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Harry Jackson to deliver keynote at ‘ex-gay’ event

Event scheduled to take place in D.C. on September 30

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Harry Jackson, Hope Christian Church, gay news, Washington Blade
Harry Jackson, Hope Christian Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Bishop Harry Jackson (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

An anti-gay Maryland pastor who vehemently opposes same-sex marriage is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at an ‘ex-gay’ event that is slated to take place in D.C. on September 30.

Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church of Beltsville, Md., is expected to deliver remarks at the first annual Ex-Gay Awareness Dinner and Reception that Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX,) a group that says it advocates on behalf of “former homosexuals and their families,” will host in the nation’s capital. Liberty Counsel Chair Mat Staver and Trace McNutt, a self-described “former Satanic drag queen,” will be honored during the event.

Dennis Jernigan, a Christian singer who identifies as post-gay, is also scheduled to perform at the dinner.

Voice of the Voiceless, a Virginia-based organization that claims to defend the rights of “former homosexuals, individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions and their families,” said a Capitol Hill lobby day to coincide with Ex-Gay Awareness Month will also take place on September 30.

“It is my great honor and privilege to address this historic celebration,” Jackson said in a press release that Voice of the Voiceless issued on Monday. “I know that I and many others will be encouraged to hear the amazing testimonies of the men and women who have left homosexuality when they share their stories on September 30.”

Voice of the Voiceless President Christopher Doyle applauded the controversial pastor in the same press release.

“Bishop Jackson has been a beacon of hope, a leader in the faith community and an example for all of us to follow,” Doyle said. “We are truly blessed to have such a powerful man of God address the first annual Ex-Gay Dinner and Reception on September 30.”

Groups challenge efforts to ban ‘ex-gay’ therapy to children

The D.C. event is scheduled to take place less than two months after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill that bans so-called “conversion therapy” to minors his state.

The Liberty Counsel last month filed a lawsuit in federal court that seeks to overturn the law on the grounds that it violates freedom of speech and religion under the New Jersey and U.S. Constitutions. The same group earlier this month appealed the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ August 30 ruling that upheld California’s 2012 law that bars licensed therapists in the state from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender identity and expression of a minor through “conversion” or “reparative” therapy.

Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, who claims God delivered him from homosexuality and has previously compared gays to drug dealers and prostitutes, withdrew from a city-sponsored concert that took place at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Southwest Washington at D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s request. Rev. Patrick J. Walker, president of the Baptist Convention of the District of Columbia and Vicinity, is among those who criticized the decision to disinvite McClurkin.

Prince George’s County Public Schools earlier this year stopped using an anti-bullying campaign that Doyle, who is a psychotherapist, wrote that included “ex-gay” references.

Doyle said “anti-ex gay extremism” prompted him to postpone a dinner at the Family Research Council’s downtown Washington headquarters and other events that had been scheduled to take place in D.C. in July.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.,) who introduced a bill that would amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage a day after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, are among those who received invitations to attend the dinner at the Family Research Council. Former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, who is president of the Heritage Foundation, also received an invitation to attend the dinner.

Doyle told the Washington Blade during an interview on Monday he received threatening phone calls and hate mail at his home addressed to him and his wife after Voice of the Voiceless announced the July events.

Organizers of the September 30 event will vet those who register before they receive information. Doyle told the Blade attendees will also have to sign “a values policy” that states they “agree with the terms of ex-gay awareness and that they’re a supporter.”

He declined to say where in the D.C. area the gathering will take place.

“We’re not opening to just anyone who wants to come,” Doyle told the Blade. “Unfortunately we just get too much heckling and too many people who have bad intentions of coming to this and they’re not very supportive of our cause. I wish it wasn’t like that. I wish I could just open the doors for anybody to come.”

Besen: D.C. event ‘desperate, last gasp’ for ‘ex-gay’ movement

The American Psychological Association, the Pan American Health Organization and the majority of other leading mental health groups oppose “reparative” or “conversion” therapy. Alan Chambers, executive director of Exodus International, the oldest and largest “ex-gay” organization, in June apologized for the “pain and hurt others have experienced” before he announced his group was shutting down.

Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, an LGBT advocacy group that challenges the “ex-gay” movement, dismissed both Doyle and the scheduled September 30 events.

“What we are really looking at is a desperate, last gasp of air for a failing industry,” Besen told the Blade. “In the West, this psychological voodoo has been thoroughly discredited and nearly vanquished. This is why it is in the hands of people like Doyle, who have no credibility and little expertise.”

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District of Columbia

D.C. house with rainbow Pride flag set on fire

Investigators seeking help from public in search for suspect

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A Pride flag remained displayed at the house in Shaw this past Sunday, one week after the fire in the rear of the house which fire officials have listed as arson. (Washington Blade photos by Lou Chibbaro Jr.)

The D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department has classified as arson a June 19 fire at a two-story row house on the 1800 block of 8th Street, N.W. in the city’s Shaw neighborhood that had an LGBTQ rainbow Pride flag prominently displayed on the front of the house.

A Fire & EMS Department spokesperson said the fire was ignited in a detached wooden garage in the rear of the house accessible only through an alley, and fire investigators have yet to identify a suspect or a motive for what evidence shows was an intentionally set fire.

Although the front of the brick rowhouse where the Pride flag was displayed was not damaged, the fire in the garage spread to the rear of the house, destroying a wooden outdoor deck, and caused extensive damage to the kitchen, bathroom, and second floor bedroom. Fire investigators have sealed the house, requiring its three occupants to find a temporary residence as the investigation continues.

