Thursday, October 29, 2009

"NARTH Vader" Descends On West Palm Beach

In Brief: This post discusses Julie Harren, a licensed therapist who believes for religious reasons that it is her duty to convert homosexuals to make them straight.

Julie Harren is the director of Worthy Creations Ministry, INC. - a conversion therapy program for "people recovering from homosexuality". Calvary Chapel of Fort Lauderdale has been known to refer people to this program as well as Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.

On November 21st, Julie Harren (now Harren-Hamilton) will make her first appearance as President of NARTH at the Marriott Hotel in West Palm Beach, Florida.

N.A.R.T.H. stands for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuals. It is a small but well-funded, religious, for-profit group of therapists whose aim is to take away civil rights from gays, lesbians and transgendered people by singling them out and labeling them as having a mental disorder.

The "Social Issues" section of their website reads like a horror film... all the worst most negative aspects of gay life are drudged up, re-hashed and emphasized over and over again by NARTH... Everything from obscure groups of men who wish to contract HIV to sado-masochistic tendencies and the perennial "pedophilia" accusation. If gay life were even one tenth as bad as NARTH makes it sound, I would have offed myself long ago...

NARTH shares a building with the corporate offices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). In fact, their offices are right around the corner from the temple. They are strongly supported by The Traditional Values Coalition (better known as The House on C Street or "The Family").

But back to Julie Harren Hamilton...

Would you pay for advice on child-rearing from a woman who has never had kids? Would you accept marital counseling from someone who still has rice in her hair from her recent wedding? I know I wouldn't...

So how does a poor counselor from a religious college in Chattanooga Tennessee become the President of the most well-funded anti-gay organization in America? How does she move so quickly from being a Republican spinster in a 1 bedroom apartment to a married marriage counselor and college professor, living in a half-million dollar oceanfront property in West Palm Beach?

She sells the cure for a disease that nobody really has.

When you first Google her name, you are directed to her website called, Which is just a brochure-style webpage offering her "scientific" explanation of how gay people are "lead off the path" from being happy, healthy straight people. She claims that homosexual men are the products of distant, absent or abusive fathers and that they never learned how to bond with other boys as children because they were afraid of their dads and their mothers became over-involved with their lives. And in true keeping with the hogwash technique, she affirms that the damage is done before your child's 5th birthday! I wonder how many other therapists have been able to talk parents into starting their children in on $125/hr therapy before they start 1st grade?

In short, she blames your parents for your "disease" and she can make them feel guilty enough about your "painful lifestyle" to pay her lots of money to "help you".

Click around a little bit more and you see that she is hocking her DVD's for 15 bucks a piece, too. Do some more online research and you finally get to the foundation of her rationale:

"As Christians we are vessels of God's love. So I just want to challenge us all to go out into the places we live and work and BE vessels of God's love because people are hungry for God's love..."

"It's God who does the transforming but first people need a relationship with him."

On July 23, 2005, she gave a talk at the Exodus Freedom Conference called "Educating the public on the topic of homosexuality". It was here that she really raised some eyebrows at Exodus Inc. and breathed new life into the dying carcass of conversion therapy.

You see, Harren-Hamilton takes a different approach. She mixes the old with the new... She is willing to accept that there are biological pre-dispositions which lead to being gay and she even professes to "love" her subjects and see them as equals. With her twittery coo, she blesses everyone and calmly explains that gay people did not make a choice to be gay... but they CAN still make a choice to become straight.

This new approach to the presentation of conversion therapy is becoming quite popular in some Christian ministries because it takes the focus away from their lack of success and away from the fringe hate-groups that back them and puts the focus back on "Christian love".

But what is Julie Catherine Harren-Hamilton's experience and why is this issue so important to her?

She is experienced only in public speaking and money-making. She only became married herself about 2 years ago (to Robert Tyler Hamilton who is 6 years her junior). She has never been a lesbian - recovered or otherwise. Nor has she ever been a mother or had a child - gay or straight. Most importantly, she has yet to present one solitary person who is willing to come forward and testify that her therapy works.

The more difficult question to answer about Julie Harren-Hamilton is why converting homosexuals has been her sole focus for more than 10 years.

Perhaps the good "Doctor" suffers from an Obsessive Personality Disorder with a dash of Histrionics and Narcissism... (I'm just sayin'... you know, maybe she's CRAZY?)

Maybe she had an unrequited grade-school crush on the local Clay Aiken and now she's bitter...

Whatever the reason, she's swimming up stream without a paddle and she's about to drown in Fort Lauderdale's ocean of loving gay/straight families who don't take too kindly to being called "diseased" and "abusive".

November 21, 2009
join us in showing NARTH (and the world) that our love is not a disease and many of us have excellent relationships with our parents and friends.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Queer & Loathing In Fort Lauderdale

In Brief: This post presents some reasons that charging the murderers of Craig Cohen with a hate crime may prove more difficult that previously expected. Is the Sheriff's office doing everything they can? Or is Justice taking a back seat to politics again? Readers are also informed of the media/political campaign against the openly gay but now disgraced former "cop of the year" Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss.

We don't have a lot to celebrate in the "Venice of the Americas" these days... We still have PTSD from Amendment 2, our local celebrity good guy, Sheriff's Officer Jonathan Bleweiss was arrested for allegedly fondling male illegal immigrants during arrests (more on that below) and hate crimes seem to be increasing - but not officially.

New updates on this subject are being posted on this blog here.

Let's rewind to April 6th, 2009 where Craig Cohen, a nice mild-mannered gay man who loved animals was walking home alone from his dinner at a restaurant in Oakland Park. Suddenly, he was viciously attacked by 3 straight men and left for dead. The perpetrators took nothing except his cell-phone (presumably so that Cohen could not call for help). Cohen, who was still alive after having his head stomped into the pavement multiple times, was left with his money, wallet and watch still on his person. Cohen died from the attack months later on October 7th.

Just moments after the 3 men attacked Cohen, they attacked another gay man, David Villanova, in much the same manner outside of a gay bar - fracturing his skull in the process. This time, they decided to rob him as well. The two victims had a lot in common in that they were both happy, attractive, well-dressed contributing members of society. The only differences being a slight difference in age and that Villanova is still alive and recovering from his injuries.

The 3 attackers (Chad Olah, Victor Gonzales, and Pargu Leandro) should be charged with Hate Crimes, right? Right... But it's not shaping up that way.

Why? Because of course, there are politics to think about...

Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti (a Republican) and Rick Wierzbicki (an outspoken gay Democrat who leads the BSO's Hate Crimes Task Force) have been busy attending awards dinners with the Dolphin Democrats (a Gay Democratic group of which I am also a member) and the candle-light vigils for the victims. Both Lamberti and Wierzbicki have expressed sympathy for the victims and a commitment to put an end to Hate Crimes in Broward County. But according to the press release that BSO released pertaining to the crimes, the attackers might not even be charged with murder, let alone a hate crime...

So why would it be so difficult to charge these 3 men with a hate crime, let alone murder?

It turns out that the answers are nothing more than deflection, denial and political expediency.

A contact member of the Dolphin Dems (who I've chosen to keep anonymous) told me, in defense of Lamberti, that at the recent awards gala, Lamberti intimated that he believed the attacks to be Hate Crimes as well but not proveably so. This contact also went on to tell me that it's up to the State's Attorney and that the Sheriff's office holds no responsibility in deciding whether or not a crime is a hate crime (which is flat-out false and would render Wierzbicki's position rather irrelevant if it were true). Aside from what is said behind closed doors at the pricey awards receptions, the general public can only go by what's contained in the BSO press releases - which, so far claim that the two gay victims were merely attacked because they were walking alone and not because they were gay.

However, it is true that the State's Attorney's office has a role to play in shaping how charges against an attacker are leveled. According to Adrianne Reesey (BSO's Community Involvement Specialist), there is the matter of "reasonable doubt" to consider. She explains that what might seem obvious (to myself and other members of the gay community) might not be exactly the magic bullet to convict. A killer can actually walk free if the various elements of a Hate Crime are not proven beyond a "reasonable doubt" if that is what the State is charging the defendants with.

In Fort Lauderdale, proving Hate Crimes can be an absolute mine-field considering recent news. As it turns out, according to a thus-far-anonymous contact, the first officer to respond to the scene of Cohen's attack was the now-defamed Jonathan Bleiweiss. Bleiweiss was charged (both in the media and by the Sheriff's office - but mostly by the Sun Sentinel) of all sorts of lewd conduct and illegal behavior on the job. It's the kind of case (read: witch-hunt) where newspapers go and interview crazy homeless people to ask them for their opinions on the matter just to increase the gossip-factor. Bleiweiss was the first gay cop to be honored as "Broward Sheriff's Officer of the Year" right before Lamberti won his election by a slim margin. It was only a matter of time before a catholic-run homeless shelter, the Sun-Sentinel and Lamberti himself would find this gay rockstar's weakness... Big Illegal Immigrant Cock on his donut break.

Bleiweiss can't possibly recieve a fair trial (for allegedly using his badge to coerce illegals to have sex with him) after Sheriff Lamberti joined the media frenzy (176 television reports within a month and just as many newspaper articles) by going on television to say that Bleiweiss is guilty, guilty, guilty. The Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post hammered the final nail in Bleiweiss' coffin by all-but-promising "victims visas" to any other illegal immigrants who might wish to come forward and make claims against Bleiweiss.

While Bleiwess sits in the main jail, awaiting his day in court, his tarnished legend might be just the kind of thing that a defense attorney for the anti-gay attackers would try to invoke to get a sympathetic pat on the back for his clients (two of whom happen to be hispanic).

Another factor is that one of the 3 attackers (Chad Olah) was not quite 18 years old at the time of the attack, and nobody seems to be able to tell me whether he may have done the most damage to Cohen and Villanova's skull.

One thing is certain - if Hate Crimes continue to happen and go un-punished in Fort Lauderdale, the gay community most certainly knows how to respond in kind. This is the kind of thing that people lose re-election over in South Florida. Pending Barack Obama's signing of the Mathew Shepard Act into law, the Broward Sheriff's Office may not have much input in future hate crimes and how they're dealt with unless they prove that they can cooperate with the legislation.

At the time of this post, no additional press releases have been released and further updates on this subject can be read here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Charlie And The Fudge Factory

In Brief: This post explores the rumors, information and accusations which have implied that Florida’s governor Charlie Crist is gay but living in the closet. I will offer a complete timeline of events to this effect and discuss some of the reasons that this is important.

Back in October of 2006, my good friend (at the time) Jamie called an emergency coffee-talk with me. When we met, she confided to me that the New Times would “possibly” run a story about gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist being gay. She knew this because she was, at the time, writing and modeling for cover photos in the New Times and evidently, the place was plagued with nervous hand-wringing over the situation. What she wanted from me was my opinion - not as to Crist’s orientation - but as to whether or not I thought the story should run. Unbeknownst to either of us, I’m sure; this conversation would be the last one we ever had together. She was looking for something from me, which I was ultimately unable to offer: an excuse for Charlie Crist to avoid scrutiny over his personal life... And maybe not just Charlie Crist but perhaps a way for gay men in general to become more... well... not gay? It was one of those defining moments where two friends are sitting on opposite sides of a biscotti and suddenly realize that they have never really seen eye to eye on anything at all.

As it turns out, there are two schools of thought when it comes to outing celebrities and politicians. The old school line of thinking (Jamie’s school) is that people’s personal lives should be kept personal and that it’s not fair to play “crabs in a barrel” and tear apart someone’s life just because you’re unhappy. The modern, more radical approach (my school of thought, generally) is that liars will always be hypocrites and hypocrites will always make life harder on everyone else until they are publicly shamed into realizing that they are no more important than their constituents. I say point at the naked emperor and have a good hearty laugh.

So many people in Florida have an opinion on whether or not Charlie Crist (R-FL) is gay. Another hotly debated subject is whether or not we should be talking about it. Evidently, this latter subject has contributed to many of the nearly 2,500 edits to the now Senate-hopefuls wikipedia page since it was created in 2005 (and not to mention NPR's now infamous censorship of commentary on the subject). The wikipedia talk page alone was averaging 20 views per day after the New York Times mentioned Crist as a possible running mate for John McCain.

The subject of Crist's sexual orientation has been central to a documentary film, has been discussed on radio shows, in newspapers, magazines, numerous blog posts and YouTube videos. Whether or not the accusations (notice that I did not call them "rumors") are true, seems largely irrelevant at this point. Ol' Charlie has become something of a gay icon - albeit, a rather grim one.

