(Huckabee and the waitress he allegedly had fired) "What happened to free speech in America?" Asked Micah Qualls.
A couple of days ago, Senator John McCain made a stop in Little Rock , Arkansas. He was greeted on the tarmac at the airport by Governor Mike Huckabee (a possible Vice Presidential candidate) and other Republican supporters. Micah Qualls, a waitress that worked at this airport, remembered that she had a "Hillary for President" sign in her car, and spent her break time holding her sign outside the fence where the Republican presidential nominee was landing his airplane.
According to Qualls, Governor Huckabee noticed that she was an employee of the airport, and raised questions with her boss about professionalism, and expressed embarrassment over the incident as the host of Mr. McCain.
Qualls says she was fired as a result of her expressing her First Amendment rights
"I have been at my job for 7 years, and I was fired today because of the 'embarrassment.' I have no disciplinary actions in my employee file, and am loved by all of the customers. I am shocked about this decision. It is unfortunate that Mr. Huckabee and the other Republicans felt threatened by my little sign. It cost me my job."
The blog Arkansas.com got a call from Huckabee and he denied the incident occurred. The governor, and prominent religious right figure, said he had not even seen Qualls and also denied that he'd made a complaint that led to her dismissal. Huckabee claimed that Qualls' suggestion that he had her fired is"absolutely unbelievable"
In a Friday evening conversation I had with Qualls, she alleges that Huckabee is "not telling the truth" - and that a local television station videotaping McCain's landing at the airport has video placing her in relatively close proximity to Huckabee and McCain. This would show, she says, that it would have been difficult - if not impossible - for the governor not to have noticed her.
** Update: Little Rock station KTHV has aired a story on the incident. This is the station that may have video placing Micah in close proximity to Huckabee and McCain. Such video would contradict Huckabee. We urge KTHV to publicly release this video ASAP.
On May 5, at APAs 2008 convention in Washington, the group will host a symposium, at which one of the two mental health practitioner-panelists is Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a psychologist without state board certification and an advocate for "Sexual Identity Therapy," which he says he has successfully applied to help patients "alter homosexual feelings or behaviors" and live their lives "heterosexually" with "only very few weak instances of homosexual attraction."
The symposium, moderated by Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Peteet, who chairs APA's Corresponding Committee on Psychiatry, Religion and Spirituality, is titled "Homosexuality and Therapy: The Religious Dimension." Indeed, the panel includes two prominent religious figures from radically different perspectives - New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson and the Reverend Dr. Albert Mohler. Robinson came to nationwide attention in 2003 when he became the first non-celibate, out gay person elected an American Episcopal Church bishop, for the Diocese of New Hampshire.
(Dr. Throckmorton, Left, to speak on APA panel)
Mohler is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, a nationally syndicated radio host, and a board member of James Dobson's stridently anti-gay Focus on the Family. The symposium's primary booster has noted that Mohler has distinguished himself among Christian right evangelicals in acknowledging that homosexuality may not be a choice. Left unmentioned, however, was Mohler's statement that "if a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use."
Robinson's wisdom in appearing with Mohler - and the broader debate about LGBT advocates engaging those on the other side - are not what make this story intriguing, and indeed troubling. Instead it is the embrace by a scientifically-based organization, APA, of an unlicensed practitioner who espouses controversial professional opinions about homosexuality but can point to no peer-reviewed findings that his clinical approach has merit.
Perhaps most unsettling is the fact that the same defender of the symposium who credited Mohler with some degree of enlightenment on gay issues, Dr. David Scasta - a former president and newsletter editor of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists (AGLP) - has circulated a press release for the event dubbing it "a 'balanced' discussion," the sort of characterization one might expect from intelligent design proponents demanding a seat on a panel of evolution experts.
Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft.
Reports of so-called penis snatching are not uncommon in West Africa, where belief in traditional religions and witchcraft remains widespread, and where ritual killings to obtain blood or body parts still occur.
