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Hope Starts Here?

“Hope Starts Here”  was this year’s theme for the annual NEA Representative Assembly which was held in San Diego, CA, July 1-6, 2009.  Approximately 90 new business items were discussed as nearly 9,000 delegates did business and made policy for the largest, democratic, deliberative body in the world.

Among the new business items discussed was the issue of same-sex marriage.  The new business item was brought forward by the NEA Board of Directors.  See the wording below.

“NEA will support its affiliates seeking to enact state legislation that guarantees to same-sex couples the right to enter into a legally recognized relationship pursuant to which they have the same rights and benefits as similarly-situated heterosexual couples including, without limitation, rights and benefits with regard to medical decisions, taxes, inheritance, adoption, and immigration. . . NEA does not believe that a single term must be used to designate this legally recognized ‘equal treatment’ relationship, and recommends that each state decide for itself whether ‘marriage,’ ‘civil union,’ ’domestic partnership,’ or some other term is most appropriate based upon the cultural, social, and religious values of its citizenry. . . NEA will support its affiliates in opposing state constitutional and/or statutory provisions that could have the effect of prohibiting the state and its political subdivisions from providing the same rights and benefits to same-sex couples as are provided to similarly situated heterosexual couples. . . NEA will take such actions as may be appropriate to support efforts to (a) repeal any federal legislation and/or regulations that discriminate against same-sex couples, and (b) enact federal legislation and/or regulations that treat same-sex couples and similarly-situated heterosexual couples equally with regard to social security, health care, taxation, and other federal rights and benefits. . .NEA recognizes that the term ‘marriage’ has religious connotations and that same-sex marriages may not be compatible with the beliefs, values, and/or practices of certain religions. Because of its support for the separation of church and state and the right to religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, NEA supports the right of religious institutions to refuse to perform or recognize same-sex marriages. ”

Debate of this issue was cut short after a total of only about nine speakers when President Van Roekel, in an unusual move, although not against Robert’s Rules of Order, asked delegates to vote on closing debate with many more speakers on both sides of the issue still lined up to speak.  Usual procedure waits for delegates, rather than leadership, to request an end to debate.  The new business item was then adopted by the assembly.  Some delegates felt that there was not enough debate to make an informed decision on a topic which may be divisive and/or have ramifications on membership.

Susan Halvorson, NEA Ex-gay Caucus chair, at the Resolutions Open Hearing asked that ex-gays be added to the list of groups in a diverse society that should receive respect, understanding, acceptance and sensitivity under the broad category of Educational Equity.  Among others, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender persons were already on the list.  Rational to include ex-gays included a current court ruling in Washington, D.C. (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, Inc.  v.  Government of the District Office of Human Rights) identifying ex-gays as a protected class and the American Psychological Association’s 2008 statement calling on health organizations to respect a person’s right to self-determination.  After discussion, the resolutions committee denied the request.

Another area of concern is that there is no ex-gay representation on any NEA committees.  Inclusion of ex-gays has been requested for the NEA Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification Committee.  To date this request has also been denied.

Once again the NEA ExGay Educators’ Caucus had a booth at the Expo distributing many pieces of ex-gay literature to interested delegates and guests who stopped by.  Four ex-gays shared their stories of finding freedom from unwanted same-sex attraction.

The 2009 NEA Representative Assembly was a message of hope for some, but in many ways, denied hope to ex-gays and those with unwanted same-sex attraction.

Susan Halvorson

NEA Ex-Gay Educators’ Caucus Chair

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2008 NEA Representative Assembly Meets in Washington, D.C.

The 2008 NEA Representative Assembly met in Washington, D.C. , July 1-July 6. This year’s theme was “Team NEA. Commitment. Courage. Power.” As always, it was truly amazing to see 9,000 delegates discuss, debate, and make decisions affecting education.

This year the first NEA Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Open Hearing was held. Unfortunately, currently the ex-gay perspective is not represented on the newly formed NEA Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee. Another area of concern to me was that while I was attending the various pre-conference meetings, I became ever more aware of the ex-gay voice being silenced by the inappropriate use of the term “homophobe”. The American Psychiatric Association’s definition of phobia explains that it involves an extreme dread and avoidance of the object of the phobia. It seems to me that healthy dialogue spoken with respect and love are the coveted trademarks of American society and is a part of what keeps our country healthy and great.

On a more positive note, during the pre-conference Expo, the NEA Ex-Gay Educator’s Caucus did have a booth in which we were able to give out 483 pieces of literature, as well as talk with numerous people about the our caucus beliefs and goals, and answer questions the visitors had.

