Groups respond to anti-gay ads with full page ad in USA Today

WASHINGTON -- A coalition of organizations will answer an anti-gay newspaper ad campaign, launched by several right-wing groups, with a full page ad in Wednesday's edition of USA Today. The coalition ad will highlight a Minneapolis family who loves and supports their lesbian daughter and it will also counter the myths propagated by the Religious Right, according to HRC.

"Our ad will show that the Far Right does not have a monopoly on family values and religion. Gay people are no less religious or family-oriented than anyone else. The Right's on-going character assassination of an entire group of people is offensive to millions of gay Americans and their family members," said HRC executive director Elizabeth Birch.

The coalition's ad features Dave and Ruth Waterbury, Republican, church-going, Minneapolis parents and their lesbian daughter, Margie. In the ad, the Waterburys make an appeal to the American people to treat their daughter with dignity and respect so she can live her life free of discrimination. The ad was produced by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and is sponsored by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, The Gill Foundation, Human Rights Campaign Foundation, National Black Lesbian & Gay Leadership Forum, An Uncommon Legacy Foundation, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, National Latina/o LGBT Organization, National Youth Advocacy Coalition, Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays.

The right-wing ad campaign is the latest in a series of on-going attacks directed against gay Americans by religious political activists. In an effort to appease Focus On The Family's James Dobson, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott kicked off a wave of anti-gay rhetoric when he recently said that homosexuality was a sin and likened gays to alcoholics and kleptomaniacs. His comments were followed by disparaging remarks about gay people by several public officials including Senator Don Nickles (R-Okla.), Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX.) and Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.).

In the first full page right-wing ad, which appeared in Monday's edition of the New York Times, a woman claimed she was made gay because she was molested and later became heterosexual by finding God. A similar ad appeared in the Washington Post today and another is expected to appear in USA Today later this week. The campaign is sponsored by fifteen organizations representing political religious activists including the Family Research Council, the American Family Association and the Christian Coalition. Today, the American Psychological Association questioned the efficacy of so-called "conversion therapy."

"For nearly three decades, it has been known that homosexuality is not a mental illness. Medical and mental health professionals also now know that sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be altered. Groups who try to change the sexual orientation of people through so-called `conversion therapy' are misguided and run the risk of causing a great deal of psychological harm to those they say they are trying to help," said American Psychological Association Executive Director Dr. Raymond Fowler.

In August 1997, the American Psychological Association overwhelmingly passed a resolution, at the APA convention, that asserts that there is no sound scientific evidence on the efficacy of "reparative therapy," which seeks to "cure" homosexuals. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

Other groups also joined in the debate:

"Reggie White's quote saying he has been called a 'nigger' by gay activists seems a despicable attempt to obscure the homophobia in this ad campaign by playing the ultimate race card," said Willa J. Taylor, Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum.

"Why is the religious right -- which is predominantly white -- using black stars and spokespersons to spew its anti-gay rhetoric in the press? This is just the Right's latest outrageous attempt to split the black community along gay and straight lines. And it is too dangerous a time for our community to be divided when African Americans are dying from HIV and AIDS at a greater rate than in any other community, when poverty and joblessness are destroying our families, when the educational system is set up to ensure the failure of our children, and when discrimination and racism are being coalesced into laws," Taylor said.

Senator John F. Kerry said of the ad, "It is time we move beyond this type of divisive politics -- elected officials should recognize their responsibility to find common ground, not wedge issues, in public policy. This ad speaks for itself. The American people will see through it."

The National gay and Lesbian Task Force's political director Rebecca Isaacs said: "We are not fooled by this 'kinder, gentler' bigotry. This is not about religion and healing. It's about politics and intolerance. The ad states the truth will set you free. We agree, and we think it's time the Christian Coalition and these other anti-gay groups start paying attention to the truth. The truth is homosexuality is not the problem; bigotry and the discrimination and violence it fosters are the problem."

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