(CNSNews.com) - Sen. John Kerry's declaration Wednesday that homosexuals don't have a choice about their sexual orientation has enraged individuals who identify themselves as "ex-gays."
In response to a question at the third presidential debate, Kerry made reference to Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter, Mary. Kerry said she was "being who she was born as." His response angered Lynne Cheney, the vice president's wife, as well as ex-homosexuals.
"Senator Kerry, in his answer, basically invalidated me as a person," said Jeralee Smith, a self-proclaimed former lesbian who runs a support group for "ex-gay" educators. "I have experienced significant change in my sexual orientation and my feelings."
Kerry's comment came in response to a question moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News directed at President Bush. Schieffer asked, "Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?"
Bush told Schieffer he didn't know. But when Schieffer turned to Kerry, the Massachusetts senator immediately brought up Mary Cheney as evidence that homosexuals are born that way.
"I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as," Kerry said. "I think if you talk to anybody, it's not choice. I've met people who struggled with this for years, people who were in a marriage because they were living a sort of convention, and they struggled with it."
Ex-homosexuals told CNSNews.com that Kerry obviously didn't have a grasp of the issue. Even though some research has pointed the possibility of a "gay gene," other scientific studies have shown that environmental factors are equally responsible for a person's sexual orientation.
Shortly after Kerry made the remark Wednesday, reaction started pouring into Warren Throckmorton, a professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. Throckmorton said ex-homosexuals expressed outrage to him about Kerry's comment.
"Kerry's views, unfortunately, present a view of homosexuality that science does not support," Throckmorton said. "Bush, wisely, has reserved judgment and his views are closer to where science has progressed to at this point. I'm concerned that Kerry misled the country."
Throckmorton, considered an authority on sexual orientation research, recently released his own documentary, "I Do Exist," which chronicles the lives of ex-homosexuals.
"If people are born gay and they're being who they are, then what about all these ex-gays?" he asked. "What about all the people on my film, 'I Do Exist,' who once believed they were born gay, but through a process of change and reflection, now are attracted exclusively to the opposite sex."
One of the people who contacted Throckmorton was Chad Thompson, 25, of Des Moines, Iowa, who described himself to CNSNews.com as someone who was confused about his sexuality as a teenager. Thompson runs a group called Inqueery, which helps ex-homosexuals in schools.
"It sounds like John Kerry is saying that I don't exist," Thompson said. "I certainly wouldn't want someone representing me who isn't even willing to acknowledge that I'm here."
Thompson added: "I wasn't surprised by the position that he took. But the way in which he stated it really was an insult to the tens of thousands of people that have struggled with homosexual orientation and have chosen to come out on the other side."
A spokesman for the Kerry campaign didn't return a message Thursday. The Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual activist group supporting Kerry, released a statement Wednesday accusing Bush of putting "politics ahead of the science" on the homosexual choice question.
Some ex-homosexuals wish Bush knew more about them so he could have given a more definitive answer at the debate. One such person is Alan Chambers, executive director of Exodus International, a Christian ministry that counsels homosexuals.
In his personal capacity, Chambers, a former homosexual, supports Bush. In a letter he drafted to the president, Chambers said he was proud of Bush's leadership, but he wanted him to better understand the issue and get to know ex-homosexuals.
"We all have a choice to do what is best, and with regard to acting on my homosexual feelings and inclinations, I did not choose God's best for me or for society when I chose to act upon them," Chambers wrote. "However, I did finally choose to live beyond those feelings and today I am not a homosexual nor am I tempted to be one."
Exodus International plans to make a public pitch Friday, said Randy Thomas, the ministry's communications director. Thomas, also an ex-homosexual, said he was personally offended by Kerry's comments, but not necessarily surprised.
"There is absolutely zero scientific evidence that would suggest people are born gay," Thomas said. "It's a simplistic answer that will pander to people that he is winking at when he says he is not for gay marriage. But in reality, he promotes rhetoric that is straight out of a gay activist brochure."
Kerry's answer aside, ex-homosexuals had praise for Schieffer for merely asking the question in the fashion he did.
"Just the fact that the question was asked was incredible," said Smith, a teacher from Grand Terrace, Calif. "It is indicative of the progress we've made as a movement."
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Kerry's 'Tawdry Political Trick' Angers Lynne Cheney (Oct. 14, 2004)
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