The leader of Exodus International, a Christian ministry that worked to help people repress same-sex attraction, has apologized to the gay community for inflicting "years of undue suffering." He plans to close the organization while launching a new effort to promote reconciliation. "The church has waged the culture war, and it's time to put the weapons down," Alan Chambers told the Associated Press on Thursday, hours after announcing his decision at Exodus' annual conference and posting his apology online. "While there has been so much good at Exodus, there has also been bad," Chambers said at the conference. "We've hurt people." Based in Orlando, Florida, Exodus was founded 37 years ago and claimed 260 member ministries around the U.S. and abroad. It offered to help conflicted Christians rid themselves of unwanted homosexual inclinations through counseling and prayer, infuriating gay rights activists in the process. Exodus had seen its influence wane in recent years as mainstream associations representing psychiatrists and psychologists rejected its approach. However, the idea that gays could be "converted" to heterosexuality through prayer persists among some evangelicals and fundamentalists. The announcement that Exodus would close was not a total surprise. Last year, Chambers - who is married to a woman but has spoken openly about his own sexual attraction to men - said he was trying to distance his ministry from the idea that gays' sexual orientation can be permanently changed or "cured." In his statement Thursday, Chambers said the board had decided to close Exodus and form a new ministry, which he referred to as reducefear.org. He told the AP that the new initiative would seek to promote dialogue among those who've been on opposite sides in the debate over gay rights. "We want to see bridges built, we want peace to be at the forefront of anything we do in the future," he said. Gay rights activists welcomed Chambers' apology, while reiterating their belief that Exodus had caused great damage. "This is a welcome first step in honestly addressing the harm the organization and its leaders have caused," said Sharon Groves, director of the Human Rights Campaign's religion and faith program. "Now we need them to take the next step of leadership and persuade all other religious-based institutions that they got it wrong." Chambers said the decisions announced this week had been under consideration by Exodus' board for a year. Regarding the timing, he said it was not linked to rulings from the Supreme Court on same sex marriage that are expected within the next week. "I hold to a biblical view that the original intent for sexuality was designed for heterosexual marriage," he said. "Yet I realize there are a lot of people who fall outside of that, gay and straight ... It's time to find out how we can pursue the common good." He said there were many influences on his personal decision. Among them, he said, was the interfaith work overseas of the U.S.-based Christian relief group World Vision, which he praised for its cooperation with Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist groups to aid at-risk children. Truth Wins Out, another group that had been harshly critical of Exodus, praised Chambers for "integrity and authenticity." The group’s associate director, Evan Hurst, said, "It takes a real man to publicly confront the people whose lives were destroyed by his organization's work, and to take real, concrete action to begin to repair that damage.” However, Hurst noted that some of Exodus' former followers - disenchanted by Chambers' evolution - had formed a new group called the Restored Hope Network, which calls itself an "ex-gay ministry" and continues to promote the idea that gays can be converted to heterosexuality. That group's board members, gathering in Oklahoma City for their annual meeting, issued a statement saying they "grieved" Chambers' decision. "It feels like the unnecessary death of a dear friend," said the board, vowing to carry on with Exodus' original mission. Chambers was criticized by Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays. Her group had been a member of Exodus before resigning four years ago, and it's now part of the Restored Hope Network. Griggs said Chambers was entitled to decide what was best for himself, but shouldn't be discrediting the efforts of others to help people who were uncomfortable with same-sex attraction. "We do not owe an apology to the gay community," she said. "Nobody's ever forced to change. That's an individual's right." Among those commending Chambers was California State Sen. Ted Lieu, author of a recently passed law seeking to ban licensed counselors from trying to turn gay teens straight. The law has been put on hold by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals pending resolution of lawsuits challenging it. "In the past, Exodus International practiced the quackery known as reparative therapy or various versions of gay conversion therapy," Lieu said, "Exodus International's mea culpa and shut-down puts another nail in the coffin for reparative therapy."