One of the three occupants of the house, who was the only one at home when the fire started at about 2 a.m., escaped without injury, according to sources who know the occupants.

“The Pride flag on the front of the house was present at the time of the fire,” Jennifer Donelan, director of communications for the Fire & EMS Department, told the Washington Blade. “We do not have any information, at this time, that suggests the arson was related to the presence of the flag, however we are still working on the case,” she said.

“We are aggressively working to identify a suspect and a motive,” Donelan said. “Until such time, we won’t be able to make a determination as to whether or not this was a hate crime.”

She said the Fire & EMS Department is seeking help from the public in its effort to identify one or more suspects responsible for the fire. Anyone with information that could be helpful to the investigation is asked to call fire investigators at 202-673-2776.

The fire at the D.C. house with the Pride flag took place less than a week after Baltimore police said a house in that city’s Waverly neighborhood on which “Pride décor” was displayed was set on fire on June 15, causing extensive damage to the house and nearby houses.

Baltimore police and fire department officials said a Pride flag on a house across the street from the house set on fire was also ablaze when firefighters arrived on the scene. Two men were hospitalized in critical condition and a woman was listed in serious condition because of the fire ignited in the house.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott released a statement saying fire department officials had yet to determine a motive for the fire.

“At this point, we cannot confirm that this was a hate crime,” Scott said. “However, my agencies will bring every appropriate resource to bear to get to the bottom of this tragic event,” he said. “I continue to stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ+ community.”

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District of Columbia

D.C. officials vow to fight any GOP effort to ban abortion in nation’s capital

Without statehood, District vulnerable to congressional interference

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D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton vowed to fight to protect abortion access in the city. (Blade file photo by Drew Brown)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and six members of the D.C. Council said they were united in fighting an attempt by Congress to ban abortions in the nation’s capital following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

At a press conference on the day the Supreme Court handed down its controversial decision, the D.C. officials pointed out that unlike any of the states, D.C. is vulnerable to the authority Congress has over the city under its limited Home Rule Charter, including the authority by Congress to pass a law to ban abortions in the city.

The press conference was held at the headquarters in Northeast D.C. of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., whose leaders said they would continue to provide abortion services in the District at the present time.

At this time, “Nothing has changed in Washington, D.C.,” Bowser said at the press conference. “Abortion remains legal, and women and girls we know, however, are worried,” the mayor said. “We are worried because we know we are vulnerable as a jurisdiction because of our lack of statehood.”

Norton told news media representatives and others attending the press conference that she expects at least some congressional Republicans to introduce legislation to ban abortions in D.C. now that the Supreme Court has given them the authority to do that.

“We are subservient still to the House and Senate,” she said. “I’m calling on the Congress to immediately codify the right to an abortion in federal law,” Norton said. “That is the very least the District needs to save this city from what will surely be an attempt by Republicans in Congress to move first on the District of Columbia to make sure that abortions are not available for women in our city.”

Norton added, “We always have more work cut out for us than other jurisdictions. But I assure you I am up to the task. There is a lot to fight for here, and I’m ready for that fight.”

Norton and Bowser also pointed out that Congress over a decade ago added a permanent provision to D.C.’s annual budget that prohibits the city from using any of its funds to pay for abortions either directly or through the funding of private organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide abortion related services.

With the prospect that Republicans might regain control of the House or Senate or both in the November congressional elections, D.C. officials said they were especially concerned about an attempt to ban or greatly restrict abortions in the city.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson said he was hopeful that such an attempt would be blocked by a Democratic-led filibuster in the Senate as well as by a presidential veto if President Biden or another Democrat continues to occupy the White House.

Bowser, Mendelson, and D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) also pointed out that the legal reasoning used by the justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, especially the rationale given by Justice Clarence Thomas, could be used in future cases to overturn previous court rulings establishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and the right to intimate sexual acts between same-sex couples.

“We are about to enter into decades of darkness with this court that we have,” Cheh said at the press conference. “And don’t be fooled. We’re told, OK, it’s just abortion,” she said. “Don’t you believe it. The very reasoning of the case – and I spend a lot of time teaching constitutional law – means that many other liberties will be in jeopardy.”

LGBTQ rights advocates have pointed to the concurring opinion handed down by Justice Thomas on the day the court overturned Roe v. Wade that specifically calls on the high court to “reconsider” the 2003 ruling of Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned state laws banning sodomy between consenting adults, both gay and straight. Thomas’s concurring opinion also called for reconsidering the high court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Others speaking at the June 24 press conference included Laura Meyers, president of Planned Parenthood of the D.C. area, and D.C. Council members Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large), Christina Henderson (I-At-Large), and Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2). 

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Virginia

Va. delegate comes out as bisexual

Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler spoke at Hampton Roads Pride

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(Public domain photo)

Virginia state Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler (D-Virginia Beach) came out as bisexual on June 25 during an appearance at Hampton Roads Pride in Norfolk.

“I’m bisexual,” the Virginia Beach Democrat told Pride attendees. “I just never felt like I could say that out loud.”

Convirs-Fowler has represented Virginia’s 21st House District since 2018.

State Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax County) is gay and state Del. Dawn Adams (D-Richmond) is a lesbian. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) in 2018 became the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the U.S.

“For those who don’t know, Del. @FowlerforVA and I are both part of the Class of 2017 #RedToBlue legislators who flipped seats that Nov. 7,” tweeted Roem on Monday. “We’ve both earned re-election twice since then and I couldn’t be more proudof her declaration of Pride =).”

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