The religious and political debate over homosexuality intensified recently in dueling full-page newspaper ads. The ads, taken out by conservative Christian groups and by gay groups, featured contrasting ideologies on homosexuality, and pitted stories about homosexuals who had been changed to heterosexuality against stories of families who welcome their homosexual members. The ads come in the wake of well-publicized Outspoken opposition to homosexuality by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R., Miss.), pro-football star Reggie White and others who believe homosexuality is a sin.
Some 15 social and religious conservative groups, including the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America, have joined together to place ads congratulating Lott. The Senate majority leader has said he opposed the nomination of gay San Francisco philanthropist James Hormel as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg because Hormel actively supports gay causes. Meanwhile, People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, issued its latest report on antigay activity, and the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy group, is placing ads in newspapers to counter the conservative groups' efforts.
Carmen Pate, president of Concerned Women for America, sees no end in sight for the quarrel. "I think that we are going to continue to see heated opposition for our actions, but we are going to continue in our efforts because ... we are reaching hearts and lives," Pate said in an interview. She claimed that as a result of the ads her Washington-based organization had received "a tremendous response" from homosexuals interested in "getting help."
However, in its fifth annual report on antigay violence, titled Hostile Climate, People for the American Way concludes that conservative Christians' opposition to homosexuality is fueled by hate, despite their tendency to say they "hate the sin but love the sinner." The 141-page report, released July 15, states that "the Religious Right does all it can to drown out any attempts to show that gay men and lesbians are human beings. Instead, Religious Right leaders define gay men and lesbians in terms of disease and depravity."
Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, a Washington-based group that opposes gay activists, said People for the American Way is misinterpreting the statements of social conservatives. "What they're doing is equating beliefs with hate," he said. "The whole purpose of these ads is [to show that] Trent Lott [was] trying to say compassionately his beliefs about homosexuality, and he was tagged as a hater, a bigot.... They will not allow a fair debate. They throw mud."
The recent ads, winch appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times and USA Today, delineate the different perspectives. One of the ads placed by the conservatives features a group photo of "ex-gays." Another includes the picture of a wife and mother who was formerly a lesbian, along with toll-free numbers to contact ministries that help people who want to follow their example and "walk out of homosexuality. …