found no differences in behavior, adjustment, gender identity, and peer relationships.
From the American Academy of Pediatrics:
"More than 25 years of research have documented that there is no relationship between parents' sexual orientation and any measure of a child's emotional, psychosocial, and behavioral adjustment. These data have demonstrated no risk to children as a result of growing up in a family with 1 or more gay parents. Conscientious and nurturing adults, whether they are men or women, heterosexual or homosexual, can be excellent parents. The rights, benefits, and protections of civil marriage can further strengthen these families."
The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers, Canadian Psychological Association, and Australian Psychological Society have all made statements to the effect that:
"Statements by the leading associations of experts in this area reflect professional consensus that children raised by lesbian or gay parents do not differ in any important respects from those raised by heterosexual parents. No credible empirical research suggests otherwise. Allowing same-sex couples to legally marry will not have any detrimental effect on children raised in heterosexual households, but it will benefit children being raised by same-sex couples."
From Wikipedia:
The American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, Child Welfare League of America, the American Bar Association, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychoanalytic Association, and the American Academy of Family Physicians; in the United Kingdom, the Royal College of Psychiatrists; and in Canada, the Canadian Psychological Association support adoption and parenting by same-sex couples, citing social prejudice as harming the psychological health of lesbians and gays while noting there is no empiric evidence that their parenting causes harm. The American Medical Association has issued a similar position supporting same-sex adoption, stating that while there is little evidence against LGBT parenting, lack of formal recognition can cause health-care disparities for children of same-sex parents.

That ideal child-rearing environment is not always possible because of deaths, unavoidable divorces, and births outside wedlock.
53. Actually, the NYT article cited above would indicate that children might do better with a single parent in the case of high-conflict relationships. Based on later comments, it would seem that Hafen would disagree that those fall into the case of “unavoidable divorce”. How does one define divorce as “unavoidable,” anyway? Divorce can always be “avoided,” even to the detriment of both parties.

54. The NYT article cited above not address the issue of whether parents married before or after having children together. In fact, several of the examples given are of parents who married after the children were a few years old.
The problem dates further back, because we have shifted, in America, from being a culture of marriage toward becoming a culture of divorce. Americans have more than doubled the divorce rate. We have the highest divorce rate in the world. We’ve also more than quintupled the rate of unwed births since the 1960s.
55. Divorce has nothing to do with same-sex marriage. These couples are not asking for the right to divorce – they are asking for the right to marry. Wouldn’t we want to have more stable, two-parent households, rather than less?
Nearly 40% of all children born in the U.S. today are now born out of wedlock.
56. This citation is correct, and is a preliminary result from the CDC of births in 2007. , but it remains unclear what its relevance is to same-sex marriage.
The new culture of divorce began with no-fault divorce in California in the late 1960s. That concept essentially gave any married individual the right to just walk away from a marriage as a matter of personal freedom, regardless of fault or social consequences.
57. See comment 54, above. Divorce has nothing to do with same-sex marriage.

58. Discussions of the social ramifications of no-fault divorce are unrelated to the topic of same-sex marriage. Therefore, I will not go into great detail on them. However, history appears to indicate that there were protective purposes for their development. From Wikipedia:
Prior to the no-fault divorce revolution, a divorce could be obtained only through a showing of fault of one of the parties in a marriage. This was something more than not loving one another; it meant that one spouse had to plead that the other had committed adultery, abandonment, felony, or other similarly culpable acts. However, the other spouse could plead a variety of defenses, like recrimination (essentially an accusation of "so did you"). A judge could find that the respondent had not committed the alleged act or the judge could accept the defense of recrimination and find both spouses at fault for the dysfunctional nature of their marriage. Either way, the judge could refuse to dissolve the marriage, although it was also possible for the judge to grant one or both parties a divorce.
For example, in the De Burgh vs. De Burgh trial of 1952, the trial judge found both spouses guilty of cruelty against each other which had been provoked by the acts of the other. Therefore, both spouses were guilty of recrimination and neither was entitled to a divorce. Furthermore:
[A]dvocates for no-fault divorce argued that the law should be changed to provide a straightforward procedure for ending a marriage, rather than, in their view, forcing a couple who couldn't get along to choose between living together in "marital hell" or lying under oath in open court… "No-fault" divorce was pioneered in the United States by the state of California when Governor Ronald Reagan signed into law the Family Law Act of 1969 on September 4, 1969 (effective January 1, 1970). The Act abolished California's common law action for divorce and replaced it with the proceeding for dissolution of marriage on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. The grounds of irreconcilable differences were accepted as true, based on the assertions of one of the parties to the marriage, and thus the Family Law Act of 1969 eliminated the showing-of-fault requirements to obtain a divorce both for spouses seeking a divorce by mutual consent, and in cases where only one of the parties to the marriage wants a divorce.
59. I am shocked that a church leader would criticize ANYTHING related to Ronald Reagan! Wasn't he the first non-Mormon prophet?
When the law upholds an individual’s right to END a marriage, regardless of social consequences (as happened with no-fault divorce), that same legal principle can be used to justify the individual’s right to START a marriage, regardless of social consequences (as happens with same-gender marriage).
60. I do not follow this logic. By Hafen’s rationale, murder (ending a life) should immediately be legal, since procreation (starting a life) is, regardless of its social consequences.
Gay rights do not claim to satisfy society’s enormous interest in its children.
61. The references provided in comment 51 would indicate that gay rights do much to “satisfy society’s enormous interest in its children”. If gay couples were permitted to marry and adopt, the number of unwanted children in the US would dramatically decrease.
On the contrary, in a key early Supreme Court opinion in 1986, Justice Harry Blackmun argued that the Constitution should protect gay sexual rights “not because they contribute to the general public welfare but because they form so central a part of an individual’s life,” including one’s “right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.”
61. Some context is necessary. This case, Bowers vs. Hardwick, concerned the constitutionality of sodomy laws (criminal liability for homosexual acts). This is not something one would typically consider to fall under the category of “gay rights”. From the US Supreme Court Media OYEZ site:
Facts of the Case: Michael Hardwick was observed by a Georgia police officer while engaging in the act of consensual homosexual sodomy with another adult in the bedroom of his home. After being charged with violating a Georgia statute that criminalized sodomy, Hardwick challenged the statute's constitutionality in Federal District Court. Following a ruling that Hardwick failed to state a claim, the court dismissed. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that Georgia's statute was unconstitutional. Georgia's Attorney General, Michael J. Bowers, appealed to the Supreme Court and was granted certiorari.

Question: Does the Constitution confer a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in consensual sodomy, thereby invalidating the laws of many states which make such conduct illegal?

Conclusion: No. The divided Court found that there was no constitutional protection for acts of sodomy, and that states could outlaw those practices. Justice Byron White argued that the Court has acted to protect rights not easily identifiable in the Constitution only when those rights are "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty" (Palko v. Connecticut, 1937) or when they are "deeply rooted in the Nation's history and tradition" (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965). The Court held that the right to commit sodomy did not meet either of these standards. White feared that guaranteeing a right to sodomy would be the product of "judge-made constitutional law" and send the Court down the road of illegitimacy.
62. Clearly, Hafen is in favor of reinstituting anti-sodomy laws. See comments 19 and 50, above.
The Court’s 2003 majority opinion striking down state criminal laws against same-gender sexual conduct accepted Justice Blackmun’s view, basing its rationale on the personal “autonomy” or freedom rights of consenting adults, not on any benefit of that conduct to society.
63. Another instance where Hafen implies the need to criminalize homosexual behavior. See comments 19, 50, and 61, above.

64. I do not see how sex between two consenting adults should be subject to law. If adultery is not prosecuted – and adultery has a very clear harm on individual and society - sodomy between consenting adults certainly should not be. Here are OYEZ’s summary of the case:
Facts of the Case: Responding to a reported weapons disturbance in a private residence, Houston police entered John Lawrence's apartment and saw him and another adult man, Tyron Garner, engaging in a private, consensual sexual act. Lawrence and Garner were arrested and convicted of deviate sexual intercourse in violation of a Texas statute forbidding two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct. In affirming, the State Court of Appeals held that the statute was not unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, with Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), controlling.

Question: Do the criminal convictions of John Lawrence and Tyron Garner under the Texas "Homosexual Conduct" law, which criminalizes sexual intimacy by same-sex couples, but not identical behavior by different-sex couples, violate the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection of laws? Do their criminal convictions for adult consensual sexual intimacy in the home violate their vital interests in liberty and privacy protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment? Should Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), be overruled?

Conclusion: No, yes, and yes. In a 6-3 opinion delivered by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Court held that the Texas statute making it a crime for two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct violates the Due Process Clause. After explaining what it deemed the doubtful and overstated premises of Bowers, the Court reasoned that the case turned on whether Lawrence and Garner were free as adults to engage in the private conduct in the exercise of their liberty under the Due Process Clause. "Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government," wrote Justice Kennedy. "The Texas statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual," continued Justice Kennedy. Accordingly, the Court overruled Bowers. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, with whom Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Thomas joined, filed dissents.

