Conservatives push Virginia universities to offer ex-gay materials

Opponents urge schools to resist ‘destructive’ information

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Arguing that some Virginia universities’ sexual-minority centers are engaging in “viewpoint discrimination,” a conservative law firm is taking steps to ensure materials on ex-gay services are offered to students this fall.

Details of this effort are laid out in a lengthy report released Monday by Voice of the Voiceless, a group representing former homosexuals and people with unwanted same-sex attractions.

The report concludes, after visiting seven public Virginia universities, that campus centers are “unsafe zones” for students who aren’t sure they are gay or who want to escape homosexual thoughts and behaviors.

“While it appears that the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students are being adequately served” on Virginia campuses, “there exists a population of individuals that are either questioning their sexual orientation and/or have unwanted same-sex attraction that may not be receiving equivalent support,” the report said.

Six of the seven universities received a letter in September from Richard L. Mast Jr., an attorney with Liberty Counsel. He asked the taxpayer-funded universities to ensure that they provide a diversity of opinion and materials for all students.

Negotiations are ongoing to “make meaningful policy reforms for the 2014-2015 school year,” said Christopher Doyle, licensed clinical professional counselor and president of Voice of the Voiceless.

A spokesman for the University of Virginia declined to comment on the issue Friday, but provided The Washington Times with a relevant January letter from outgoing Deputy Attorney General Rita W. Beale to Liberty Counsel.

The letter said UVa’s sexual-minority center had been “repurposed” last year and is not a “limited public forum.” The university therefore “declines to display and/or distribute Voice of the Voiceless‘ materials.”

At George Mason University, a spokesman said officials had “just got a copy” of the Voice of the Voiceless report Friday. “We’re digesting it, and we’ll review it with our university counsel,” he said.

Comments from Virginia Commonwealth University, James Madison University, Old Dominion University and the College of William and Mary were not immediately available.

A seventh university, Christopher Newport University, was visited, but did not receive a letter from Liberty Counsel because it was not deemed to have engaged in viewpoint discrimination.

“Bullying and intolerance against the ex-gay community does exist,” said Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, adding that her group’s efforts to provide information on campuses are often “met with resistance and intolerance.”

However, Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out and staunch critic of ex-gay groups, said universities should resist putting out “destructive” materials.

Mental health professionals warn that ex-gay therapies can cause serious problems, like depression, anxiety and self-destructive behaviors in people, Mr. Besen said. Universities would be “putting themselves in legal jeopardy” if they exposed students to materials that caused them to hurt themselves, he said.

The report’s proponents “are on the losing end of legal arguments,” said Hayley Gorenberg, deputy legal director for Lambda Legal, claiming that campus LGBT centers have not been created as public forums, so there’s no basis for a First Amendment challenge.

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About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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