Court Rules ‘Sexual Orientation-Laws ’ Include Former Homosexuals

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Former homosexuals are a protected class that must be recognized under sexual-orientation nondiscrimination laws, said a court in the District of Columbia.

WASHINGTON — Former homosexuals are a protected class that must be recognized under sexual orientation nondiscrimination laws.

So says a precedent-setting ruling by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. It ruled June 26 that under the district’s Human Rights Act, discrimination can affect people even if they do not have “immutable characteristics,” such as skin color, according to a statement from Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX).

“We’re gratified that the ex-gay community in the nation’s capital now has the same civil rights that gays enjoy,” said PFOX’s executive director, Regina Griggs.

PFOX had sued the District of Columbia for failing to protect former homosexuals in a case that stemmed from a seven-year-old discrimination complaint against the National Education Association. The union, based in Washington, would not allow PFOX to exhibit its materials at the 2002 convention. PFOX supports families, advocates for former homosexuals and educates the public on sexual orientation. Among its principles: Same-sex attraction is not an unchangeable characteristic.

This message was not welcomed by the NEA’s “gay and lesbian caucus.”

PFOX complained to the D.C. Office of Human Rights, but that agency agreed with the NEA that sexual orientation protection did not extend to former homosexuals.

“By failing to protect former homosexuals, the sexual orientation laws gave more rights to homosexuals than heterosexuals who were once gay,” said Griggs. “So PFOX asked the court to reverse the OHR’s decision, which it did. The court held that ex-gays are a protected class under ‘sexual orientation.’”

The court reached this conclusion by noting that protected classes do not have to possess unchangeable characteristics. “The definition of sexual orientation defines an individual’s sexuality as a ‘preference’ or ‘practice,’” the court ruled.

Although that ruling was two-pronged — the NEA can still exclude exhibitors it finds contrary to its policies — Griggs was encouraged by the decision.

“By definition, ex-gays don’t possess an immutable characteristic, according to the court,” she explained. “By extension then, neither do gays, which is what we’ve said all along. There’s no scientific proof of a ‘gay gene’ or that change is impossible.”

— Gail Besse