Before we go on, I’m sure you’re wondering what my agenda is. Let me be perfectly clear here: I am a gay, liberal democrat who would love nothing more than to add Charlie Crist as the umpteenth “family values” Republican from Florida to be caught with his pants down in an airport restroom… or behind the bushes in a family park, or sending sexy emails to pageboys. That being said, Charlie hasn’t given me much hope. The house of cards has been built masterfully and Charlie has used superglue this time.

The New Times did, in fact, run the article about Crist and they really dotted their i's and crossed their t's on it too. Much of the information in my timeline below was gleaned from Julia Reischel's reporting and checked by myself against other online sources. But of course, the spin that soon followed said that the New Times was just a "trashy tabloid" and not a real newspaper... Meh.

The timeline of events pertaining to our governor's [not-]gay political life as I have discovered, goes something like this:

  • 1979 – Charlie Crist has a shotgun marriage to Amanda Morrow which lasts only a few months and is described in the St. Petersburg Times as “the darkest chapter in Crist’s life”.
  • 1985 – Crist attends a three month program called Leadership St. Petersburg with a man who would later be one of his opponents in the race for Governor, Max Linn. (remember that name for later).
  • 1998 – Charlie Crist runs for the Senate (unsuccessfully) with financial support from Max Linn.
  • 2001 – As State Education Commissioner, Crist condemns a theatrical performance at FAU by calling its gay characters “lecherous and profane” in an open letter to newspapers called “Desecration 101”.
  • 2003 – Charlie Crist speaks at a convention for the Florida Funeral Home Directors Association after being tapped by the executive director, Bruce Carlton Jordan. (remember that name for later).
  • 2005 – A woman approaches Crist while he is campaigning for Governor and asks him “Are you gay, can you open your divorce records, and do you discriminate against gays and lesbians?” Crist replied, “I'm not, the records are open, and we shouldn't discriminate against anyone." (This statement is VERY important to the justification of outing hypocrites as mentioned above.)
  • 2005 – The next day, Crist cooked up a radio interview (WQYK Country – Tampa) to do damage control after the home-hitting question where he boasted about his heterosexual prowess with a Republican disc jockey. In this interview, Crist reportedly also expressed support for civil unions (once again, with the hypocrisy – but we’ll get to that later on down the list).
  • 2005 – Rightwing organizations (such as the Family Policy Council) gather the 60,000 signatures needed to put Amendment 2 on the ballot. Amendment 2 would target and deny gays and lesbians the rights of marriages, civil unions or any other kind of representation of family. They had already successfully banned adoption by gays and lesbians in the state of Florida.
  • 2006 – Family Policy Council and other right-wing organizations begin badgering Crist to be more anti-gay with full page newspaper articles and press conferences. They threaten him with a withdrawal of support if he does not comply.
  • 2006 – Crist is now described as the “moderate” Republican in most newspapers and television reports.
  • 2006 – A female lawyer from Crist’s hometown claims that Charlie Crist illegitimately fathered her child (but the story vanishes right after the election).
  • 2006 – Crist reportedly tells Fox News (on Republican primary election night) that the gay rumors are being orchestrated by his opponent, Gallagher. (However, the best was yet to come – Reform party candidate Max Linn throws a curve ball in the general election, See below).
  • 2006 – September 5 – Crist wins Republican primary for Governor with 64% of the vote.
  • 2006 – Crist chooses a married, sports-enthusiastic, Christian lawyer from Indiana as his running mate for the election.
  • 2006 – October 11 – Reform party candidate Max Linn tells a radio station (WFTL) that he and his opponent Charlie Crist had actually known each other for a very long time. He said that in Leadership St. Petersburg (see 1985 above) he and Crist were two of the 20 students in the 3 month course. During that time, Linn said that Charlie Crist openly discussed his homosexuality and that they even participated in a discussion about what would happen if his sexual orientation should ever become known publicly. Linn went on in later interviews to confirm that he stood by his statements and that he had even been a supporter of Crist (financially and as a volunteer) during Crist’s unsuccessful run for the Senate in 1998. He even went as far as to say that Crist’s sexuality was an “open secret” in Tallahassee amongst all the Republicans and that he’d “swear to it with his hand on a stack of Bibles”.
