By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com June 27 2012 2:00 PM ET
Exodus International, one of the leading groups in the “ex-gay” movement, is attempting to polish its image, distancing itself from the idea that homosexuality can be “cured.”
Exodus, which is opening its annual conference today in St. Paul, Minn., is not by any means calling for acceptance of homosexuality, but suggests that gay people be celibate or find an “understanding” opposite-sex spouse, the group’s president, Alan Chambers, told the Associated Press.
“I do not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included,” said Chambers, who is married to a woman. “For someone to put out a shingle and say, ‘I can cure homosexuality’ — that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth.”
Chambers added that he still has “same-sex attractions,” but said they “don’t overwhelm me or my marriage; they are something that informs me like any other struggle I might bring to the table.”
Exodus last week issued a statement condemning antigay violence and laws that criminalize homosexuality, in the wake of a visit to Jamaica by its vice chairman, Dennis Jernigan. Jernigan made appearances in May with antigay activists in that nation, where LGBT people face government persecution and are frequently victims of violent crimes. He made some statements that appeared to support the government’s antigay policies, which Exodus officials claim were “misconstrued,” but he nonetheless resigned from the organization.
Gay activists, meanwhile, say the changes at Exodus are strictly cosmetic. Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, which seeks to expose “ex-gay” ministries, wrote in a blog post today that Chambers’s statements should be taken not “with a grain of salt, but enough salt to fill the Dead Sea.” Also, Truth Wins Out is urging legislators in all 50 states to prohibit gay “cure” therapies from being administered to minors, something California is already moving toward.
Meanwhile, Minnesota LGBT advocates are planning a press conference for Thursday, criticizing Exodus for holding its conference in the state just months before residents will vote on a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.