Now this contrast between adult rights and the rights of society and children introduces the most persuasive example I have seen of the secular case against same-gender marriage.
65. Numerous studies have indicated that there is no detriment to having children raised by same-sex couples. See comment 51, above. Hafen has set up a straw-man argument.
France, which is not exactly the most conservative country in the world, rejected gay marriage in 2006, because its parliament concluded that these marriages run counter to the best interests of children and the future society. France was not ready, as a matter of conscious public policy choice, to throw out its babies with the bathwater of gay activism. They concluded that marriage should serve a child’s right to optimal personal development, rather than primarily serving adult interests that trump children’s interests. But, they concluded, France could “no longer systematically place [the] aspirations of adults ahead” of children’s needs and rights. And if they allowed individual control of family forms to persist, France would “exhaust all possibility of expression of society’s stake in marriage”…

Specifically, the French report focused on children’s need for identity and stability. Insofar as possible, it said, each child has the right to know and be cared for by — and be bonded to — his or her biological parents. Biological bonding combined with legal bonding inherently creates the most lasting and stable adult-child relationships, which provides the emotional and legal security required for optimal child development... The French report said that to accept a public policy that consciously places children with homosexual adults increases the risks to children who are already at risk because they feel identity confusion and abandonment by their biological parents.
66. Some countries criminally enforce genital mutilation of women and deny them rights. I am sure that those countries also believe that it is for the good of society. Does that mean we should do the same? Since when have Americans – or the Mormon Church - ever considered the precedents of other countries in terms of making their own legal, constitutional, or moral decisions? In particular the European countries, which are frequently lambasted by the right wing as immoral, socialist, and godless?

67. Numerous studies have indicated that there is no detriment to having children raised by same-sex couples. See comments 51, 64, above. Just because one country claims otherwise does not change the research.

68. This decision was based on the conclusions of the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, which laid out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of children, including:
The Convention acknowledges that every child has certain basic rights, including the right to life, his or her own name and identity, to be raised by his or her parents within a family or cultural grouping and have a relationship with both parents, even if they are separated. The Convention obliges states to allow parents to exercise their parental responsibilities.
This provision was interpreted by the French to implicate same-sex couples should not be permitted to adopt. Other countries who have signed the document do not consider adoption by same-sex couples to be in violation of this convention. Interestingly, the USA is one of only two UN members not to adopt the resolution (the other is Somalia), so regardless it really could not be considered in examining American law.
This view takes marriage away from the private, adults-only world of gay and lesbian lifestyles and returns it to its original place as society’s primary social institution.
69. This definition of “gay and lesbian lifestyles” is just untrue. Homosexuals who are fighting for same-sex marriage or adoption rights are NOT doing so out of a desire to ruin the “traditional concept of marriage”. They WANT children. They WANT families. They WANT to be united with one another in every aspect of their lives – how can this be private, adults-only, or selfish?

70. The argument that same-sex marriages are “adults-only” because they cannot procreate is ridiculous. Should we limit marriage to only heterosexual couples that display an ability and willingness to procreate? Should we be discontinuing marriages when the woman reaches menopause? You can’t apply these sorts of statements to one segment of society and not to others.
I feel especially tender toward you who honor your covenants and wholeheartedly desire the blessings of temple marriage and family life; and who have tried repeatedly — but not successfully yet — to diminish your same-gender feelings. I know people who feel that way.
70. This statement is very condescending. It reminds me of statements such as “I am not racist. I know many blacks” O-o You are not simply a child of God.
You are a son or a daughter of God, with all the masculine or feminine connotations of those words. That is your true, eternal identity.
71. Again, homosexuality has NOTHING to do with gender-identity issues. See comment 31.

Rebutting Hafen - Part 1

By Madame Curie

On Saturday, Sept. 19th, the LDS Newroom posted a talk given by Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the First Quorum of the Seventy to Evergreen International, at their annual conference. This talk has been provocative, to say the least, and has resulted in numerous blogs refuting its various claims. At the risk of redundancy with these other posts, I wish here to make point-by-point refutations of his arguments, which are wholly unsound and without support.

I know some will argue that since he is just a “member of the Seventy”, Elder Hafen’s talk is not LDS Church doctrine. Although this is true, it is also true that it is impossible to clarify what “doctrine” is in the Mormon Church. For all intents and purposes, the fact that the Church has chosen to place this talk in its online Newsroom – which is noted as “The Official Church Resource for News Media, Opinion Leaders, and the Public” – it is clear that the Powers that Be within the Church want this talk to be considered, if not Church policy, then at least consistent with their overall message. Therefore, it should not be considered too lightly.

Evergreen International fashions itself as “the most complete resource for Latter-day Saints who experience same-sex attraction” and “a nonprofit organization that offers help to people who want to diminish their attractions and overcome homosexual behavior.” Although unaffiliated with the LDS church, Evergreen “sustain[s] the doctrines and standards of the Church without reservation or exception. Our Board of Trustees usually includes one or more emeritus General Authorities and we continue to build relationships with Area Presidencies and other Church leaders. Upon request, we provide training to hundreds of stake and ward leaders each year.” Clearly, this organization, while not an official church resource, provides its services to LDS church members throughout the US. In choosing to send a member of the Seventy to speak with Evergreen, the church is providing implicit agreement to both the organization and the speakers’ remarks. This is particularly true, given that the Church has chosen to link the talk in the Newsroom, under the topic “Public Issues: Same Gender Attraction.”

My concerns with Elder Hafen’s talk include issues with its tone, content, and scientific and medical validity. The purpose of this post is the refute the arguments that Elder Hafen makes, point-by-point:
Sometimes that attraction may make you feel sinful, even though the attraction alone is not a sin if you do not act on it. Sometimes you may feel frustration or anger or simply a deep sadness about yourself. But as hard as same-gender attraction is, your feeling that attraction does not mean that your nature is flawed.
1. This sort of rationale is really a catch-22 for gay members of the church. To be told that your feelings are not sinful and that your nature is not flawed, while simultaneously saying that your feelings are unnatural and, therefore, abnormal is contradictory.
Some may wonder how the Church’s leaders can empathize with you when they haven’t been in your shoes themselves.Some may even wonder how the Savior Himself can really understand you when He hasn’t been where you are. But remember: Christ not only descended TO our conditions, he has descended BELOW our conditions, whatever they are, because “The Son of Man hath descended below [all things].”
2. This statement seems to imply that somehow Hafen, as a 69 y.o. heterosexual father of seven, can relate to homosexuals because of Jesus Christ. I am not really making the connection here. By this rationale, any man should be able to read his wife’s mind, because Christ knows our innermost thoughts.
The victims of childhood sexual abuse also live with agonizing daily battles that may echo the experiences of some who cope with same-gender attraction… Another more seasoned priesthood leader said that many abuse victims are like emotional quadriplegics - yet they look so normal that other people have no idea what they are really dealing with.
3. One of several statements that compares homosexuality to various other groups, including victims of sexual abuse, quadriplegics, and addicts. Implicit in all of these is the idea that homosexuality is a sickness or disease from which the patient needs “recovery.” This indicates a non-acceptance of the homosexual as a human being.
Before discussing that confusion, I first want to draw on a few doctrines that apply to your concerns… Having same-gender attraction is NOT in your DNA
4. One of several statements that same-sex attractions are not genetic. However, scientific research indicates that a variety of factors, including genetic, are likely involved in sexual orientation.
If you are faithful, on resurrection morning—and maybe even before then—you will rise with normal attractions for the opposite sex.
5. One of several comments regarding the success of conversion therapy, a medically rejected treatment approach that will be discussed later.
It’s true that the law of chastity forbids all sexual relations outside the bonds of a married heterosexual relationship. And while same-gender attraction is not a sin, you need to resist cultivating immoral, lustful thoughts toward those of either gender.
6. The idea that homosexuality is only considered a law of chastity issue by the church is a false one. A heterosexual single man is encouraged to kiss, hold hands with, snuggle, and make out with girlfriends. A homosexual single man would be brought in to see his bishop if it was known that he even held hands with another man. Consider the church’s response when two gay men were seen holding hands and then exchanging a kiss on Temple Square – they were detained by police for trespassing. Furthermore, homosexual Mormons who have married their partners are excommunicated. This is not a law of chastity issue, and to indicate that it is lying.
No temptation is so strong that you can’t resist it, unless you have already given away some portion of your agency to a total addiction.
7. See response 3, above.
[A]ll humans have within them two dogs. One dog is good and peaceable. The other dog is angry and evil. The two dogs are in a constant battle with one another, since neither is powerful enough to destroy the other. The young brave asks, “If they are of equal power, which dog will win?” The elder replies, “The dog you feed the most.” You feed the angry dog when you cultivate lustful feelings, view pornography, label yourself as gay, or associate with activists who aggressively promote gay lifestyles. Those activists have an agenda, and it includes constantly feeding your angry dog…

You feed the peaceful dog when you simply stop fighting the angry dog. As Dr. Jeff Robinson said, you can’t hate your way out of your attraction. Don’t let your challenge define your entire identity. Just walk away from fighting the angry dog and focus on all the good things you may have put on hold—your education, career plans, social experience, and Church service. Stop focusing so much on yourself, including hating yourself, and spend more energy caring about other people. Build good associations with people of your own gender. Find a therapist who can help you identify the unmet emotional needs that you are tempted to satisfy in false sexual ways. As you do such things, the peaceful dog will grow stronger than the miserable, angry dog.
There are several things about these two paragraphs that are just vile

8. Hafen uses an ugly, hateful comparison of homosexuals to men with aggressive tendencies and also to “angry, evil dogs.”

9. Hafen implies that a homosexual “struggles” because he is selfish and focused too much on himself, that he can simply be happier if he stops focusing on his homosexuality

10. Hafen implies that all homosexuals are “miserable”

11. Hafen implies that somehow viewing pornography, calling yourself gay, and associating with gay activists makes you more homosexual. There is just no scientific basis for these facts, and all of them are founded in homophobia.

12. The citation of Dr. Robinson is an implicit endorsement of his methods. Hafen makes multiple references to the need for therapy, as well as specific, un-scientifically sound, implicit or explicit recommendations for therapies. In particular, Hafen cites Dr. Jeff Robinson and Dr. Jeff Byrd frequently throughout his talk.

Robinson is an Orem, UT area psychotherapist who specializes in “homosexual problems” and is the developer of “context specific therapy (CST)”. He has also served as the Provo-area facilitator of Evergreen International. It is important to note that Robinson is not a medical doctor. Robinson claims that “CST is based on research which describes in detail the elements of change which have been effective in the lives of LDS men who have successfully overcome homosexuality. CST is guided by the successful experience of others rather than theory,” there is not a single evidence of peer-reviewed literature online concerning this method.

Dr. Byrd has a PhD from BYU, and is a proponent of conversion therapy for homosexuals. Conversion therapy is intended to convert gay, lesbian and bisexual people to heterosexuality. However, these results of the therapies described above are very rarely published in peer-reviewed journals. Furthermore, the research methods are prone to bias; lack adequate follow-up studies; do not show conversion of orientation, but homosexual activity; and lack control groups.

There is no scientifically adequate research demonstrating either the overall effectiveness or harmfulness of conversion therapy. However, conversion therapy is considered by all major mental health organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the National Education Association, as potentially harmful because it may exploit guilt and anxiety, thereby damaging self-esteem and leading to depression and even suicide:
Among those studies reporting on the perceptions of harm, the reported negative social and emotional consequences include self-reports of anger, anxiety, confusion, depression, grief, guilt, hopelessness, deteriorated relationships with family, loss of social support, loss of faith, poor self-image, social isolation, intimacy difficulties, intrusive imagery, suicidal ideation, self-hatred, and sexual dysfunction. These reports of perceptions of harm are countered by accounts of perceptions of relief, happiness, improved relationships with God, and perceived improvement in mental health status, among other reported benefits (APA, 2009).

Even though same-gender attraction is by itself not a sin, its presence can make us feel estranged from God. That sense of separation arises from our knowing that this attraction runs counter to our eternal nature as a son or daughter of god. These feelings can terribly damage a conscientious person’s sense of both worth and worthiness in God’s sight.
13. Same-gender attraction is not a sin, and does not mean your “nature is flawed,” but does mean your desires are unnatural and that Satan is the source of your desires. Um, I think I got on the false logic train. See comment 1, above.
I classify same-gender attraction within the category of “adversity,” because typically you haven’t brought it upon yourselves. It has consequences similar to being harmed by the sins of others, such as the separation from God felt so commonly by the victims of childhood sexual abuse.
14. Why is there the need to indicate that someone “typically” hasn’t brought it on themselves? Do gay Mormons at the Evergreen conference really need to be told that they have additional reasons to feel guilty?

15. This is another example where homosexuality is equated with being an abuse victim.
The Savior described this part of His healing power to the Nephites: “Will ye not return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted that I may heal you?” Consider also Alma’s description of Christ’s broad healing power, which includes “afflictions,” “infirmities,” and “sicknesses,” in addition to death and sin: “And he shall go forth suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy”…

The Atonement’s healing blessings are conditional, just as receiving the mercy that allows forgiveness is conditioned on our repentance. The conditions we must satisfy include repenting fully of any actual sins in our lives.
16. Previously, Hafen indicates that there is no need to repent, as no wrong was committed. But here he is quoting Christ telling the Nephites to repent and be converted. This is contradictory.

17. This paragraph equates homosexuality with a disease or sickness, which it is NOT.
I began teaching family law in the early 1970s, during the U.S. civil rights movements that sought for much-needed racial and gender equality. During that period, almost no one considered people with homosexual attraction as a distinctive demographic group (like race or gender) who were the victims of discrimination.
18. Hafen indicates that if, in the past, a group is not seen as being a “victim of discrimination” by the public, then at present they also cannot be. By this rationale, blacks should not have been given equal-rights, since during slavery, they majority of people in America did not consider them to be discriminated against. Battered women should never have been given the right to leave their marriages, since in the past women were property and not persons.
The main legal goal of gay activists then was to eliminate criminal penalties against homosexual acts, as a first step toward their goal of greater public acceptance. Even though criminal laws against homosexual acts were seldom enforced, the Supreme Court considered those laws constitutional as recently as 2003.
19. Hafen implies that homosexual acts should still be considered criminal activities, since such laws were only done away with due to the agenda of “gay activists” to reach “their goal of public acceptance”
In the early 1970s, the public and most lawyers, doctors, and therapists saw homosexuality not as normal adult behavior but as a psychological disorder.
20. Before 1978, the church considered all blacks to be the seed of Cain. Before we knew cancer existed, we didn't. Just because we used to think a certain way doesn't make it right. This is just one of several instances that imply that public opinion should shape medical conclusions and decisions within the church.
As recently as 1982, the mayor of San Francisco vetoed a proposal to grant spousal-type benefits to both straight and gay unmarried couples. An editorial in a major San Francisco newspaper agreed with the mayor, saying: “The notion that an unmarried relationship is the equivalent of marriage is an attack upon social norms, the destruction of which concerns a great many people in the nation and … in San Francisco.”
21. This history is incomplete. According to a New York Times article on May 31, 1989
In 1982 the San Francisco board, by a vote of 8 to 3, passed a measure that extended health insurance coverage to domestic partners, but it was vetoed by Mayor Dianne Feinstein. Two years later she also rejected the recommendation of her Task Force on Equal Benefits to extend health benefits to the partners of city employees. In both 1982 and this year the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco strongly objected to the ordinances.
The mayor overturned a law that would have matched public policy due to pressure by the Roman Catholic Church. How is this different from what happened in CA in November? It isn’t. The history isn’t nearly so tidy when you conveniently leave out facts.

