Gay rights activists have condemned a new television advertising campaign released by conservative Christian groups that communicates the message that homosexuality is a choice and that gays can be healed.
"If someone you know is struggling with homosexuality, let them know there is hope for change. We are living proof. It's not about hate, it's about hope," the narrator of one ad says.
Evan Wolfson, a representative from the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, an organization which supports gay civil rights, says the new ads are anything but a message of hope.
"It's a political attack by a bunch of organizations that have a clear agenda of opposing every single measure of equality that gay people are seeking," Wolfson told CBS This Morning Co-Anchor Mark McEwen.
Janet Folger is a manager of the Center for Reclaiming America, one of the groups that produced the ad. She contends that the campaign is not about anti-gay sentiment.
"This campaign is not about hate, it's about hope," Folger says. "We're running these ads to express the message that you can change from homosexuality if you want to. We know that for a fact because tens of thousands have already done it."
Wolfson argues that the message can lead to violent acts such as the recent brutal beating in Wyoming of a gay college student, who died from multiple head wounds.
"You cannot go on TV and say that a group of people are sick, that they don't deserve equal treatment, that their relationships and families are not worthy of respect and protection and equal under the law, and then not be held responsible for the violence and discrimination and hatred that follow," Wolfson says.
Gay groups say that conservatives are running the ads before the November elections in an effort to rally support for politicians who have backed Christian issues.
Wolfson accuses right-wing groups of using the commercials to "throw red meat to supporters to elect candidates who will support their broader agenda."
"Once again they are whipping up the hatred, using gay people," Wolfson says.
Folger says that her organization has the right to air its view. "We're speaking out against the name-calling and the hostility, the intimidation that anybody who has had the courage to speak out on this issue -- whether it be Trent Lott or Reggie White have experienced the threats -- that have come to say there is room enough for those who disagree," Folger says.
Her statement referred in part to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., who has publicly said that homosexuality is an illness like sexual addiction and kleptomania. Reggie White also said homosexuality is an illness, and received death threats.
Folger says the timing of the ads has nothing to do with the upcoming elections. "We produced commercials in conjunction with the truth and love campaign that has spread the message. It has nothing to do with politis. It has everything to do with truth," Folger says.
But gay rights advocates say the claim that homosexuals should and can be 'cured' to become heterosexuals is medically unfounded and part of a larger political movement to demonize gays.
"Every medical association and psychiatric association repudiates this claim [that] people can be healed or cure. What is worse about it is these groups, the groups behind these ads, are putting forth this stuff as part of their agenda of attacking gay people," Wolfson says.
While Christian groups say the ads seek to heal homosexuals, gay groups contend that they will be healed when they no longer have to fight to be who they are.