In 2002, a large gay rights organization was hosting a luncheon that featured a transgender speaker. During the Q&A, there was discussion on the merits of adding "gender identity" to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) - which, if passed, would protect people from being fired because of their sexual orientation.
In the middle of a serious debate, a new staffer, who was just hired from the bluest city in a blue state, earnestly rose to his feet. He proclaimed that he "couldn't comprehend" anti-trans attitudes and was dumbfounded that average people still held deep-seated prejudices against such non-conforming individuals.
"Why was this out-of-touch person hired for a GLBT movement job?" I thought to myself, upon hearing his assertion. It was one thing to believe that transgender Americans deserve equality - which I do - and quite another to be "perplexed" that some conservatives are still freaked out by transgender (and, yes, gay) people.
If we are really interested in change, employees of GLBT groups should be as comfortable in the Waffle House as they are in the U.S. House of Representatives. If you can't speak the language of the American people, then you aren't much help to the cause.
Workers at our major GLBT organizations should be encouraged to get out of their sterile cubicles and visit places where discrimination is still a daily part of life. It is easy to lose touch with the very people we are trying to persuade, and get a false sense of security when living inside an insular world.
I know this to be true, because I live in New York City, and previously resided in Miami Beach and Washington, DC. Without frequent travel to other regions, it would be simple to confuse the echo chamber of Chelsea with the thoughts and values of Middle America.
Unfortunately, there are some activists who are living in a bubble. This was made clear to me on a liberal GLBT list serve last week when some advocates claimed that it did not matter whether Americans thought homosexuality was inborn or a choice. Nothing, of course could be further from the truth.
To mainstream America, the question of nature vs. nurture is the only one that matters. In most of the country, when a person comes out they get asked three questions:
1) When did you know you were gay? 2) Are you sure it's not a phase? 3) Are you able to change?
Of course, the answers most often given are:
1) I've always known I was gay. 2) It definitely isn't a phase. 3) I believe I was born gay and there is no way I could change.
When a person comes out to people they care about, these straightforward answers are enough to turn many people from anti-gay to pro-gay. These responses help people realize:
1) Sexual orientation is often fixed at a very young age, if not in the womb 2) A person's coming out is not some sort of rebellion or attempt to mock religion or societal norms 3) Attempts to go straight are a waste of time and quite possibly harmful, so why try?
The rise in acceptance of GLBT people directly correlates with the understanding that sexual orientation is a natural phenomenon. A May 2007 Gallup Poll showed that 42 percent of Americans believe that homosexuality is inborn, compared with 13 percent in 1977. The number who say upbringing and environment fell from 56 percent in 1977 to 35 percent today.
Residual opposition primarily comes from those who still believe that homosexuality is a casual choice that can be altered through therapy and prayer. A November 2004 Lake, Snell, Perry and Associates poll shows that 79 percent of people who think homosexuality is inborn support civil unions or marriage equality. Among those who believe sexual orientation is a choice, only 22 percent support civil unions or marriage rights.
In a perfect world, it would not matter whether sexual orientation was a product of nature or nurture. But, this is the nation that twice elected George W. Bush. Clearly, the issue of "choice" matters and activists who deny this reality are doing so at their own peril and that of the GLBT movement.
Of course, the message should not be shame-based, such as, "we can't help being gay." It is perfectly fine for homosexuals to point out that they are happy and would not change if they could. We should also say that homosexuality is a natural and normal orientation - and the moral equivalent of heterosexuality. In doing so, we blunt the right wing's pseudo-science where they claim being gay can only come from parental neglect or abuse.
Obviously, bisexuals have some choice in partners. However, they have no more choice in the fact they are bisexual than heterosexuals or homosexuals have in their uni-polar attractions.
While who we love is not a choice, we can choose to be effective activists by telling the truth about sexual orientation and not promoting bizarre ideas that are a distraction and anathema to mainstream Americans.