A national gay rights group that has made a name for itself countering the so-called "ex-gay" industry — which claims to help people "pray away the gay" — is moving to Burlington.
Truth Wins Out founder and executive director Wayne Besen said he chose Burlington as a way to cut operating costs, but also believes the region's well-educated workforce will help it find new volunteers to continue its work. Besen first began thinking about the move in 2009 after he spoke at the University of Vermont.
In 2009, Vermont became the first state in the nation to enact same-sex marriage by legislative fiat rather than a court ruling. To do so, the legislature had to override a gubernatorial veto.
"Burlington is a charming college town situated on a magnificent lake with smart people who can help us monitor anti-gay religious extremism," said Besen. "By moving to Burlington, we will significantly cut costs in tough economic times. While Burlington is not a large city, it is in a great location because it is only a short flight from Boston, New York City, Chicago, or Washington."
It's not clear how many workers TWO employs and whether it will transfer those jobs to Vermont or hire when it arrives.
Truth Wins Out is a small organization that has been featured on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Rachel Maddow Show, The O'Reilly Factor, NBC Nightly News, Hannity and Colmes, CNN, The New York Times, The Advocate, The Associated Press, The Daily Beast, and The Wall Street Journal.
Among the groups that TWO monitors are The Family Research Council, Exodus International and People Can Change.
In 2006, Besen was recognized in The Advocate magazine's "People of the Year" issue. In 2009, he was named in Instinct Magazine as a "Leading Man." In 2010, Besen was awarded the "Visionary Award" at the Out Music Awards for organizing the American Prayer Hour, an event which shined a spotlight on the role American evangelicals played in the introduction of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Just this week, Maddow interviewed the Ugandan leader who championed the anti-homosexuality bill in that country.
TWO studies the "ex-gay" industry and has exposed some of its leaders as frauds. In 2003, Besen wrote the book, "Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth" (Haworth). Before founding TWO, Besen was the lead spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign.