VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — On the heels of the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission recommending that city council members ask the state general assembly to ban gay conversion therapy, a member of the commission described homosexuality as an "abomination to the Human Race" and a "mental illness."
Kenick El posted the descriptions on his Facebook page. They were among comments he wrote after sharing a news story about a transgender woman being convicted for the sexual assault of a 10-year-old girl in a bathroom.
The initial post said, in part:
This is why we need to stop giving men in dresses passes. I have daughters and I won't accept them sharing a restroom with a grown man suffering from this mental illness. Men trying to be women and women trying to be men is really confusing our children and I'm tired of seeing this nonsense promoted to our children.
After people challenged what El wrote, his follow-up comments included statements such as:
- "Homosexuality is a mental illness and should be treated as such."
- "Homosexuality is an abomination to the Human Race and it corrupts the hermetic principle of gender by interfering with the laws of nature just to gratify the lower self."
During a phone interview with 13News Now, El said the posts are his own "personal views" and do not reflect the position of the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission.
"I felt like it was very important for me just to express my views on my page in a very sincere, polite manner," he said. "I made it clear in the message, I'm not speaking on behalf of any organized group."
He said he felt compelled to speak out because he didn't agree with people "imposing" and "promoting sexual behavior" on others.
El said he "loves everyone" even though he may "disagree" with another person's sexual orientation.
"I don't think people trying to take posts from Facebook and make a public debacle out it is appropriate," El said. "I think we have a right to freedom of speech according to our constitution and freedom of expression."
He said he wanted to start a dialogue.
From its inception, the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission had these duties, powers, and functions:
- To institute, conduct and engage in educational and informational programs for the promotion of mutual understanding and respect among citizens, and the fulfillment of human rights.
- To serve as a forum for the discussion of human rights issues, and to conduct studies and propose solutions for the improvement of human relations in the City.
- To provide assistance to persons who believe their rights have been violated by identifying the appropriate federal, state or local agency to address the complaint and referring such persons to that agency.
Sylvia Nery-Strickland, Chairwoman of the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission, said in a statement:
Brother Kenick El is speaking as an individual and does not speak on behalf of the Human Rights Commission (HRC). We are a commission, appointed by and serving at the pleasure of City Council. The HRC is a very diverse group of individuals who come together for the common good and equality for all. However, each commissioner has individual beliefs, and we do not always agree. I personally do not agree with the postings and other commissioners have contacted me and they do not agree as well, but rather support and value our fellow LGBT commissioners, family members, friends and supporters.
The Hampton Roads Pride board of directors shared a letter the group sent to the Virginia Beach City Council. The letter said, in part:
It is reasonable and proper that the citizens of Virginia Beach should expect those who serve on the City’s Human Rights Commission to understand the tenets of universal Human Rights and conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the purpose of the Commission and which reflect the mission and values of the City of Virginia Beach.
- In light of this offensive public dialogue, the Board of Directors of Hampton Roads Pride request:
- An evaluation of the vetting process for all City appointees to Boards and Commissions be conducted as soon as practicable resulting in a public report of recommendations for any identified changes to the process
- All appointees of City Council be required to complete inclusion and diversity training from a well-trained and well-reputed source
The Human Rights Commission (HRC) engage with members of the LGBT and allied communities in public discussion and in alignment with the work of the HRC to “work toward mutual understanding, respect of all citizens and advocacy of human rights for all people.”
You can read the full letter below.
Hampton Roads Business Outreach said they stand with Hampton Roads Pride and LGBT Life Center. In a statement, the organization rebuked El's comments:
Hampton Roads Business OutReach (HRBOR) stands with our partner LGBT organizations, Hampton Roads Pride and LGBT Life Center, in strongly rebuking Mr. El’s statements and calling for accountability and action from the VBHRC. No person should serve on a human rights commission who does not value the existence and validity of all people. Mr. El’s lack of respect and dignity towards gay and transgender people is counter to the mission of VBHRC.
The full statement is below: