Q&A: Diane Gramley, American Family Association of PA, on the push for LGBT rights
One Pennsylvania-based group who’ve had to watch over the past couple years as LGBT civil rights have swept parts of the nation and begun knocking at the commonwealth’s door is the American Family Association of Pennsylvania. They’re the local affiliate of the Tupelo, Missouri-based umbrella group headed by Tim Wildmon and Bryan Fischer, dedicated to Biblical values and the so-called “traditional” American family.
In researching this week’s cover story on state Rep. Brian Sims, I spoke with the local group’s head, Diane Gramley of Venango County in Western Pennsylvania.
Having been on the group’s email list for the last couple years, I knew where they stood on most issues. I’d originally gone into it thinking we’d talk about House Bill 300 and Senate Bill 300, the non-discrimination act in Pennsylvania, but it went into much, much more. None of this interview made it into the final version of the profile, after editing, so I’m providing the full Q&A with Diane Gramley here.
I’m on your email list, and I’ve seen the stuff you’ve written regarding House and Senate Bills 300. I wanted your take on why you oppose that and what you think is going on in the legislature.
Well, all we have to do is look at other states which have passed similar laws and see what will happen to Christian business owners. For example, in Oregon, I know if you’re on the emails, you’ve seen some of the examples I’ve given. [In Oregon] there is a baker who would not bake a cake [for a lesbian couple] and was sued.
There was a photographer in New Mexico and she was fined, I believe $7,000, for not photographing a same-sex commitment ceremony. You know, there’s just—Indianapolis; Tennessee, there was a T-shirt maker that would not print pride T-shirts for a pride event [Note: This actually happened in Kentucky]. So, there are various examples around the country of what has happened when these types of ordinances have passed.
Look at Philadelphia. Right there in your backyard. When Philadelphia added sexual orientation to their practices ordinances, look at what’s happened with the harassment of the Cradle of Liberty Scout Council since 2000, 2001, 2002. That’s my concern. If such a law as HB 300, SB 300 passes, the same types of scenarios will occur in Pennsylvania.
Do you think there’s any way to write that law in which both parties you describe could be happy?
No, I really don’t think there is. Because Chai Feldblum, who was one of President Obama’s cabinet appointees, she said that when it comes to gay rights and Christianity, Christian beliefs, that gay rights will win all the time when such laws are passed. So, that’s the purpose of such laws as HB 300. The purpose of such laws are, the main purpose is to silence us who oppose the normalization of homosexuality.
So, you don’t think that LGBT groups would ever give any room on that?
We have not seen any indication of such. In the case of Washington, there’s been a homosexual man who had been a customer with this business, a florist. So, he knew the owner, they had a good relationship. But when he came in and wanted her to decorate for the same-sex commitment ceremony, you know, as soon as she refused to, he got very irate, calling her all sorts of names, and sued.
So, even though they were friends up until that point, you see what’s happened. She’s been sued by the state of Washington. I don’t think so, because homosexual activists view the church, view those who strongly believe in what the Bible says, as their major obstacle to having homosexuality celebrated throughout the country. We see time and time again that it’s not a matter of them wanting to have, to be accepted, they want us to celebrate their sin—that’s what it is.
The LGBT caucus has really grown a lot this year, even adding some Republicans on board. Assuming that it continues to grow, do you think this law and others like it are inevitable?
Nothing is inevitable, except death and taxes. I don’t believe it’s inevitable and I believe that if people are thoroughly—if it’s thoroughly explained to most legislators, or the average Pennsylvanian as to what passage of such a law would mean, it would never pass. Beyond that, beyond the scenarios I gave you, it also adds gender identity. It would also add gender identity to the PA human relations act, and what does that open? What kind of situation does that open?
It could have everything to do with the bathrooms. So, if passing HB 300 or SB 300 means that we will allow men in the women’s restroom, the average Pennsylvanian, and the average legislator, will not support such a bill [Note: The text of HB 300 and SB 300 have not been posted to the state's legislative website yet]. If it’s thoroughly explained to them what it means to have that terminology added to the human relations act, it will not pass.
Here in Philadelphia they recently passed a bill that would create gender-neutral bathrooms in city buildings. Would that be a compromise the American Family Association would accept in that scenario?
I’d have to see the set-up. I mean, I wouldn’t want to say yes or no. Just, gender neutral, how is that defined in the law itself.
OK. So, we have two openly gay members of the state House currently, Brian Sims and Mike Fleck. Are you worried about the work that they’re doing in Harrisburg—not just HB 300, but, say, the anti-bullying bill?
It’s the same type of situation. The anti-bullying bill is not necessarily about anti-bullying. To me, an anti-bullying bill does not have a list of protected classes. All students should be protected. I know the U.S. Department of Education is pushing this anti-bullying thing with sexual identity and orientation.
As far as being concerned, I know when Mike Fleck came out in December, he said nothing had changed. But down deep, I knew that things had changed, because most of those legislators, no matter where they’re at, or what level of government it is, who are open homosexuals, will be pushing their agenda.
And that’s the evidence right there. They both signed onto HB 300, and I know that Fleck was part of Equality Forum in April. I am concerned. But they’re saying they’re being discriminated against. One of the main mantras is that being gay can get you fired.
Right. That’s true. It can.
I’ve been to many local township or borough or even county meetings where that’s one of the main lines they use. But where’s the evidence? We have two open homosexuals who are state legislators. We have Dan Miller, who ran for mayor in Harrisburg, an open homosexual. He’s the controller right now, you know. So, where’s the proof that they’re being discriminated against?
OK, but that’s them. That’s three people. Wouldn’t it be easier for people who are gay to have laws in place to say they couldn’t be fired or couldn’t be refused staying in a hotel, just for their own sake?
But where’s the proof that it happens? That’s my whole thing. Where’s the proof that such happens?
Are you saying it doesn’t happen at all?
I’m not saying it doesn’t happen at all, but as far as the need to pass a law that you get into a situation where a homosexual is—if this law passes, if a homosexual is not hired or maybe fired from their job simply because they’re not doing their job properly, then their excuse could be, ‘I’m going to sue the company because I was fired because I was a homosexual.’ You could set up scenarios like that.
I guess that’s a possibility. But you could say that about anything, about the Civil Rights Act.
Which has nothing to do with homosexuality. The civil rights fight was dealing with an immutable characteristic. No one can change their skin color. No one can change from where they—their nationality. With the homosexual rights—quote, unquote, rights fight—they’re talking about something that can be changed. Homosexuality is not immutable. And I know a number of ex-gays. So, it is not something that cannot be changed.
Well, other people, not you, might argue the exact opposite. That it can’t be changed.
Yes, there is a bill to ban reparative therapy.
Right. Our former legislator, Babette Josephs, introduced it last session.
Things like that, that’s something else that’s still being pushed in Harrisburg. Are you really saying that aspect of people’s lives can be changed?
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