The Preacher Lied



How is it that officials at the Human Rights Campaign, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the Empire State Pride Agenda, and other prominent gay groups got suckered by a 25-year-old heterosexual evangelical Christian, a man who promised to be their gay-friendly savior but who was simultaneously giving training sessions to antigay groups and calling homosexuality a "sin" on Christian radio? The simple answer: They wanted to believe.

This is a story about yet another slick preacher. But it's also a story about gay people so hungry for acceptance — and gay groups so eager to tap into the zeitgeist — that they allowed themselves to be had.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that faith is the issue du jour with gay groups — as it is everywhere else in George Bush's America — as they try to bring in religious LGBT people, aggressively reach out to gay-affirming clergy, and genuinely try to change the minds of traditional Christians regarding homosexuality.

HRC, for example, recently launched Out in Scripture, a "devotional resource" for which you can sign up to receive ostensibly gay-affirming Bible verses in your e-mail box weekly. A team of religious scholars consults on the effort, which is coordinated by Harry Knox, head of HRC's year-old Religion and Faith program.

A former pastor and former head of Georgia Equality, that state's LGBT lobbying group, Knox describes himself as "inclusive to a fault." And that certainly seems to be the case regarding Knox's opening his arms to the evangelical charmer in question, Andrew Marin.

It was in 2005 when Marin, a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago (where he majored in psychology) and a devout Christian, first made contact with gay and lesbian groups through his Chicago-based Marin Foundation, an organization for which he had attained nonprofit status that same year. The Web site for the foundation touted seminars for LGBT people as well as straight evangelicals in order to create an understanding between them — a "bridge" between the two communities.

Whatever the loftier goals, some former friends and acquaintances of Marin's say he had other hopes for the foundation he named after himself. "He always said he would make a lot of money and his foundation would make him rich," says Melissa Garvey, a former college classmate, talking about the months preceding the foundation's inception. "He even told my mom that."

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