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Jeff Graubart and Thomas Goree in protest of the Exodus Freedom Conference

AARON PENNOCK / apennock@marion.gannett.com

SUPPORTS HOMOSEXUALITY - From left, Jeff Graubart and Thomas Goree talk as they stand near the Adams Street entrance to Indiana Wesleyan, holding flags in protest of the Exodus Freedom Conference. The men drove to Marion from Chicago to protest the event.

Protesters rally against group's message, say gay rights stymied



Marion Chronicle Tribune - Marion,IN,USA - LINK

As the annual Exodus Freedom Conference began in the Phillippe Performing Arts Center auditorium, a group of about 12 people with the Gay Liberation Network stood at Indiana Wesleyan University's main entrance in protest.

"We consider the Exodus network and other so called 'ex-gay' ministries dangerous, particularly to gay youths," said Bob Schwartz, a member of the GLN coordination committee. "They're taking the focus off of adults, where they've had one abysmal failure after another, and are moving toward youths, and we consider this child abuse."

The group of protesters traveled from Chicago on Tuesday and ended up arriving after the conference's first session was under way. They were quickly told to moveby campus security officers to IWU's main campus entrance on Adams Street, since the campus is private property.

Despite being moved far away from the Phillippe Center, the group of protesters held large signs, some of which read "Opposition to equal rights is bigotry" and "The ex-gay movement is fraud."

Schwartz said the protesters disagreed with Exodus' message that people can change their sexual orientation.

"I'm 67 years old, and I've been gay all of my life," Schwartz said. "I believe I was born this way. ... Sexual orientation is not something people choose or put on or take off."

The protesters included an Indiana resident.

"I wanted to be involved as much as I can, and this one of the things in Indiana," said 18-year-old Justin Weaver, a Winimac resident. "... I don't think there's any real truth behind (Exodus' mission), and it's just another of quick make money scheme."

The Rev. Deborah Lake, with the Sankofa Way Faith Based Organization, said being visible was the most important thing protesters could do.

"In the visibility, we fracture the perception of those who are spreading homophobia and want to validate their own views as the majority," Lake said. "... (Exodus International) is teaching some young people to hate themselves, hate a member of their families and hate a group of people they don't even know."

Just before the conference began, Exodus International Executive Vice President Mike Goeke said he was aware that protesters were planning on showing up.

"We pretty much get protesters of some kind every time we do an event," he said. "The thing we try to protect are the people who come to the conference. We don't want to disrupt them."

Goeke said the people who protest and the members of Exodus International have different views, and the organization presents the opposite side.

"Our target is people who are unsatisfied; our target is not happily gay people," Goeke said.

Originally published June 28, 2006


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