22. A random newspaper editorial (in this case, the San Francisco Chronicle) should not define the church’s position. See comment 20, above.
In 1973, in response to increasing disruptions and protests by gay activists, the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations removed homosexuality from their official lists of disorders. Significantly, they took this action by simply putting the issue to an open vote in their professional meetings—not because of any change in actual medical findings. As LDS psychologist Dean Byrd writes, “This was the first time in the history of healthcare that a diagnosis was decided by popular vote rather than scientific evidence.”
23. According to Wikipedia, and as discussed above, LDS Dr. Dean Byrd is the President of National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a research organization that advocates conversion therapy for “homosexual problems,” (which are generally rejected as an acceptable medical practice – see comment 12, above), and a former member of the Evergreen Board of Trustees. Dr. Byrd can hardly be considered an unbiased source.

Furthermore, Dr. Byrd is not an MD. Thus, Hafen is indicating that an opinion held by one LDS PhD is of more medical weight than one made by multiple associations (see comment 12, above) of board-certified MDs.
The activists have used similar methods in the years since then, trying to prove that they are a legitimate demographic category with fixed and unchangeable characteristics. They must present themselves in this way in order to justify their demand for the same legal protections now given to race and gender.
24. See comment 18, above.
As President James E. Faust wrote, “The false belief of inborn homosexual orientation denies to repentant souls the opportunity to change and will ultimately lead to discouragement, disappointment, and despair.”
25. This concept is negated by medical and scientific research, which suggest both genetic and environmental components. See comment 4, above. Just because an apostle says it does not make the science correct. For more examples, see: evolution, Quakers on the moon.

26. See comment 16, above. Previously, Hafen indicates that there is no need to repent, as no wrong was committed. But here he is quoting Pres. Faust telling homosexuals that they need to repent of their attractions.
A reliable 2009 poll asked U.S. adults what causes people to be gay or lesbian. In the two most common responses, 42% of this public sample said gay or lesbian people are born that way, and 36% said they choose to be that way.
27. See comments 20, 22, above. Another instance where Hafen uses public opinion to prove... something.
As the American Psychological Association has stated, “No findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any factor or set of factors. … Nature and nurture both play complex roles.” So, even though natural personality traits do influence one’s inclinations, the idea that there is a “gay gene” has little scientific support.
28. The reference given here feeds back again to LDS psychologist Dean Byrd’s book. However, looking up the actual text of the APA statement, one finds the following:
There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.
Importantly, that last line was left out of the quotation – this is not a matter of choice. Furthermore, the conclusion that “the idea that there is a ‘gay gene’ has little scientific support” is not consistent with the statement above. The APA indicates that both genetics and environment likely play equally important roles.
As two Columbia University researchers put it, “The assertion that homosexuality is genetic … must be dismissed out of hand as a general principle of psychology.”
29. Again, a look at the source reveals that this quote was given completely out of context. Although Hafen quotes Byrd, Byrd was actually quoting a book entitled “Sexual Orientation and Psychoanalysis: Sexual Science and Clinical Practice,” by Friedman and Downey, pg. 39:
Homosexual orientation results from interaction of many factors, including genetic influences in varying degrees across individuals… The assertion that homosexuality is genetic is so reductionist that it must be dismissed out of hand as a general principle of psychology. (Friedman and Downey)

