VfJ Action Alert 10/18/02
When Is a Subway System Like a State? It's Not a Silly Question (The Washington Post) 06/09/02
GLAA opposes censorship of PFOX Metro ads
From: Richard J. Rosendall (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To: Customer Service, WMATA (email@example.com)
Cc: Virginians for Justice; Jim Graham; ACLU/NCA; Bob Summersgill
Sent: Friday, October 18, 2002
Subject: Please continue your equal-access policies
It has come to our attention that the group Virginians for Justice has launched an action alert urging its members to contact you in opposition to your recent decision to provide free advertising space in Metro stations to Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) for public service ads. While we firmly disagree with the views of PFOX concerning homosexuality, we are also firm believers in the principle of free speech enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We therefore urge you to reject the misguided censorship advocated by Virginians for Justice.
DC Councilmember Jim Graham, who is both openly gay and a member of the Metro Board, pushed for the adoption of an equal access policy at Metro, for which he is to be commended. He agrees with us that free speech is not only for those whose beliefs we find acceptable. As the American Civil Liberties Union likes to say, the proper response to free speech is more free speech. We have discussed this matter with our friends at ACLU of the National Capital Area, and they agree with us that Metro's status as a quasi-governmental body makes this a clear First Amendment issue.
Your proper response to Virginians for Justice, therefore, is that your equal access rules apply to everyone, and that those who object to PFOX's message are free to submit their own PSA.
Thank you for defending your commitment to equal access in the face of pressures to favor a particular viewpoint, whatever political direction those pressures may come from.
Richard J. Rosendall
Vice President for Political Affairs
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
PS: Below is GLAA's official response to a Frequently Asked Question about what we are doing to close down anti-gay websites. It is pertinent to the present matter.
from the website of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington:
Question: What are you doing to shut down www.godhatesfags.com and similar sites that defame gay people?
Answer: Nothing. We believe that the proper response to hateful speech is more speech in response to it -- not suppression of views with which we disagree, however offensive they may be.
Here is the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
The liberties outlined in the First Amendment belong to all Americans, not just people who agree with us. Freedom of speech means nothing if it does not mean the right of people to say things that offend us. In the words of Justice Robert Jackson in the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that no one may be forced to say or even stand for the Pledge of Allegiance: "Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom."
Thomas Jefferson put it well in a statement on academic freedom at the University of Virginia, in a letter he wrote to William Roscoe in 1820:
"This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is free to combat it."
Yes, the nexus between hate speech and hate violence should be explored, and there should be vigilance in monitoring hateful websites and broadcasts. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation specializes in this work. GLAAD's website is at www.glaad.org. That being said, we believe that the wisest course, both politically and ethically, is to practice the tolerance we are preaching and respond to hateful speech with speech of our own. Attempts at suppression are distinctly illiberal, are unlikely to succeed in any case (gays are in the minority, remember), and tend to play into our enemies' hands. Responding to hateful speech can be time-consuming and expensive, and requires imagination and skill, but it is the wisest course. There are no short-cuts to freedom.
Sent: Friday, October 18, 2002 5:19 PM
Subject: Re: Please continue your equal-access policies
Dear Mr. Rosendall,
Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion with us. A copy of your e-mail will be forwarded to the proper Metro decision makers so that they can take your views into consideration when planning for Metro's future.
Office of Customer Service
VfJ Action Alert
To: Bob Summersgill
Subject: From Virginians for Justice: ACTION ALERT
Dear VJ Members, Supporters and Friends:
Following are two Action Alert items which we wanted to share with you and on which we encourage you to join us in taking action:
ACTION ALERT ITEM 1 - PROTEST METRO'S DECISION TO PROVIDE FREE ADVERTISING SPACE TO EX-GAY MINISTRY PFOX:
Ads recently appeared in the DC/VA Metro system advertising for Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, better known as PFOX.
Not only do these ads promote a practice which the American Psychological Association declares may be harmful to the person to be "converted," PFOX did not have to pay for the ads. The ads were run for free by Metro as a "a public service announcement." PFOX is apparently classified as a public charity and actually obtains funds from the United Way and the Combined Federal Campaign (a charity fundraiser for federal employees).
We encourage you to write to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA") and complain about Metro's decision to display these offensive ads.
Your can contact WMATA Customer assistance at: 202/637-1328, weekdays: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
You can write to: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 600 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.
Or send your e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Following is suggested text for your letter or e-mail:
I recently learned that WMATA provided free advertising space for Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays ("PFOX"). PFOX is an anti-gay organization that advocates the view that homosexuality is a sin and a disease. PFOX's primary purpose is to convince gays and lesbians that they can be "converted" to heterosexuality through pseudo-religious practices and therapy.
The American Psychological Association ("APA") has stated that "conversion therapy" does not work and is potentially harmful to those who are to be "converted." The APA's Chief Executive Officer Dr. Raymond Fowler stated, "[f]or nearly three decades, it has been known that homosexuality is not a mental illness. Medical and mental health professionals also now know that sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be altered. Groups who try to change the sexual orientation of people through so-called conversion therapy' are misguided and run the risk of causing a great deal of psychological harm to those they say they are trying to help."
As a metro rider, I am offended and disappointed that Metro would assist PFOX in spreading misinformation and their message of discrimination and intolerance of gays and lesbians. I urge Metro to remove PFOX's offensive advertisements and to refrain from providing free advertising space to organizations that promote discrimination and intolerance.
___________________ (home city and state)
[unrelated second action alert item omitted]