(Most of the Orlando Sentinel articles linked in this post are behind a paywall.)

While Exodus 2005 keynote speaker Jerry Falwell claims to support equal housing, Exodus president Alan Chambers’ position has been a bit less kind — but perhaps evolving.

He once told Ex-Gay Watch that antigay discrimination doesn’t happen. But we pointed out that, a year earlier, he had vowed to discriminate against tenants if they were gays or witches:

“But as a property owner of Orlando, I wouldn’t rent to someone who is gay any more than I would rent to a person who is a practicing witch.”

“I am opposed to special rights for gays just as I am opposed to special rights for heterosexuals or smokers. I can attest to the fact that sexual orientation is not immutable and I urge the city council to vote no on this amendment [in 2002 barring discrimination based on sexual orientation within the Orlando city limits].

Chambers’ active opposition to gay rights became apparent soon after the organization moved to his home city of Orlando. In addition to heading Exodus, Chambers became the leader of People for A United Orlando which, with the Liberty Counsel, sought to defend antigay discrimination in the city. A 2002 city ordinance sought to prohibit large businesses from denying jobs or promotions to people on the basis of sexual orientation. Property owners could not refuse to lease or sell property to someone because of sexual orientation, and public accommodations such as restaurants and hotels couldn’t refuse to serve gays — or heterosexuals or bisexuals. Churches, religious organizations and private clubs were exempt, as were small businesses and landlords with only a few units.

According to the Orlando Sentinel on Oct. 18, 2002, Chambers’ group

paid about $14,000 for a full-page ad scheduled for publication in the Orlando Sentinel on Sunday. The ad is signed by about 500 people, including pastors, business people, a few politicians and others.

The ad says gays and lesbians don’t need to be protected from discrimination because there is none in Orlando. Gay workers aren’t being turned away, and neither are gay renters, Chambers said.

Chambers’ ad got ugly:

The ad also says the gay-rights ordinance is being pushed by “militant national gay and lesbian organizations that have targeted Orlando as a key conquest.”

The real aim, opponents said, is the legalization of same-sex marriages and mandated job benefits for the partners of gay workers.

Similar claims were made in a flier mailed to some Orlando homes last week by the Christian Coalition of Florida. The flier bears a photo of two groom figurines atop a wedding cake, above a headline saying, “Orlando Could Be Next! Unless You Act Today.”

On Nov. 24, 2002, as official support for the gay-rights law and opposition to Chambers’ tactics rose, Chambers softened his sales pitch in a Sentinel puff piece:

“Would I rent to gay people? Absolutely. I have numerous gay friends who I would absolutely let rent my property. I don’t think people should be fired. I don’t think people should not be allowed to vote or have the same rights as everyone else. But I don’t think we should give special consideration based on behavior. I don’t think [gays] should be mistreated; I think they should be treated fairly. But I don’t think they should have special rights.”

The Orlando city gay-rights law passed.

Flash forward four years:

In hearings this month on a more limited fair-housing ordinance for Orange County, which encompasses Orlando, Chambers again joined the LIberty Counsel and the Florida Family Policy Council to defend antigay discrimination by landlords.

This time, Chambers’ contribution to local media coverage was low key, his intent clouded:

“Orlando is not a typical place. We have diverse groups and diverse beliefs,” said Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International. “When it comes to these issues, it’s the most organized, the most passionate, side that wins.”

On July 11, 2006, the Orange County Commission passed the fair-housing ordinance, which defines sexual orientation as “actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or gender identity or expression.”

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