Saturday, August 13, 2011

Family Research Council head gave misleading testimony on ENDA in 2009

This post is Part 2 in a series highlighting the need for Congress to scrutinize misleading religious right testimony during its hearings. This repost has to do with 2009 testimony which Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins gave in front of Congress to oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Just like Maggie Gallagher's testimony earlier this year (which was highlighted in today's earlier post), Perkins's testimony was misleading. And the two unfortunate things about it were that he was not called out for his errors and in 2010, he was allowed to give testimony opposing the confirmation of now Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

October 1, 2009 

Recently, Family Research Council head Tony Perkins submitted testimony to Congress in opposition of Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The bulk of his testimony were anecdotes of supposedly how ENDA would hurt free speech.

As pointed out, at least one of his anecdotes was a distortion of the facts. Perkins claimed that the person in the case was able to sue because he was merely perceived as gay.

Perkins was making the point that the lawsuit in that case was frivilous.

But Jeremy Hooper from showed that the person in the case was not only perceived as gay, but also harassed and fired because of that perception.

And I think I found another sly distortion from Perkins regarding ENDA. The part I want to address is in bold:

The principle at stake is whether personal disapproval of these chosen and harmful behaviors (homosexual conduct and sex changes) should be officially stigmatized under law as a form of bigotry that is equivalent to racism. Since such disapproval is the dominant viewpoint in the American public,explicitly taught by leading religions,and empirically supported by the negative health consequences of those behaviors

Perkins is pushing the "homosexuality has negative consequences" factoid that has served the religious right well for so many years.

The endnotes of his testimony say:

Evidence for the negative health consequences of homosexual conduct is available even from pro-homosexual sources such as the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. See their "Top Ten Issues to Discuss with Your Healthcare Provider" online at:

To echo Jeremy Hooper in his denunciation of Perkins, it's a matter of perception.

Perkins is pushing the notion that "if people engage in same-sex intercourse, they face negative consequences."
However, at no time does the Top Ten Issues even imply this. This is what it does say:

LGBT people have some unique health needs and concerns. Unfortunately, many health care providers don’t fully understand these issues, so it’s important to take charge of your health by asking your healthcare provider about the health matters that may apply to you.
The following lists will help you communicate even more effectively with your healthcare provider:

Now while this medical information breakdown does concede that in some cases, lgbts face bigger health problems than the heterosexual population, at no time does it ever say anything about these health problems being the "negative effects of homosexual behavior."

But it does say few things that Perkins may not appreciate. For example, take the subject of depression/anxiety in the lesbian community:

Lesbians have been shown to experience chronic stress from homophobic discrimination. This stress is compounded by the need that some still have to hide their orientation from family and colleagues at work, and by the fact that many lesbians have lost the important emotional support most others get from their families due to alienation stemming from their sexual orientation.

Or substance abuse:

Research indicates that lesbians may use illicit drugs more often than heterosexual women. This may be due to added stressors in lesbian lives from discrimination. Lesbians need support from each other and from health care providers to find healthy releases, quality recreation, stress reduction, and coping techniques.

Or how about this point regarding how difficult it is for the members of the transgender community to receive adequate health care:

Transgender persons are often reluctant to seek medical care through a traditional provider-patient relationship. Some are even turned away by providers. A doctor who refuses to treat a trans person may be acting out of fear and transphobia, or may have a religious bias against GLBT patients. It’s also possible that the doctor simply doesn’t have the knowledge or experience he needs. Furthermore, health care related to transgender issues is usually not covered by insurance, so it is more expensive. Whatever the reasons, transgender people have sometimes become very ill because they were afraid to visit their providers.

In other words, Perkins made the claim that being an lgbt has "negative health consequences," but cited a pro-gay document which in part said the health problems lgbts face have more to do with dealing with an unaccepting society.

If he weren't so consumed with using the material inaccurately, Perkins would realize that Ten Top Issues actually makes the case for ENDA. Less worries about how you would be perceived on the job as an lgbt leads to less stress. And less stress leads to good health.

Gone are the days when folks like Robert Knight brazenly cited the discredited Paul Cameron studies during their Congressional testimony.

But as Perkins proves, members of the religious right still have a way of distorting lgbt lives to suit their agenda.

Sign the petition to keep Perkins and company from getting away with deceptions like this.

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