- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Montgomery County parents group yesterday hosted a forum in Bethesda to promote teaching about and acceptance of homosexuality in public-school sex education.

“It is critical for [Montgomery County public schools] to continue its tradition of promoting tolerance in a population as diverse as ours,” said Christine Grewell, co-founder of Teachthefacts.org (TTF).

The group hosted an afternoon forum at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, which was attended by about 100 people.

One speaker, David Fishback, said conservatives see the county’s sex education debate as “the next Kansas,” referring to the debate over evolution versus intelligent design.

“We cannot let that happen here,” said Mr. Fishback, who helped shape a sex-education curriculum that was scrapped by the county school system last spring.

In May, a federal judge ruled in favor a lawsuit against the curriculum that said the course discriminated against religious beliefs and promoted homosexuality.

Schools Superintendent Jerry D. Weast then scrapped the entire course and disbanded the citizens committee led by Mr. Fishback, saying he would guide the production of a new course.

Mr. Weast has disclosed little information this year about his progress.

A new citizens committee will be chosen Oct. 11.

Mr. Fishback said yesterday’s forum was “educational” and responded to a similar meeting held last month by a parents group that opposed the curriculum, Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC).

One key issue that Mr. Weast will have to decide is whether to include instruction about “ex-gays.” TTF denounced the idea of “ex-gays” at the forum, saying efforts to treat homosexuality as a mental illness or a disease are harmful and destructive.

One of the afternoon’s seven speakers, Paul A. Wertsch of the American Medical Association (AMA), said that beginning with controversial sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s, there has been some evidence that homosexuality is inborn.

He cited examples of homosexual behavior in animals and brain studies on homosexual men and women.

“There is probably a genetic influence. We’re not sure what it is. You probably inherit some predisposition to” homosexuality, Dr. Wertsch said.

Dr. Wertsch, who said he became interested in homosexuality when he found out that his son is homosexual, heads the AMA’s committee on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Matters.

He said there is no evidence that same-sex attraction can be changed, discounting the 2001 study by psychiatrist Robert L. Spitzer that found that “there is evidence that change in sexual orientation following some form of reparative therapy does occur in some gay men and lesbians.”

“If Spitzer had interviewed me 15 years ago, I would have told him I was cured,” said Robert Rigby, a Fairfax County public school teacher who talked about how he tried to overcome his same-sex desires for 17 years, but is now happily homosexual.

Mr. Fishback and Mrs. Grewell equated the CRC with an effort by “right-wing” groups to teach “particular theological doctrines” in the classroom.

Mrs. Grewell, whose daughter is in high school, said those who favor abstinence-only sex education do not want any instruction on homosexuality in the classroom.

CRC President Michelle Turner said Mr. Fishback’s committee and TTF have ignored scientific facts from sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the surgeon general, which discourage homosexual activity.

Mrs. Turner said she and another CRC members tried to introduce to the committee data showing that homosexuality is a health risk, but “it was shot down every time.”

Mrs. Turner was in St. Louis, where she spoke at a conference for conservatives about CRC’s efforts. She said schools should teach that there is evidence showing that homosexuality is a choice.

“CRC has never said that homosexuality is a mental disorder. We firmly believe that it is a choice,” she said. “There is no conclusive scientific research or data that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that proves that homosexuality is something you are born with.”

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