St. Louis-area gay-equality advocates conducted a peaceful vigil today outside the exgay political road show “Love Won Out,” which is sponsored by Focus on the Family and serves as the primary marketing tool for the exgay umbrella network Exodus International. According to KSDK-TV, Focus on the Family said 1,700 attended the event. The station reported “as many as 400 protesters.”

Writer Colleen Keating, who wrote a preview of the event, has provided Ex-Gay Watch with photographs of the vigil.

Peaceful protest outside Focus on the Family exgay conference

Neither KSDK nor a Feb. 12 story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provide much context for the event. In particular, both neglected to point out that Focus on the Family and Exodus International support antigay discrimination and the recriminalization of private homosexual behavior.

Keating’s preview article was more thorough while remaining reasonably balanced.

Her article draws attention to Chambers’ recent comments to the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he said that “lifelong homosexual partnerships are not possible,” and characterized the gay “lifestyle” as “a never ending cycle of cravings and nourishment … an endless treadmill of faceless encounters, broken hearts and unmet dreams.”

Keating is careful to contrast Chambers’ cynicism and pity with an opposing viewpoint by Ken Haller, who is the president of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association:

Ken Haller, an out pediatrician at Cardinal Glennon hospital in St. Louis, disagrees: “There’s nothing in the medical literature to suggest that gay or lesbian persons are any better or worse at commitment and monogamy than our heterosexual cohorts. Indeed, the large numbers of long-term same-sex couples who have endured and thrived despite the many ways our society tries to tear them apart is proof that lesbian and gay persons are quite good at making and keeping commitments even under the most difficult of circumstances.”

Peaceful protest outside Focus on the Family exgay conference

In contrast to a recent mass protest against “Love Won Out” in Boston, Keating notes that in St. Louis, opponents of “Love Won Out” organized a peaceful vigil and titled the event “Love Needs No Cure.”

Following up on two recent acts of apparent vandalism against the event, Keating interviewed a pastor at the host church for the event:

The night of Feb. 14, after a local news channel featured Evangelical Free Church in a spot devoted to the conference, the church was egged. Focus on the Family quickly ran a press release speculating that “gay activists” were probably involved.

Gene Monitz, a pastor at Evangelical Free, said that the church has not contacted the police and is not pursuing the vandals. He added that the people who threw the eggs “don’t represent the gay community any more than people holding up gay-hating signs represent us.” Still, his church issued a statement noting that the egging shows “those who talk the loudest about tolerance seem the least able to exhibit it.”

As of Feb. 21, the Love Won Out billboard along I-44 East near the Hampton exit appeared to have been splattered with paint. It’s not yet known who is responsible.

Peaceful protest outside Focus on the Family exgay conference

The absence of any suspects in the billboard vandalism did not stop Focus on the Family from once again blaming unidentified “gay activists”. Chambers leaps into an accusation that anyone who dares to disagree in public with exgay propaganda is guilty of “defamation” and “contempt.” Focus on the Family quotes Chambers saying:

“Anonymous defamation from any party is offensive, but the public protest planned by the gay community is particularly disturbing,” he said. “Contempt for those of us who have chosen to leave homosexuality behind is not an action consistent with the call for tolerance and diversity.”

Peaceful protest outside Focus on the Family exgay conference

Chambers’ dishonesty regarding gay-equality advocates’ tolerance of exgays becomes apparent in Keating’s interview of the Rev. Dr. Deborah A. Lawson, of the gay-welcoming Immanuel Congregational Church. Lawson affirms Focus on the Family’s free-speech rights.

What she has a problem with is the “harmful misinformation and bias” the conference provides.

Photos and some links courtesy of Colleen Keating.

Addendum: Read Colleen Keating’s new reflections on LWO and the vigil at the Gay Spirituality blog. Here’s an excerpt:

What [Alan] Chambers doesn’t seem to understand is that none of us have “contempt” for the attendees (at least no one I spoke with). We felt badly for the young kids in the backseats of SUVs, looking down guiltily as they saw us–were their parents taking them to the event in the hopes of a “cure”? I know I felt badly for the parents hoping for a cure, and blaming themselves.

Perhaps Chambers was merely projecting his own contempt onto his spiritual brothers and sisters.

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