PFOX: What’s good for the District of Columbia is not good for the nation

In 2002, the Christian support ministry, Parents and Friends of Ex-gays (PFOX) applied to the National Education Association for a booth in their annual convention exhibit hall. Despite having space at the convention and initially cashing the PFOX check for the application fee, the NEA rejected the PFOX application. The NEA said PFOX’s views of sexual orientation were at odds with those of the NEA.

Given that the NEA is based in Washington DC, PFOX filed a discrimination complaint against the NEA with the DC Office of Human Rights. The basis of the alleged discrimination was the sexual orientation of the members of PFOX. To support its action, PFOX relied on the fact that in DC, sexual orientation is included in the Human Rights Act. The definition of sexual orientation in the DC HRA is

“Sexual orientation” means male or female homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality, by preference or practice.

In May, 2005, the DC OHR ruled that there was no discrimination in the NEA action. However, with an appeal from PFOX, the OHR allowed a review. After another denial, PFOX filed suit in the Superior Court of DC in May, 2008. On June 26, 2009, Judge Maurice Ross affirmed the decision of the DC OHR that there was no probable cause for PFOX’s discrimination complaint. According to Ross, the NEA had not unlawfully discriminated against PFOX by excluding the group from the NEA exposition hall.

Despite losing the case, PFOX issued a press release claiming victory. In his ruling, Judge Ross evaluated the claim of discrimination in light of the DC statute. Ross found that ex-gays are covered by the DC law due to the inclusion of sexual orientation. Ex-gay as a term did not need to be included in law since the term, however defined, relates to an adult sexual practice or preference.

Regina Griggs lauded the ruling saying,

“We are gratified that the ex-gay community in Washington D.C. now has the same civil rights that gays enjoy,” said Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX)…

Even though the court ruled that the NEA was allowed to forbid space to PFOX, the court disagreed with the DC OHR about criteria for being covered by the DC statute. Ex-gays are covered by virtue of sexual orientation being included in the DC law, however, they were not discriminated against, since the NEA has a right to reject views with which they disagree. To be clear and explicit, ex-gay as a term was not added to the law, nor did the ruling add any rights not previously posessed. Judge Ross opined properly that sexual orientation as defined in the DC law includes everybody.

Now here is an irony. Despite the fact that PFOX declared victory based on the presence of sexual orientation in the DC law, they oppose the same plank in federal law. One might assume that since DC law covers and protects what PFOX calls the “ex-gay community,” then PFOX would support the same policy for the “ex-gay community” elsewhere. However, they do not.

On their blog, PFOX posts several articles (e.g., here and here) which strongly oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. ENDA proposes to prohibit job discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation. Thus, if an ex-gay was discriminated against based on status, there would be some recourse.

Despite the fact that PFOX claims to be the beneficiary of a landmark ruling based on the inclusion of sexual orientation in DC law, at least three of PFOX’s board members have gone on record as opposing ENDA. They are Peter Sprigg, Matt Barber and Bob Knight.

Peter Sprigg’s group, the Family Research Council, opposes the bill and here Sprigg speaks directly about it. Liberty Council’s Matt Barber opposes ENDA and recently published this op-ed in the Washington Times.  Finally, Bob Knight has spoken out against ENDA in WorldNetDaily.

A fair question is why does PFOX oppose at the federal level that which they favor in the District of Columbia? PFOX would not need to trouble Disney or Pepsi or other employers any longer regarding ex-gay discrimination with the passage of ENDA.  At one point, PFOX seemed to agree. After the ruling from Judge Ross, PFOX spokesman, Greg Quinlan, said

All sexual orientation laws and programs nationwide should now provide true diversity and equality by including former homosexuals.

PFOX could celebrate that “true diversity and equality” by including the DC language in federal statute. The DC law does not include ex-gays by title but instead covers them by language similar to ENDA. PFOX lauds the DC law. ENDA does what the DC law does on a national scale. Why would PFOX celebrate rights in one jurisdiction but not want to do the same nationally?