Now we do know that inherited susceptibilities, childhood experiences, and agency all influence a given person’s development. And even though no universal explanation exists, some patterns do fit many same-gender attraction cases. For example, we know from the research that among women, up to 80% who have same-gender attraction were abused in some way as children.
30. The reference provided for this statistic is an audio CD put out by Evergreen International. No references are provided to this statistic in the talk or on Evergreen’s website. I don’t think it has any basis in reality, personally, and a brief Google search would appear to back this up.
Among men, especially during the years just before and during puberty, as President Boyd K. Packer has said, “What would have only been a more or less normal passing phase in establishing [your] gender identity can become implanted and leave you confused, even disturbed.”
31. Gender identity has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with being homosexual. Gay men do not wish they were women. Lesbians do not with they were men. Period. Confusing these issues helps no one.
In other words, before puberty, boys are typically more interested in other boys than in girls. Then their interest gradually shifts to girls, but a few boys don’t make this transition. Often these boys are emotionally sensitive, introspective, and, especially among Church members, perfectionistic. When puberty hits this group, they can be sexually aroused by many factors. When these factors include other boys, they can become fixated on the fear that they are “gay,” especially if they have male sexual experiences, including male pornography. Then their fixation can block their normal emotional-sexual development. Adult men who have had such childhood experiences can often resume their normal development by identifying and addressing the sources of their emotional blockage, which usually includes restoring healthy, appropriate male relationships.
32. In the absence of any scientific explanation for homosexuality, Hafen decides to make stuff up. First, the implication that gay men start off as “emotionally sensitive, introspective, and… perfectionist boys” is essentially saying that “watch out – if your boy is a sissy, he might become gay!” Thank you for giving the LDS population one more way to bully shy or socially awkward teenage boys – call them faggots.

Second, the book he cites is… wait for it…. Dr. Dean Byrd’s. Note again the lack of scientific basis for his claims.
A second misconception the activists promote is that therapy cannot treat, let alone change, same-gender attraction…But as President Packer said, “The angels of the devil convince some that they are born to a life from which they cannot change and are compelled to live in sin. The most wicked of lies is that they cannot change and repent and that they will not be forgiven.” If you believe no change is possible, you have only two options, neither of which is acceptable to a believing Latter-day Saint — you must either give in or give up.
33. There is no scientific evidence that conversion therapies, such as those being supported in this paragraph, are effective. All mainstream mental health associations in the US see more potential harm than possible good that could come from such therapies. See comment 12, above.

34. The continual promotion of therapies is also in violation of Evergreen International’s mission statement:
Evergreen International, Inc. is not directed by any public or private mental health-care agency or individual, nor does it claim to have any professional training or licensing. Evergreen is not a clinical therapy program, espouses no curriculum or specific therapeutic approach, and assumes no liability for any individual's emotional or physical well being. Any information provided on this Web site or by us in other communications is for the purpose of providing what we believe to be accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is provided with the understanding that Evergreen International, Inc. is not engaged in rendering clinical, therapeutic, or other professional service. If clinical or therapeutic advice is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.
Would you want to place your mental health in the hands of an organization with “no professional training or licensing” that “assumes no liability for any individual’s… well-being”? Personally, I am not sure why anyone in the church would want to support faith-healing over evidence-based medicine.
Nonetheless, the American Psychiatric Association has considered making it unethical for a therapist to treat someone with same-gender attraction who wants to change.
35. For good reason – see comment 12, above.
But in the year 2000, when such a proposal was pending before that organization, they were met with a very different form of activism than what they had seen earlier. Busloads of formerly gay men appeared at their national meeting, claiming their right to choose therapy for their unwanted attraction.
36. I wonder if these busloads were in any way related to the bussing of individuals to vote “Yes” on Prop 8 in CA. Just sayin’.
In an ironic twist of history, the APA representative who met with them, Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, just happened to be the same man who had met with the gay activists nearly 30 years earlier, when the APA voted to remove homosexuality from its list of disorders. Dr. Spitzer listened again, and he decided to study two hundred people who had changed to a heterosexual orientation that had lasted more than five years. Dr. Spitzer published his research findings, despite the objections of activists who thought his work threatened their political agenda. He concluded, “Like most psychiatrists, I thought that … sexual orientation could not be changed. I now believe that is untrue — some people can and do change.”
37. Hafer misrepresents the results of this highly controversial paper. In 2003, Spitzer published his paper, entitled "Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation," in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. This study examined attempts to change homosexual orientation through ex-gay ministries and conversion therapies. After intervention, 66% of the men and 44% of the women achieved "Good Heterosexual Functioning", which he defined as requiring five criteria (being in a loving heterosexual relationship during the last year, overall satisfaction in emotional relationship with a partner, having heterosexual sex with the partner at least a few times a month, achieving physical satisfaction through heterosexual sex, and not thinking about having homosexual sex more than 15% of the time while having heterosexual sex). He found that the most common reasons for seeking change were lack of emotional satisfaction from gay life, conflict between same-sex feelings and behavior and religious beliefs, and desire to marry or remain married.

This paper has been criticized by researchers for a number of ethical and methodological reasons. First, the study sample was extremely biased. About two thirds of his participants were referred to Spitzer by "ex-gay ministries," such as Exodus, or by NARTH. 78% of them had previously spoken publicly in favor of efforts to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality. Most of these individuals sought treatment primarily because of their religious beliefs, and may therefore have been motivated to claim that they had changed even if they had not, or to overstate the extent to which they might have changed. No self-reporting reliability or validity assessments were performed.

