California lawmakers continue to support ban on gay conversion therapy


Saturday, Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon) publicly acknowledged that he is gay. An article in The Huffington Post notes his arduous yet inspiring journey into self-acceptance.

“I wanted to live a ‘normal’ life and raise a family. I also believed that by marrying, I was fulfilling God’s will and I thought my same-sex attraction would simply go away,” he said. Coming out as a gay man after the separation from his wife, he said, “I’m just trying to be authentic and I do owe it to my constituency to do that.”

When it comes to self-acceptance of one’s sexual orientation, there is a form of therapy sparking conversations and recent media coverage.

Gay reparative therapy, also known as gay conversion therapy, aims to change the sexual orientation of patients.

“To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective,” says the American Psychological Association.

In September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a first-of-its-kind bill into law that bans “gay reparative therapy” for minors. The law will take effect Jan. 1, 2013 and will forbid therapy aimed at changing the sexual orientation of patients under the age of 18.

“This law will ensure that state-licensed therapists can no longer abuse their power to harm LGBT youth and propagate the dangerous and deadly lie that sexual orientation is an illness or disorder that can be ‘cured,’” Equality California told CNN. 

U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller held a hearing Friday after four counselors and two sets of parents sued to overturn the law, saying the law infringes on First Amendment rights. The Associated Press reports that after reviewing the case, Mueller issued a ruling that will permit the ban on gay conversion therapy to take effect on Jan. 1. Although legislation that bans gay conversion therapy is receiving backlash, some legislators are stepping up to protect LGBTQ youth. Three House Democrats in the U.S. Congress, including Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), introduced a resolution Nov. 28 called “Stop Harming Our Kids” (SHOK). The resolution serves as a further attempt to ban “LGBTQ conversion quackery” for minors.

Opponents of gay conversion therapy are also in the courts, including four gay men and two of their mothers, who filed a lawsuit in New Jersey against Jersey City-based Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH). The lawsuit was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which claims the suit is the first of its kind to use an anti-fraud statute to stop organizations such as JONAH from performing gay conversion therapy. 

The narrative around gay conversion therapy goes beyond the courts as well. Last week, both Dr. Drew Pinsky and Dr. Mehmet Oz received criticism from individuals and LGBTQ outlets, such as The Advocate, for hosting a show with both supporters for and advocates against reparative therapy. LGBTQ advocates claimed this created an illusion of legitimacy for the scientifically discredited practice.

Pinsky hosted “reparative therapy survivor” and LGBTQ advocate Ryan Kendall on his HLN show “Dr. Drew on Call.” Kendall says undergoing reparative therapy “drove [him] to the brink of suicide.” Despite previous promises to the contrary, Kendall was aired simultaneously with National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) spokesman David Pickup. Kendall bravely shared his story of going through reparative therapy and powerfully discredited Pickup’s statements, saying the therapists engaged in “coercive attacks against [his] identity by saying that there is something defective about being a gay person.”

Sexual orientation and our sexuality are a part of who we are as human beings. Although some say gay conversion therapy rid them of their same-sex desires, this form of therapy propagates the idea that there is something inherently wrong with same-sex relationships and sexual desires. This therapy is especially dangerous for minors, who are often coerced into treatment and must undergo humiliation and self-hatred within these programs.

As lawmakers, LGBTQ advocates and individuals fight relentlessly to put a stop to conversion therapy, we can spark national conversations that advocate for the sexual and mental health and rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation.

Printed on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 as: State upholds gay conversion therapy ban