Susan Halvorson
NEA Ex-Gay Educators’ Caucus Chair

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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

July 6, 2007

PHILADELPHIA PA – As the National Education Association met in Philadelphia June 30- July 5, 2007, to do union business and to celebrate 150 years of its existence, the celebration of freedom rang out. Or did it? Currently the GLBT message that you are born that way, you can’t change, and if you try to change it will be harmful is one of the messages that rings the loudest.

In response to the GLBT message, the NEA Ex-Gay Educators Caucus was founded in 2004 by Jeralee Smith, former lesbian. The purpose of the caucus is to work within the NEA to make policy changes to ensure that the Ex-Gay voice is heard. In her own quest of happiness, Jeralee, for a number of years could find no support in dealing with her unwanted same-sex attraction. Because of this dilemma, she started the caucus believing that youth deserve to hear all the information, and deserve a safe environment and support to pursue their own happiness.

At this year’s NEA Ex-Gay Expo booth at the convention, 494 pieces of literature were given out and many people were able to hear the ex-gay message that “Change Is Possible” and “We are here to support you in that decision.” Although the voice is not nearly strong enough, we are hoping that before long that message will ring out loud and clear.

If you are an NEA member who is an ex-gay, and you would like more information on the caucus or on becoming a delegate to next year’s NEA representative assembly, please contact NEA Ex-Gay Educators Caucus chair, Susan Halvorson, at 888-532-4678.

Together let’s make sure that, as the GLBT message is heard, the ex-gay voice is heard as well so that people can truly make their own decisions in their pursuit of happiness.

Contact: Sue Halvorson, Chair, NEA Ex-Gay Educators Caucus


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Sexual Orientation Consensus Guidelines Include Ex-Gays

News Release:  March 15, 2006
Contact:  Regina Griggs, PFOX Director, 703-360-2225

New public school guidelines endorsed by gay group GLSEN and Christian organization CEAI

WASHINGTON, DC –  The First Amendment Center has released the first consensus guidelines to help public schools develop sexual orientation policies.  The new guidelines advise school officials to include the viewpoints of all participants in order to develop policies that promote fairness for all.  According to Charles Haynes, a primary drafter of the guidelines and Senior Scholar at the First Amendment Center, the ex-gay viewpoint in public schools is protected by the First Amendment and should be heard.

Haynes explained that incidents such as the one last year in Montgomery County, Maryland, might have been avoided had guidelines like these been in place.  In that case, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) successfully sued the Montgomery County School Board for failing to include the ex-gay viewpoint.  Haynes said, “Americans are deeply divided over homosexuality in our society.  But if public school officials and community leaders use the ground rules of the First Amendment, they can reach agreement on how public schools can guard the rights of all students in a safe learning environment.”

One of the endorsers to the guidelines also agrees that school officials should consider the ex-gay viewpoint.  “The strength in the framework of the guidelines is that all sides should be heard and this does include the ex-gay perspective, ” said Finn Laursen, director of Christian Educators Association International (CEAI).

“As PFOX continues to work for inclusion and respect of the ex-gay viewpoint in public schools nationwide, we are assured by the consensus guidelines that the ex-gay viewpoint is protected by the First Amendment,” said Regina Griggs, PFOX Director.  “In too many schools, the ex-gay viewpoint is censored or marginalized.  Now school districts are held to a standard of respect.  According to the new guidelines, actions by educators to exclude some views merely because they disagree with them constitute viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.”

The guidelines have also been endorsed by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), American Association of School Administrators, and Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

PFOX is a non-profit organization supporting families and the ex-gay community.  The First Amendment Center is associated with the Newseum and Freedom Forum.  The guidelines are available at

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Ex-Gay Teachers Form National Education Association Caucus

February 17, 2004

NEA Ex-Gay Educators Caucus Formed

WASHINGTON DC – A group of ex-gay teachers has formed a recognized caucus of the National Education Association (NEA).  The new NEA Ex-Gay Educators Caucus is chaired by Jeralee Smith,  a former lesbian.

The NEA is the largest teachers’ union in the United States. An NEA caucus is an internal entity recognized by NEA for the purpose of attempting to influence NEA governance.  Caucuses do not speak for, or act on behalf of the NEA, but advise and lobby NEA governance.

According to Smith, the Ex-Gay Educators Caucus will work to prevent discrimination and intolerance against ex-gay students, teachers, and their supporters. It will advocate a safe environment for all diverse populations, including ex-gay education employees and questioning youth.

Said Smith, “Our caucus will work with NEA to develop policies that recognize the needs of ex-gays in our education system.  We believe education is the best way to overcome society’s phobia of former homosexuals.  The caucus will also advocate alternatives to homosexuality in school curriculum to ensure diversity.”

Contact: Jeralee Smith, Chair, NEA Ex-Gay Educators Caucus

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