D.C. mayor apologizes for award to leader of ex-gay movement

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 30, 2010

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty apologized Thursday for his decision to issue a certificate of appreciation honoring the leader of the "ex-gay" movement, which believes homosexuals can be "rehabilitated." But local gay leaders said they were not satisfied.

Fenty's statement came one day after local and national gay rights leaders demanded to know why he had honored Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of ExGays and Gays.

On Wednesday, Griggs's group sent out a news release heralding the fact that the District and its mayor had honored one of its leaders. According to a copy of the certificate, Fenty (D) signed his name to a statement thanking Griggs for her "dedication, commitment and outstanding contributions" to the ex-gay movement.

Mafara Hobson, a Fenty spokeswoman, called Griggs's award a "staff-level error."

"We apologize for the error as it runs contrary to the mayor's vision of a more open and inclusive city," Hobson said. "The mayor is proud of his ardent support of the LGBT community."

But leaders of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington are calling on Fenty to denounce the ex-gay movement and further explain the process in which Griggs was selected for the honor.

"Stating it was a staff error doesn't cut it," Bob Summersgill, a longtime Washington area gay rights leader, posted on the GLAA blog. "How was the error even possible? What vetting process does an honorary certificate go through? Who initiated the certificate, who approved it, who processed it? Why was this not flagged for possible political impact and given a higher level of review?"

Rick Rosendall, GLAA's vice president for public affairs, wrote Hobson on Thursday, demanding that Fenty respond to the questions outlined by Summersgill. Hobson said that "the proper process wasn't followed" but that "beyond that" she said she couldn't comment because it's a "personnel issue," according to an e-mail posted on the GLAA Web site.

Rosendall accused Fenty of "stonewalling."

"The Mayor is not helping himself by this response," he wrote to Hobson.

The issue has become one of the first political tempests of this year's mayoral race. D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, Fenty's chief rival in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary, issued a statement accusing the mayor of embarrassing the city.

"For the mayor to issue a certificate of appreciation honoring an organization that has done so much to alienate so many is not only an insult to the LGBT community, it is yet another example of the insensitivity of his administration," Gray said. "It is an embarrassment to our city that he would make such an offensive mistake. It was the Mayor's signature on the certificate, not a staff member's, and I hope the Mayor will personally take responsibility."

Griggs, who lives in Virginia's Northern Neck, defended her honor. She said she has been a leader of the local and national ex-gay movement for almost a decade. Last year, her group successfully sued the city to have ex-gays recognized as a protected class under the city's Human Rights Act.

"I obviously didn't nominate myself," Griggs said. "This was brought to the mayor by a D.C. resident, and I was given an award."

Griggs also defended her movement, saying scientists have yet to discover a "gay gene."

"We believe people have a right to self-determination," Griggs said.

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