CHARLOTTE — Local and national groups will soon converge on Charlotte, all of them holding events involving the LGBT community or set against it.
On Feb. 21, the anti-gay Focus on the Family and Exodus International will hold their so-called “ex-gay” conference Love Won Out at Central Church of God. Their event coincides with the Human Rights Campaign’s Carolinas Gala and a joint conference of the Metropolitan Community Church and Unity Fellowship, two primarily LGBT Christian denominations.
The Charlotte LGBT community has responded by organizing a grassroots effort to counter the harmful myths, lies and false hope of “ex-gay” ministries promoted by Focus on the Family and Exodus. The Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality (CRANE) will hold a series of events Feb. 14 through Feb. 21 to raise public awareness and challenge the “ex-gay” presence.
[Ed. Note — This writer is an organizer with CRANE.]
On Feb. 14, CRANE will hold an Uptown Charlotte public awareness event, “Light a Candle for Love,” and speak to passers-by and Uptown dinner and party-goers about LGBT equality. Organizers will pass out glow sticks (instead of candles in the very windy downtown area) symbolic of the light and love that lives within each person. They’ll discuss equality issues with community members.
A few days later on Thursday, Feb. 19, the grassroots group will host Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, author of “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth” and a syndicated columnist whose work appears in Q-Notes. In his presentation, “Pray Away the Gay,” Besen will discuss the myths and lies of “ex-gay” organizations like Exodus International. The event will be held at 7 p.m. at Charlotte’s Lesbian & Gay Community Center.
A press conference will follow the next day. Media has been invited to the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Charlotte where Besen will unveil a new Truth Wins Out/Lambda Legal booklet “Ex-Gay & the Law.” The new publication offers resources for those who might have been victimized by unscrupulous “ex-gay” ministries and therapies.
On Saturday, Feb. 21, the grassroots group’s efforts will culminate in a non-violent, silent protest of the Love Won Out conference. Members and supporters will be present outside Central Church of God on Sardis Road from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
More information on each event, including times, locations, directions and parking information for the Saturday protest is available at www.rainbowaction.org/events/.
“These programs sell false hope and take advantage of desperate and vulnerable people who just want acceptance from loved ones,” Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, said of “ex-gay” ministries and therapies. “Love Won Out’s dangerous sexual engineering campaign is ineffective, psychologically damaging and confuses stereotypes with science. We hope to educate the community and provide people with accurate and reliable information.”
At the same time as the Love Won Out conference, LGBT and affirming religious leaders will meet for a conference of their own.
“It is ironic,” said The Rev. Nancy Wilson, presiding bishop of Metropolitan Community Churches and an open lesbian, “that the theme of the Focus on the Family conference is ‘Love Wins Out’, because that is exactly what happened to me and so many of my colleagues who will be joining me in Charlotte.”
Bishop Tonyia Rawls, of Charlotte’s Unity Fellowship Church, agreed that the “ex-gay” conference’s impact will be harmful. “My faith tells me that love is stronger than the death created by homophobia and intolerance,” she said. “I cling to the message from the Scriptures that in all things God works for good. Even in the midst of negative and destructive messages, God is present working to dispel the negativity and restore both those who are alienated and harmed as well as those who inflict such harm.”
Organizations helping CRANE to organize the counter to Focus on the Family and Exodus international include national groups Truth Wins Out, Lambda Legal, the Human Rights Campaign and Faith in America, and local and state groups like One Voice Chorus, Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte, Q-Notes newspaper, Charlotte Coalition for Social Justice, UNCC Pride and EqualityNC.