Gay Rights Groups Protest Appearance of U.S. Civil Rights Chairman at Seminar

From Times staff and wire reports

Several gay rights organizations are protesting the scheduled appearance of the chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission at a seminar led by a minister who has declared “a war on homosexuality.”

The uproar has forced organizers of “Homosexuality and Public Policy Implications” to move its Oct. 6-7 conference to a secret location in Orange County.

William Allen, who was appointed to the commission by then-President Ronald Reagan in 1987, said that he will speak on civil rights at the symposium sponsored by the Anaheim-based California Coalition for Traditional Values. “I don’t know what all the fuss is about,” he said.

But Jerry Sloan, president of the Lambda Community Fund, a Sacramento-area group, accused the Coalition for Traditional Values of spreading “hate against homosexuals. For him (Allen) to lend the credibility of the U.S. government to these people’s agenda is simply unconscionable.”

Allen, a professor of government at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, said his “fundamental view is that civil rights guaranteed to every American are not one whit less guaranteed to homosexuals.”


Tells Symposium Goals

The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, who heads the sponsoring organization and who has declared a “war on homosexuality,” said the symposium’s goal is to educate people involved in public policy about the “nature and function of homosexuality.”

Other speakers are to include Reps. William E. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton) and Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) and Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach). Topics include “Reparative Therapy for the Homosexual” and “Criteria for Successful Treatment Towards Heterosexuality.” “The topics are saying there is something sick and wrong with our lives. We do not believe it is true,” said Carol Anderson, co-chair of the Los Angeles-based Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

“We thought we’d have some flak because we are proposing reparative therapy,” said Sheldon. “But we had no idea this would have such an explosive reaction from the homosexuals. It is interesting it presents such a threat.”

Meanwhile, the Orange County Visibility League, a gay rights organization, claims its 400-letter campaign chased the symposium from its scheduled location at the Doubletree Hotel in Orange. A spokesman for the hotel confirmed the symposium was canceled but declined to offer an explanation.

To Move Location

As a result, Sheldon said he will move the symposium to a secret location. Participants will be notified by telephone at the last moment where to go, he said. “People can be assured it’s going to be held.”

Activists said they have written letters to President Bush and lawmakers protesting Allen’s appearance.

“I think many members of Congress would be astonished that (Allen) would appear at a forum such as this,” said Kevin Berrill, director of the Anti-Violence Project at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington. “The commission has so little credibility in the civil rights community right now and Allen’s scheduled appearance only increases the perception that it is anything but a commission to protect civil rights.”