The Lamar Advertising Company installed the billboard on I-95 in Richmond, VA. They consider the message to be protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Jamie Machut, VP/TM of the company issued a statement saying:
"Thanks for getting in touch. I wanted to confirm that there are no plans for the billboard to come down."
"Please keep in mind that the advertisement is a message from PFOX and not Lamar Advertising Company. We support the First amendment right of advertisers and believe that it is in the best interest of our company and the communities we serve to accept advertising copy openly. ..."
"... We do not accept or reject copy based upon agreement or disagreement with the views presented. We are firmly committed to our policy." 9
He said that the sign would stay up as long as it’s paid for -- at least until early 2015-JAN.
Mark Holmberg, of WRTV-TV commented:
"It’s the old nature-versus-nurture bone that human behavioralists and philosophers have been picking at since before Darwin.
The bold billboard -– paid for by a controversial national group with ties to Liberty University that believes in “reparative therapy” for homosexuality -– takes an in-your-face stand on the nurture side of the fence."
Sally Mullikin, a Richmond, VA resident who actively promotes women's rights and equal rights for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender/transsexual community (LGBT) referred to the billboard as:
"Disturbing. It really is. To think that an advertising agency would hang a billboard like that over one of the largest gay communities in the state is appalling." 9
Mark Holmberg commented that Mullikin:
"... said she believed advertisers have an 'ethical responsibility' in limiting controversial speech in ads. It’s not a free-speech issue, she said, but one of ethics.
And she said she believed the group that paid for the ad – Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) – is just too hot to handle. While PFOX hasn’t been labeled as a hate group by the South Poverty Law Center, Mullikin said, groups PFOX associates with are on that list.
'They’re guilty by association,' she said, adding that the sign must come down." 9
Think Progress commented:
"The assertion that 'nobody is born gay,' — even if couched with 'we believe' in much smaller text — is factually inaccurate and does not jibe with the growing science.
Evidence has indeed suggested that there is not a single gene that controls sexual orientation. As PFOX points out with their 'not-a-twin model,' identical twins are not guaranteed to have the same sexual orientation. Nevertheless, the evidence does still suggest that factors inside the womb impact how markers on genes express themselves (known as epigenetics) and contribute to sexual orientation. Though these environmental factors take place after conception, they still help determine sexual orientation before birth, at least in studies of male sexuality. A recent new study on gay brothers, which included some non-identical twins, found additional complementary evidence suggesting a genetic impact on sexuality. Thus, twin studies may confirm that sexual orientation is not coded into DNA, but they actually point toward a 'born gay' conclusion — contrary to PFOX’s claim.
PFOX has doubled down on the claims made by the billboard, confirming their motive to promote the idea that 'ex-gays exist and that change is possible.' But while the complex causes of sexual orientation have not yet been fully documented, ample research has discounted the possibility of manipulating sexual orientation [after birth]. Most major medical organizations recommend against sexual orientation change efforts, survivors of ex-gay therapy have openly described the harm they experienced from the shame-based treatment, and former advocates of the treatment have recanted their claims and now work against the movement. California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have banned ex-gay therapy for minors because of its ineffectiveness and demonstrated harm." 12
Webmaster's personal comments:
One of the problems associated with living in a country that values and guarantees freedom of speech is that -- sooner or later -- everyone is going to be distressed by some speech or writing with which they disagree. But such distress is far less serious than the other extreme: living in a country that has laws against free speech -- including religiously based free speech -- where a person expressing their beliefs can be arrested, tried, and even sentenced to death.
I recall, a half century ago, reading John Stuart Mill's classic book: On Liberty. One sentence really impressed me. He wrote:
"If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
However, as the late Daniel Partrick Moynihan (1927 -2003) said:
"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."
So if an American, Canadian or citizen of a small number of other country finds some interpretation of facts to be in error -- as in the topic of the causes of sexual orientation -- they are quite free to challenge other people's or group's "facts." This is one of the greatest gifts to humanity provided by the Internet. If a person has the knowledge, time, and money to mount such a challenge, I would suggest that they have an obligation to do so wherever they see errors, hatred or bigotry.
David Pickup is an advisor to PFOX’s board of directors and a therapist who says that he was successfully treated for homosexuality. He said:
"There’s [sic] so many individuals in Virginia that need help to understand the real underlying issues of the causes of homosexuality." 9
When asked about statements by the American Psychological Association (APA) that a homosexual orientation is normal and healthy, he responded:
"Yes, they do. And it’s troubling because they assume that all of us who do this authentic reparative therapy -– not the junk that you hear about on the internet and various other medias -- ... believe that homosexuals are all mentally ill and they have to change and nothing can be further from the truth. ..."
"In my opinion, there’s room for both voices. One, if you want to believe that you’re gay and born that way, ok, you have a right to do that. But if you believe that, no, there’s a causation there, there’s something that can be changed, that voice deserves (to be heard) as well." 9
Temple Beth-El is a Conservative Synagogue in Richmond, VA. Its Rabbi, Michael Knopf, wrote an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch about the billboard. Referring to identical twins with different sexual orientations, he writes that PFOX:
"... uses this piece of information to form a belief ... that sexuality is a choice. And if sexuality is a choice, then people can also choose to change their sexual orientation.
First, the facts: While it is true that identical twins share DNA, those genes are often expressed differently. For example, it is not uncommon for identical twins to have different personalities, different heights and even different physical features.
For twins to have different sexual orientations does not mean that one or the other chose to switch. It simply means that the same genes manifested in different ways. Those genetic manifestations are always still beyond the control — and therefore the choice — of the individual. ..."
"... all of the prevailing theories insist that sexual orientation is not a choice. And, more to the point, homosexuality is not an illness. It needs no therapy or cure.
All of this helps explain why so-called reparative therapy for LGBT individuals is widely reported to do far more harm than good. Not only is it ineffective in converting individuals to heterosexuality — because such a conversion is unnecessary and absurd on its face — it inflicts severe psychological harm. Too often, it can result in suicide, a reality that plagues the gay community.
Advancing an argument urging LGBT individuals into so-called therapy, and encouraging their families to pressure them into so-called reparative treatments, is, in this sense, destructive and deadly. And reinforcing a wrongheaded perception that homosexuality is an abnormal and aberrant choice gives tacit consent to those who degrade, disparage and discriminate against LGBT individuals.
As a religious leader, I feel especially compelled to respond to the odious claims of groups like PFOX, ridiculous as they may be, because they speak a distinctly ungodly and irreligious message in the name of God and religion. In other words, by advancing their agenda under the banner of biblical faith, they purport to speak in my name, too. ..."
"Sentiments like those of PFOX may be in line with traditional understandings of one biblical passage, but they are based on a poor understanding of science and an even worse understanding of the major thrust of biblical faith. PFOX’s billboard, and others like it, diminish the image of God present in gay individuals, exhibit a profound dishonor to one’s fellow human beings, demonstrate a lack of love toward one’s fellow equal to the manner one loves oneself and contributes to the shedding of blood. It would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous. But dangerous it is. So rather than laugh, we must speak God’s truth and set the record straight." 11