May 20, 2010 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Fenty urged to invalidate award to anti-gay group

Six members of the D.C. City Council and seven LGBT-supportive organizations have signed a petition calling on Mayor Adrian Fenty to invalidate a certificate of appreciation he awarded to the leader of the anti-gay group Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays.

The mayor’s office has issued an apology for what it said was a “staff error” that led to the award being mistakenly issued last November to PFOX Executive Director Regina Griggs for her “dedication, commitment and outstanding contributions” to the group.

The petition says its signers appreciate Fenty’s acknowledgment that the award was a mistake. But it says further action by the mayor is needed.

“This mistake has empowered an anti-gay organization to increase its fundraising and to legitimize itself in ways it would not have otherwise been able to,” it says.

“PFOX believes that homosexuality is a mental disorder that needs to be cured by ‘reparative therapy,’” says the petition. “Not only is this harmful to young people struggling to understand their sexuality, but every major medical, psychological, and educational association in America says it is wrong, ineffective, and dangerous.”

The Council members who added their names to the petition are Michael Brown (D-At Large), Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), and Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7).

Also adding their names to the document were gay Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Jack Jacobson and four gay elected officials from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. They include Rich Madaleno and Anne Kaiser of the Maryland House of Delegates, Adam Ebbin of the Virginia House of Delegates, and Patrick Wojahn of the College Park, Md., City Council. Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff also signed on.

“It is incredibly important for Mayor Fenty to make it clear that PFOX doesn’t have the support of the District of Columbia,” the petition says. “To do that, he must invalidate the certificate of appreciation and publicly condemn PFOX for its policies that undermine the dignity of LGBT people and threaten the mental and physical health of the most vulnerable of our community.”

It adds, “We find this course of action to be necessary and our names below indicate our formal request for the mayor to act affirmatively to bring this situation to a prompt and meaningful end.”

The organizations signing the petition include Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network; Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays National; Metro D.C. PFLAG; Trevor Project; Americans for Democratic Action; Greater Washington Americans for Democratic Action; and the Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Mafara Hobson, a spokesperson for the mayor, said last week that the mayor’s office had not received the petition on May 12, when gay activist Lane Hudson said he planned to deliver it.

Hudson told the Blade he e-mailed the petition to the mayor’s office on that day through a section of the D.C. government web site that invites the public to submit comments to the mayor. Hudson said he decided to submit it through the web site rather than personally deliver it because the site is a designated way for the public to communicate with the mayor.

Hobson could not be reached by mid-week to confirm whether someone from the mayor’s office retrieved the petition from the web site.

Hudson, who said he was among a small group of local activists to start the petition effort through Facebook, said most of the organizations signing the document were approached because they support LGBT people likely to be negatively affected by groups like PFOX.

He noted that the Trevor Project, for example, works to prevent LGBT teen suicide. LGBT activists have said the “reparative therapy” programs advocated by PFOX have been shown to harm self-esteem among LGBT youth, putting them at greater risk for depression and suicide.

Hudson said organizers of the petition did not immediately hear back from all D.C. Council members approached to add their names.

A spokesperson for gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At Large), whose name wasn’t on the petition that was submitted to Fenty’s office, said Catania was not asked to sign the document.

“Council member Catania was not asked to sign this petition,” said Ben Young, Catania’s chief of staff. “But rest assured that he believes PFOX is a reprehensible organization.”

Hudson, who is supporting D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray’s candidacy for mayor, noted that he didn’t ask Gray to sign the petition because doing so would give it the appearance of a partisan political effort.

“I didn’t want to put him in the position to look like this is a political move on his part, because this is about more than politics,” he said.

Gray issued a statement calling the mayor’s certificate of appreciation for the PFOX leader an “embarrassment” to the city and an insult to the LGBT community.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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