New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner issued an apology Thursday after a woman he was speaking referred to his Democratic primary rival, Christine Quinn, using a gay slur, reports CNN. Weiner said he had admonished the woman at the time, but was apologizing if anyone was left with the impression he condoned what she said about Quinn, who is a lesbian. "Homophobia is vile and destructive and something I have fought against for the entirety of my career, including being a vocal supporter of gay marriage since 1998 and standing up on the floor of Congress for transgender Americans,” Weiner said in a statement that was distributed by his campaign on Twitter. “I admonished the woman amid a large crowd on a street corner and by no means believe that anything about her comment was appropriate. If the impression is that I did, I apologize because behavior like this will absolutely not be tolerated in my administration," he said. The exchange, which came while Weiner was canvassing New Yorkers for signatures on his ballot petition, was captured by a reporter for the Washington Post. “You a registered Democrat?” Weiner asked a woman the Post described as elderly. “I am, and I’m not voting for uh, what’s her name? The dyke,” the woman responded. Weiner asked the woman to sign his petition before saying, “You really shouldn’t talk that way about people.” After she apologized, the Post said Weiner responded, ““It’s okay. It’s not your fault.” When asked about the exchange with the woman later, Weiner said he has “admonished her to not say anything further,” but that he had “no memory of saying anything beyond that.” Weiner is making a political comeback attempt. He left Congress in 2011 after getting caught up in a lewd messaging scandal. Polls have shown him trailing Quinn in their race for a spot on the ballot in November. Other Democrats in the race include New York City Public Advocate Bill de Balsio's and former City Comptroller Bill Thompson. If she wins the Democratic primary and goes on to win the general election in November, Quinn would become New York’s first female and first openly gay mayor.
In San Jose, liberal activists pledged Thursday to put a measure on the ballot to overturn California's gay marriage ban if the Supreme Court does not throw out Proposition 8 in a decision expected next week. “If we lose, we’re going to fight like hell to make sure we return marriage equality in California in 2014,” said Adam Bink, director of online programs for the Courage Campaign. Bink made the remarks while speaking at California’s caucus meeting on the opening day of Netroots Nation, an annual gathering of thousands of liberal activists and bloggers taking place here through Saturday, reports the Los Angeles Times. Bink said that if the Supreme Court overturns the 2008 voter-approved ballot measure that defined marriage as between one man and one woman, same sex couples should be able to wed within a month. But if the court upholds the measure, Bink said, activists would immediately begin working on a measure for the 2014 ballot. Learning lessons from 2008, Bink said, backers of gay marriage would work hard to create a coalition that includes labor, faith and minority communities, to insure the measure was not viewed as only about gay people.
Transgender people in Delaware are now a protected class under the state’s anti-discrimination laws. The Senate voted 11-to-9 Wednesday to give final legislative approval to a bill adding gender identity to the list of protected non-discrimination categories, including race, age, religion and sexual orientation. The legislation also allows for enhanced penalties under Delaware’s hate crimes law for targeting someone based on his or her gender identity. Democratic Gov. Jack Markell signed the bill into law Wednesday evening, saying discrimination against transgender people is “inherently wrong.” Supporters say the law is needed because transgender people can be straight or gay and are thus not protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Opponents argued that the law is unnecessary and will lead to disturbances by men lurking in girls’ restrooms and locker rooms, then claiming to be transgender. “I do know that there will be irate parents when this takes place,” Sen. David Lawson (R-Marydel) said before Wednesday’s vote. In an effort to address such concerns, the House amended the bill this week with language stating that gender identity may be demonstrated by “consistent and uniform assertion of the gender identity or any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity,” and that gender identity cannot be asserted “for any improper purpose.” The amendment also emphasizes that places of public accommodation such as health clubs can provide reasonable accommodations based on gender identity in areas where disrobing is likely, such as locker rooms or other changing facilities. Those reasonable accommodations could include separate changing areas for transgender people, with supporters saying business owners could require transgender people to use those separate facilities. But critics maintain that the language in both the amendment and the bill itself is too broad and will lead to problems down the road for business owners and others. Nicole Theis, president of Delaware Family Policy Council, said in a statement Wednesday that the new law will infringe on the privacy rights of Delawareans, particularly women. “The bottom line is women feel unsafe sharing restrooms, changing areas, and showers with biological males and should not be forced to do so,” she said. “This bill is not a remedy for injustice,” Theis added. “It creates more injustices than it purports to address. We expect legislators to make policies for the common good and find solutions for the exceptions without rejecting and redefining the foundations of social order.” The new law is similar to those in 16 other states that afford some degree of protection to transgender people.