Only ~ 40% of the participants were exclusively attracted to partners of the same sex before they attempted to change. Including bisexuals in studies evaluating the outcomes of conversion therapies tends to inflate the proportion of "successes." The participants had to rely upon their memories of what their feelings were before treatment may have distorted the findings. It was impossible to determine causation; no controls were performed and it was unclear what the treatment even involved. Finally, follow-up studies were not conducted, so it is impossible to know whether the results were permanent.

Finally, even Spitzer stressed the limitations of his study. Dr. Spitzer did not claim that his findings could be generalized to the gay and lesbian population at large. Indeed, he was quoted in the New York Times as saying that, despite the findings from his study, the number of homosexuals who could successfully become heterosexual was likely to be "pretty low." He also conceded that participants in his study were "unusually religious" and were not necessarily representative of most gay men and lesbians in the United States.
Just last month the American Psychological Association adopted a resolution stating that there is insufficient evidence to prove conclusively whether sexual orientation can be changed. But in what the Wall Street Journal called “a striking departure” from that Association’s earlier hesitation about encouraging such therapy, the same resolution also stated that “it is ethical - and can be beneficial - for counselors to help some clients reject gay or lesbian attractions,” especially clients with a strong religious identity.
38. As always, the full text of the quote is necessary. According to the WSJ:
According to new APA guidelines, the therapist must make clear that homosexuality doesn't signal a mental or emotional disorder. The counselor must advise clients that gay men and women can lead happy and healthy lives, and emphasize that there is no evidence therapy can change sexual orientation. But if the client still believes that affirming his same-sex attractions would be sinful or destructive to his faith, psychologists can help him construct an identity that rejects the power of those attractions, the APA says. That might require living celibately, learning to deflect sexual impulses or framing a life of struggle as an opportunity to grow closer to God. The APA has long endorsed the right of clients to determine their own identities. But it also warned that "lesbians and gay men who feel they must conceal their sexual orientation report more frequent mental health concerns."

The new approach allowing therapists to help clients transcend their sexual orientation was developed by an APA task force of six academics and counselors, some active in gay-rights causes, and endorsed by the group's governing body. Their original mandate was to respond to the growing visibility of sexual orientation "change therapists" who claim it is possible to alter arousal patterns. The task force reviewed scientific literature on change therapy and found no evidence it worked.

But the task force also gained an appreciation for the pain some men and women feel in trying to reconcile their sexual attractions with their faith. There are gay-affirming churches. But the task force acknowledged that for those from conservative faiths, affirming a gay identity could feel very much like renouncing their religious identity. "They're faced with a terrible dilemma," Dr. Glassgold said. The profession has to offer alternatives, she says, "so they don't pursue these ineffective therapies" promising change. It isn't a step to be taken lightly, added Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist and member of the APA task force. "We try to find a balance between what the patient says he wants, what we think is best for the patient, and what is reasonable and feasible," Dr. Drescher said…

After reviewing 50 years of literature, the APA found no evidence that this type of "reparative therapy" is effective. The studies that claim to show success tend to be small and deeply flawed, the APA said. For instance, some rely on the therapist who has treated a patient to subjectively evaluate how well the therapy worked.
In other words, the APA was not saying that the therapy is in any way effective; rather, that individuals (including Mormons) who have a faith that is highly conservative and not gay-friendly should try these kinds therapies INSTEAD OF conversion therapy - the very therapies that Hafen is endorsing!
Now, to be sure, not everybody who seeks treatment succeeds. We have got to be realistic and honest about that. Not every experience with therapy is completely positive. That is why responsible therapists can’t promise particular outcomes. And, the Church does not endorse specific methods of treatment. Success rates vary, and “success” can be defined in various ways.
39. I have to admit, I am a little surprised to hear that the church would “endorse” conversion therapy at all, especially as Evergreen itself does not and no medical association does. Furthermore, he has already indicated his promotion of Byrd and Robinson, who are conversion therapists.
The skill and attitude of the therapist also matters a great deal. But in general, well over half of those seeking treatment can be significantly helped by it. That is roughly the same success rate as treatments for clinical depression. One non-LDS therapist who has treated both men and women for years reports that 40% of his clients find full heterosexual resolution, another 40% achieve enough resolution to control their attraction and behavior, and 20% are unsuccessful.
40. I have no access to the book here, that of Jason Park (1997), but it should be noted that the author is LDS. Furthermore, as indicated with all of the studies so far, most of the methodologies underlying conversion therapy are deeply flawed. Finally, if the results were that good over 10 years ago, I would have thought that it would have been all the rage by now…

Part 2 tomorrow, including full links and footnotes...