Gay battle heats up in Holland

By Jim Larkin

HOLLAND, Mich. - A community group that is trying to make Holland more accepting of gay people planned to meet Wednesday, July 28, to decide how to respond to a full-page advertisement in the local daily newspaper that one of its leaders said included "blatant untruths" about gay people.

See the ad in its entirety here.

The ad, which was sponsored by the Family Research Council and Request Foods and published July 23 in The Holland Sentinel, made reference to efforts toward broadening the city's anti-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The Holland City Council has referred the measure to its Human Resources Commission for review.

The ad stated that "pro-homosexual activists" were trying to give Holland gays and lesbians "special protections" under employment discrimination laws and called homosexuality a choice that is "harmful to individuals and to society."

A steering committee for the group Holland Is Ready, which is supporting efforts to pass the anti-discrimination ordinance, planned to meet Wednesday morning to decide its course of action.

"I was sad to see this ad in our local paper, but it's typical of groups like the FRC, who are becoming more and more desperate in their communication," said Jennifer Adams, an organizer of the group. "Their approach is to engender fear by spreading blatant untruths about LGBT people."

Adams said it would not alter the work of Holland Is Ready. "Our work will continue to remain focused on equality for all based on actions of justice, awareness and love," she said.

Among other things, the ad said homosexuals can be changed into heterosexuals "sometimes spontaneously, and sometimes as a result of therapeutic interventions," that homosexuals experience considerably higher levels of mental illness and substance abuse than heterosexuals and that gay people are not seriously disadvantaged by discrimination.

The American Psychological Association opposes therapeutic efforts to change sexual orientation and concluded that "scientifically valid research indicates that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions." An APA task force found evidence that some individuals were harmed by such interventions.

There is evidence that attempts to convert homosexuals have proven unsuccessful:

. John Paulk, head of Focus on Family's transformation ministry and a featured ex-gay on the cover of Newsweek, was found in a gay bar.

. Michael Johnston, the national chair of Coming out of Homosexuality Day and a featured "ex-gay" spokesperson in TV and print ads, closed his ministry the day after acknowledging he had engaged in sexual encounters with other men.

. George Rekers, a founding board member of the Family Research Council, left the Miami International Airport with a 20-year-old male prostitute who advertised on Rentboy.com.

The Family Research Council has offices in Holland and deep roots in the area. The late Edgar Prince of Holland, a billionaire who invented an illuminated vanity mirror widely used in cars, was instrumental in founding and financing the Family Research Council. His wife Elsa, who later married the couple's pastor, has sat on its boards and continues to give heavily to the anti-gay organization. She was one of the primary funders of California's Proposition 8 in 2008, a ballot initiative to end gay marriage, donating $450,000.

Request Foods is a frozen-food maker that has received millions in grants from the state of Michigan. One of its biggest clients is Campbell's Soup. Request Foods President Jack DeWitt has also contributed thousands to Family Research Council's political action committee.

The Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation and Jack and Mary Dewitt Family Foundation are two of the largest foundations in Holland, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. It listed the Prince Foundation assets at $23.3 million and the Dewitt Family Foundation at $1.9 million.

Elsa Prince Broekhuizen's daughter, Betsy Prince, is married to Dick DeVos, son of the co-founder of the Amway Corp. The DeVos family also contributed to the anti-gay marriage initiative in Michigan in 2004 and $100,000 to the anti-gay ballot push in Florida in 2008.

Those conservative forces have also mustered considerable political might. Dick DeVos was an unsuccessful candidate for Michigan governor in 2006. U.S. Congressman Peter Hoekstra of Holland is running for governor this year and has been endorsed by the Family Research Council. Running for his congressional seat is Jay Riemersma of Holland, regional director for the Family Research Council.

On Friday, July 23, a full page ad ran in The Holland (MI) Sentinel, sponsored by Family Research Council and Request Foods. The top half of the ad stated:

"Is Homosexuality a Civil Rights Issue?

"Pro-homosexual activist want you to believe so. They want Holland to give homosexuals special protections under employment discrimination laws. Bud does this make sense? Most civil rights laws grant protections based on characteristics that are inborn, involuntary, immutable and innocuous (race, color, national origin and sex) or protected in the Constitution (religion). Non of these is true of the choice to engage in homosexual behavior. Let's not grant special protection to voluntary sexual behaviors that are actually harmful to individuals and to society. Within the limits of existing law, let's let employers make their own hiring decisions - not the government."

The bottom half listed five myths followed by their so-called "facts"

Myth: People are born gay

Fact: The research does not show that anyone is born gay, and suggests instead that homosexuality results from a complex mix of developmental factors.

Myth: Sexual orientation can never change.

Fact: Thousands of men and women have testified to experiencing a change in their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. Research confirms that such change does occur - sometimes spontaneously, and sometimes as a result of therapeutic interventions.

Myth: Ten percent of the population is gay.

Fact: Less than three percent of American adults identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual.

Myth: Homosexuals do not experience a higher level of psychological disorders than heterosexuals.

Fact: Homosexuals experience considerably higher levels of mental illness and substance abuse than heterosexuals. A detailed review of the research has shown that "no other group of comparable size in society experiences such intense and widespread pathology."

Myth: Homosexuals are seriously disadvantaged by discrimination.

Fact: Research shows that homosexuals actually have significantly higher level of educational attainment than the general public, while the findings on homosexual incomes are mixed."

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