Gay rights activist and author Wayne Besen comments on a newly launched exgay ad campaign (ad in PDF format):

The “ex-gay” ministries launched a new, misleading ad campaign today that mocks hate crime victims. It ran in the Orlando Sentinel, The Indianapolis Star, The Nevada Appeal, and Roll Call to harass senators concerned about stopping hate violence.

The ad features four “ex-gays” and reads:

“Hate Crime Laws Say We Were More Valuable As Homosexuals Than We Are Now As Former Homosexuals.”

This abusive ad is disgusting and vomit-worthy – and I must say, I’ve never used those two adjectives in the same sentence before. But to exploit hate crimes as a sneaky backdoor way to promote an “ex-gay” message is just vile and shows a lack of character.

It is also false advertising. Hate crimes laws are important because they give law enforcement the tools they need to solve such awful crimes. Furthermore, they do not pit one group against another since all Americans are covered. For example, hate crime legislation covers real or perceived “sexual orientation.” This means gay, straight or bisexual.

Image of 2005 ex-gay ad against hate crimesExodus lobbyist Randy Thomas says the exgay ads join a broader ad campaign that has reached seven newspapers thus far.

Hate-crime laws enhance punishment of crimes based on a perpetrator’s intent to harm an entire class of persons. The legislation at issue would add sexual orientation as a class, along with traits that are inborn (race) and chosen (religion).

The ads, however, fail to disclose that the legislation protects heterosexuals and bisexuals. The ads also decline to say clearly whether the sponsors oppose existing law covering hate crimes based upon the victim’s perceived race or religion.

To support the claim that hate-crime law is fundamentally biased, the ads cite apples and oranges: they compare cases in which a violent crime was committed because the victim was gay, to crimes that did not target the victim’s perceived heterosexuality.

Other ads (PDF) [removed or relocated by Randy Thomas from his blog but archived elsewhere] target specific U.S. senators, claim again that hate-crime laws offer unequal protection, and blame hate-crime laws for the arrest of Repent America activists after they disrupted Philadelphia’s Outfest and disobeyed police in October 2004.

Repent America is a Philadelphia-area group that disrupts government meetings and public events and commits illegal public acts requiring arrest in order to publicize its concerns. One of the Repent America founder’s goals is a fundamentalist federal government that makes homosexuality punishable by execution according to Biblical law. (Previous XGW coverage.) The ads fail to disclose Repent America’s intentionally illegal disruption of public events, and fail to indicate what, if any, illegal actions were committed by gay demonstrators at recent exgay and antigay events.

The ad campaign was paid for by the American Family Association and signed by numerous religious-right political organizations. The exgay ads do not name the four pictured individuals for whom the ad claims to speak; Thomas simply refers to them as “friends,” and the ad suggests that they are anonymous “former homosexuals” — a political label that is also left undefined.

Taken together, the ads confuse readers about the legislation; muddy important distinctions that separate hate crime, civil disruption, and free speech; and undermine effective public dialogue about free speech and violent crime.

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