James, an OUTSpoken lesbian mom in Florida who attended the
ultra-conservative Family Impact Summit in Tampa. In case you
missed the story, click
here. Today, Cathy speaks out about her experience.
I want to thank David for asking me to comment on my experience at
the Family Impact Summit. Jim Burroway from
Box Turtle Bulletin pretty much summed up the interaction I had
with the panelists so I would like to tell you about the press
conference and a few comments I have after 2 weeks of
When I found out in mid-August that a large group of national
anti-gay leaders and speakers would be meeting in mid-September
about 4 miles from my house, I was aggravated. Under the leadership
of Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida, a half
dozen local gay leaders joined with some heavy-hitters of our own,
to plan a press conference and witness rally on the afternoon
before the conference started. Speakers at the press conference
included: Nadine Smith, Equality Florida; Wayne Besen, Truth Wins
Out; Rev. Irene Monroe, Faith In America; Sally Phillips,
Hillsborough Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus; Rev. Phyllis Hunt, MCC
Tampa; Marty Rouse, Human Rights Campaign; Barbara Leavitt, spouse
of former ex-gay; Rev. Cedric A. Harmon, Americans United for
Separation of Church & State; Michelle Kenoyer, a non-gay ally
who lives about 5 miles from the site of the summit.
My aggravation turned to anger when my Florida District 56 State
Representative Trey Traviesa and the Hillsborough County Supervisor
of Elections became sponsors of the summit.
While planning the press conference I kept feeling that our
response was too national. These bigots were in MY backyard and I
was not happy about it. I talked with several friends about what WE
could do. I didn’t want to waste a vacation day and $100 to
attend the summit only to be told I am an abomination. We talked
about a protest on Saturday. My Holy Spirit moment came when the
summit opened up Free Sessions on both Friday and Saturday.
The Free Session on Saturday was a town hall entitled “Defending
Marriage: What’s at Stake? My good friend Zeke and I signed up to
attend. As a cradle Catholic who attended 12 years of Catholic
school and 2 more at a Baptist college, I will never shy away from
a discussion of religion. It was difficult sitting through the
homophobic, ridiculous and illogical statements by the moderator
Rena Lindevaldsen and panelists Peter Sprigg and John Stemberger,
but my blood was boiling as the statistics expert Dale O’Leary said
that I was much more likely to have psychological disorders and
addictions than she was and that my partner and I are harmful to
In pondering what I heard and what I said as scribed by Jim Burroway, I have the following observations:
- Be thoroughly familiar with what the anti-gay crowd is pushing
to the religious community. They believe that they have a tried and
true system to refute our demand for same-gender rights including
marriage. The program, produced by Focus on the Family, is called
Ten Persuasive Answers to the Question … “Why not gay
marriage?” by Glenn T. Stanton. The pamphlet that accompanies the
DVD they gave to all participants tells the reader to “Master the
responses to these questions and you will be well-suited to defend
the family.” You can study these questions
here (1-5) and
- Do not ever be silent when someone is spewing hatred of our
community. If you do not have the talking points or the courage to
speak out, become an OUTspoken
family. Family Pride will provide you with the materials to
give you the knowledge and courage to combat our detractors. Seek
out a Family Pride workshop or contact Family Pride and offer to
help them conduct a workshop in your area.
- Do not accept bigotry as religious truth. Religious teachings
that justify bigotry must not be sanctioned by our religious
communities. Rather, they must be publicly exposed and denounced.
Check out http://www.faithinamerica.info.
- Do not allow anti-gay bigots to use the “values” card. I am
a values voter too! I value diversity. I value equality. I value my
- BE OUT & INVOLVED – It is so easy to stay at home and
leave the work to others. Trust me, I did that until about 2001,
but I found out that in Florida as a non-biological mom I have no
legal rights in my child’s life. Be out in every part of your
life – with family, at work, at church, at your child’s school.
Serve on the board of your homeowners’ association, serve in
ministries at your church, volunteer with the local or statewide
LGBT advocacy group, volunteer at your child’s school, start a
Family Pride chapter if your area does not have one.
- Financially support the work of Family
Pride, other national, state and local advocacy organizations
and political candidates that advocate for all citizens. Remember,
they work hard for your family every day.
I’m not sure that this pontification is what David had in mind
when he asked me to write a blog, but remember … be careful what
you ask for!!
Cathy James is a founder and board member of Securing Our Children’s
Rights, Inc., a statewide organization committed to repealing
the ban on adoption by gay Floridians. She can be reached at