To its critics, the Exodus billboard seems to assume that gay people are miserable wretches. The billboard then directs the grief-stricken masses of gay Jews, Catholics, mainline Protestants and agnostics to the Exodus website for re-salvation and fundamentalist bliss.
Watt’s parody assumes (in all fairness to Exodus) that heterosexual people are miserable wretches, and refers straights to a gay web site known for dating and chat services. Ex-Gay Watch posted a copy of the parody, with Watt’s encouragement. We appreciated its humor, though not necessarily its choice of website referral.
When the Liberty Counsel sent cease-and-desist letters to Watt and to Ex-Gay Watch, this web site immediately removed its copy of Watt’s parody. I later created a new parody, one that was not nearly as professional or humorous as Watt’s. Since this site’s focus is exgays (not heterosexuals), my own parody assumed that exgay activists are really projecting their own unhappiness onto others. I directed these unhappy exgays to a variety of faith and mental-health resources that are gay-tolerant and family-friendly.
At the same time that these events transpired online, I also retained Irell & Manella LLP of Los Angeles for its expertise in intellectual-property matters. I have been advised that this site’s use of the original parody was well within the scope of fair use.
So it is well within this site’s legal right to republish the parody. But it’s not my plan to do so in this particular case.
I will defend this site’s free-speech rights, including the right to create or republish legally protected parodies that defend our faith- and family-friendly values. And I do not plan to sign away those rights.
Nevertheless, I consider it this web site’s mission to accurately report exgay news, not become a story unto itself. In a post a couple days ago, I complained that it’s hard to find time to report broadly about the ex-gay movement and the needs of unhappy and sexually confused individuals when activists at Focus on the Family and the American Family Association — and their exgay affiliates, Exodus and Stephen Bennett Ministries — demand so much attention. They have lately been succeeding in steering public attention toward their own agendas, and away from the need for public sources of sound advice to help same-sex-attracted individuals make informed decisions about their lives, their families, and their spiritual and moral values.
Furthermore, I am reluctant to feed the free media attention that Exodus generates each time it launches an insulting ad campaign against same-sex-attracted persons.
The Exgay Billboard Parody Scandal of 2006 is a sideshow — like so many billboards, the Exodus billboard and the various parodies take observers’ eyes off the road ahead. I agree that Exodus’ reaction to online criticism is newsworthy. And if other sites wish to focus on that issue, more power to them. But I believe there are other important issues for this site to address with its limited resources, and other parodies to be made that reflect our moderate cultural and sexual sensitivities.
I maintain that if we find ourselves becoming part of the news that we’re covering — or if we allow ourselves to be distracted by the Exodus marketing department — then we need to rethink how we’re covering the news.