  • 2006 – October 20 – Communications director for a Log Cabin Republican group in Florida tells the Washington Blade that he thinks Crist could be “bisexual” and Tom Dyer (publisher of NW Florida’s gay newspaper “Watermark”) tells the New Times that he endorses Charlie Crist for Governor.
  • 2006 – November 7 – Charlie Crist becomes Governor of Florida with 52% of the vote and his mysterious ready-made girlfriend from the campaign trail, the once-divorced Kathryn Pemble, suddenly disappears from the limelight.
  • 2007 – Charlie Crist begins dating Kelly Heyniger. (remember that name for later)
  • 2007 – New Times writer, Bob Norman (whose blog incidentally is called “The Daily Pulp” and has an uncannily similar masthead to the one I just created for myself) has discussions with a young man named Jason Wetherington who was a legislative aide to Katherine Harris about his rumored sexual relationship with Crist. Wetherington denied that he had boasted of such things and then abruptly moved to Georgia. Subsequently, Norman questioned Bruce Carlton Jordan (see 2003 above) about the love triangle between him, Charlie Crist and mutual girlfriend Jennifer Faga, a Tallahassee snowbird from the Hamptons. According to the writer, both Jordan and Wetherington had discussed their sexual relationships with Crist on a number of occasions with Tallahassee politicos.
  • 2007 - Crist and Kelly Heyniger end their dating relationship.
  • 2008 – February – The owner of a Tampa gay bar called the Green Iguana joins the list of speculators by saying that he knows Crist to be gay as well. According to Rick Calderoni, Charlie Crist frequented his bar with a feminine demeanor and did everything that gay men do, just short of actually becoming intimate in the establishment.
  • 2008 – August – Charlie Crist publicly endorses Amendment 2, much to the horror of many of his supporters who really believed him to be “moderate”.
  • 2008 – November – Amendment 2 passes, making Florida the state with most legislation targeting and specifically against the rights of GLBT persons in the United States of America.
  • 2008 – December – Just days after the passage of Amendment 2, Charlie Crist marries a previously unknown business woman, Carol Rome in a “fairy tale” wedding that receives sharp criticism from pundits across the board.
  • 2009 – April – Kelly Heyniger tells the filmmaker’s of a documentary (Outrage) that if they “come back in 10 years” with their questions about Crist’s sexuality, she will “tell them a story” and laughs. (I’m glad she thinks it’s so funny… meanwhile Crist gets to destroy civil liberties altogether in Florida.)
  • 2009 – July – Charlie Crist announces his intentions to run for the United States Senate.
  • 2009 – September – The Mormon church (Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints announces plans to build a huge Mormon Temple in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
  • 2009 – October – Jason Wetherington and his various claims are conveniently discredited by the pastor of First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale as he discusses Wetherington’s alcoholism and theft charges. (These kinds of charges are reflective, if you ask me of the lifestyle that “recovering homosexuals” are cornered into all the time. It’s basically how they shut you up and put you in your place.)
  • 2009 – October – Only about 250+ gays and lesbians from Florida marched with the 200,000 member National Equality March on Washington DC for equality. Some of them had signs and banners about Charlie Crist and Amendment 2, shouting “Charlie Crist, Charlie Crist, Come out of the closet – we insist!”

So, I hope that as you look over the timeline that I’ve provided here, you will see that our civil liberties, our marriages, our lives and our children’s happiness hang in the balance of our Governor’s dishonesty, political pandering, and general lack of integrity. Or are 30+ of Charlie’s closest friends and contacts “just making things up” for no other reason than to gossip?

Unfortunately, people like my former friend Jamie (who disappeared as mysteriously as any "moderate" Crist supporter does when the heat wave comes) cannot quite see a connection. But as I stated previously, liars are hypocrites and hypocrites always make life harder on everyone else. In Crist’s case, he almost seems to delight in it. We don't need to worry about protecting them - because they certainly aren't worried about protecting us.

Lastly, I part with you in this final thought (for now): If it is considered an “attack” to entertain the possibility of our Governor being gay then that certainly explains the atmosphere that would allow him and his “new friends” to remove some 1,500 associated rights and benefits from those of us who wish to live our lives with transparency, honesty and love.

    Above: Citizens of Fort Lauderdale protest the passage of Amendment 2 - photo: Jarrett Terrill