SAN DIEGO, Calif. The National Education Association, at its annual convention, voted July 3 to support member efforts to lobby for state and federal legislation protecting same-sex marriage and civil unions.
The five-point proposal approved by delegates also included wording that would support "such actions as may be appropriate" to "repeal any federal legislation and/or regulations that discriminate against same-sex couples."
The action was a disappointment, but not a surprise, to Greg Quinlan, a former homosexual who now serves as a director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays and a consultant for the New Jersey Family Policy Council.
"It doesn't matter what the outcome is," Quinlan said. "It matters that we are obedient; it matters that we are salt and light and we present the truth."
Quinlan, a lobbyist, attended the convention as part of the Ex-Gay Educators' Caucus, which hosted a secular exhibit hall booth that distributed resources about leaving the homosexual lifestyle. Their focus, he said, was not to convert, but to inform.
The exhibit was one of a handful of vendors presenting traditionally conservative causes including the Bible Literacy Project, Creation Truth Outreach Inc., the NEA Creation Science Educators Caucus and the Conservative Educators Caucus.
About a dozen people are members of the Ex-Gay Caucus, Quinlan said, adding that there is also "quiet, clandestine support inside the NEA. There are other ex-gays that are afraid of the NEA because of the way the NEA operates."
Over the years, the liberal-leaning NEA, the nation's largest union, has adopted resolutions and amendments supporting gay and lesbian causes, including curricula embracing the lifestyle.
According to the conservative watchdog Eagle Forum, the NEA approved at least 15 pro-gay resolutions, often under the guise of "diversity," in 1995 alone.
Ministering in such an environment, Quinlan said, is tiring. Although there are discreet moments of thanks, the booth volunteers, he said, are generally subjected to condescending behavior and occasionally snarky diatribes.
"A lot of immature teachers roll their eyes, chuckle," the former homosexual said. "They bully as good as anyone. But many are sincere, asking questions and our response is a person has a right to self-determination. In church we call that free will.
"Everyone talks about choice. Life is saturated with choice. What we are asking for is an informed choice, that educatorsthe students and the teachershave all the information to make an informed choice."
Quinlan's claims of intolerance appeared to be supported by a YouTube video of a farewell speech by lead NEA attorney Bob Chanin, who is retiring after 41 years of service to the union.
In his July 6 farewell speech to the audience, Chanin took a swipe at conservative criticism of the NEA's liberal policies.
"Why are conservative and right-wing bastards picking on NEA and its affiliates?" he posed to the group. "It is the price we pay for success. NEA and its affiliates have been singled out because they are the most effective unions in the United States and they are the nation's leading advocates for public education and for the type of liberal social and economic agenda and social agenda that these (conservative) groups find unacceptable. NEA will continue to be attacked as long as we continue to be effective advocates for public education, for education employees and for human and civil rights."
Despite the environment, Quinlan and his caucus are determined to make their information available to its rank-and-file membership although the union leadership has refused to distribute it. The stakes, he said, are too high.
The lobbyist said his own experiences, coupled with more than 100 studies, show that homosexual behavior is social and not biologically based. He pointed to a 2008 brochure published by the American Psychological Association, which had long promoted the concept of a "gay gene."
The newest APA publication removed a statement suggesting "that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person's sexuality." It was replaced with a more nuanced statement downplaying any gene connection:
"There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors." The new brochure reads. "Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles ..."
"Homosexuality," Quinlan said, "is not hard-wired."
Back to basics
The timing of the action was particularly disturbing to California pro-family advocates in light of a state budget crisis that is forcing districts to make significant cuts in electives and classroom size. Now, they argue, is the time for teachers and students to focus on the basics of education.
"This is especially egregious when you consider that teachers in California contributed more to support the traditional, man-woman marriage amendment than they did to defeat it," said Candi Cushman, education analyst for Focus on the Family Action, told CitizenLink. "If the NEA is so brazen to use its resources to push government-sanctioned same-sex unionsand oppose voter-supported traditional marriage lawsthis would unnecessarily alienate a large portion of its members, not to mention contradict the viewpoints of a majority of the public whose tax money funds public schools."
Jeralee Smith, a founder of the Conservative Educators Caucus, agreed, adding that the union should be serving children, not politics.
"I believe if the union could get out of the far left agenda and just focus on education that it would be a great boon to society," she said. "But I believe it tears society down with some of the efforts that it extends."
ACTION POINT: In many instances union workers are protected from paying dues toward political activities in which they disagree. In some states, workers may opt to join a separate union that is more in line with their beliefs. For more information on worker rights, visit the Christian Educators Association International at www.ceai.org; the Association of American Educators at www.aaeteachers.org or National Right to Work at www.nrtw.org.