“Ex-gay” therapies, often called “conversion” or “reparative” therapies, have received a healthy dose of (appropriately negative) attention this year: Prominent “ex-gay” leaders Alan Chambers and John Paulk apologized for their former anti-gay activism; one of the largest “ex-gay” ministries, Exodus International, shut its doors; and legislators in several U.S. states have moved to ban state-licensed professionals from performing therapy aimed at “treating” homosexuality in minors.
This post highlights some of the most recent developments on these issues—with brief updates from California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Brazil, Lebanon, the U.K. and elsewhere.
The Battle Over “Conversion” Therapy in Courts and Legislatures in the U.S.
Debates over “conversion” therapy continue in legislatures and courts in several states in the U.S.:
- Legislators in Massachusetts held a hearing yesterday on legislation introduced by State Representative Carl Sciortino, Jr., that would prohibit state-licensed health professionals from engaging in “sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts” (that is, “conversion” therapy) with minors. The Children’s League of Massachusetts has published a fact sheet about the bill, available here. Boston Magazine provides additional details.
- Several legislators in New York have sponsored similar legislation this year. As Gay City News noted in May, however, major LGBT organizations in the state aren’t treating the proposals as a priority, and have had little to say about them. The Empire State Pride Agenda, for example, does not list any of the bills in the “current legislation” section of its website. The bills have not received votes or hearings.
- In New Jersey, legislation to restrict “conversion” therapy has received much more attention, passing both houses of the state legislature by a comfortable margin. The proposed law is still sitting on Governor Chris Christie’s desk, awaiting his signature or veto. Though Governor Christie has not taken a public position on the bill, he has voiced opposition to anti-gay therapies as a general matter.
- A New Jersey court has scheduled a hearing for this Friday in a lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, a group that offers counseling for people “struggling” with homosexuality. This blog reported details of the lawsuit when the SPLC filed it last fall. Earlier this week, anti-gay activist Maggie Gallagher spoke out against the SPLC suit in a short post on the National Review’s website.
- In California, a federal appeals court is still considering whether to allow the state’s first-of-its-kind law against “conversion” therapy to go into effect. Several groups have challenged the law as unconstitutional. Like the proposals in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, the California law only applies to state-licensed professionals, and it only applies to therapy with minors; these limitations on the law’s scope make it more likely that the court will defer to the legislature and allow the law to take effect. Indeed, after the appeals court heard oral arguments on the law in April, several commentators predicted based on the judges’ questioning that the law would survive the constitutional challenge. The court, however, ordered the parties to file additional briefs after oral argument, and it has yet to render a decision.
Trouble for “Ex-Gay” Pride
Those who promote “ex-gay” therapy have also faced challenges outside of legislatures and courtrooms.
Though “ex-gay” therapy advocates had declared July to be “Ex-Gay Pride Month,” for example, they have postponed the month’s main event. Voice of the Voiceless (VOV), an organization supporting “ex-gays,” reported the postponement in a strange announcement on its website last Friday, writing: “Due to some anti-ex-gay extremism, that has occurred since we first announced Ex-Gay Pride 2013, the July 31 Lobbying Day on Capitol Hill and Evening Dinner/Reception at the Family Research Council has had to be moved and postponed to an undisclosed location in September.”
As LGBT equality advocates have been quick to note, however, the claims of “anti-ex-gay-extremism” are both vague and completely unsubstantiated.
Wayne Besen, the president of Truth Wins Out, has challenged VOV president Christopher Doyle “to come forward and release the names of LGBT activists and organizations that have allegedly jeopardized his organization’s security.” Besen adds: “Until concrete allegations are made, we can only assume Dole is making an excuse for his organization’s abject failure to produce a viable Ex-Gay Pride Month event.”
The “ex-gay” pride event organizers claim to be planning alternative events, including an “Ex-Gay Awareness Month” in September. In the same statement in which it announces the postponement (cancellation?) of the Pride Month event, VOV explains:
Ex-Gay Awareness Month in September will be a time to reflect on the discrimination and marginalization that former homosexuals and ex-gays experience in the public at large. It will also provide some much needed exposure to students in secondary schools and colleges across the country to learn about the plights, challenges, and tribulations facing ex-gays in our culture.
It’s unclear how VOV will go about bringing its “awareness” campaign to schools. (I hope it fails.)
“Ex-Gay” and “Conversion” Issues Abroad
Debates over “treatments” for homosexuality have recently made the news in several other countries as well:
- According to Care2.com, lawmakers in Brazil abandoned a bill that would have allowed “ex-gay” therapies. Care2 reports that in 1999, Brazil’s Federal Psychology Council prohibited medical professionals from treating homosexuality as a disorder or disease; the new bill would have lifted that prohibition. It’s important to note, however, that the bill was merely withdrawn, not defeated; it may, in other words, rear its ugly head again in the near future. San Diego Lesbian & Gay News provides additional coverage.
- The Lebanese Psychiatric Society (LPS) recently issued a statement affirming that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and does not require treatment. LGBT equality advocate Bertho Makso told the Huffington Post that the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health had been working with the LPS for several months on the issue. Makso commented: “While the World Health Organization (WHO) and many countries in the West declassified being gay as a ‘disease’, Lebanon is the first Arab country to do so.” The Society’s announcement came after various medical professionals appeared on local media stating that being gay was a disease.
- PinkNews reports that over forty LGBT and other advocacy groups in the U.K. have called on the government to ban “conversion” therapy. Members of Parliament have also called on the government to ban the practice specifically for those under 18.
- The Advocate recently reported on a much more violent method of “treating” homosexuality: so-called “corrective” rape, which, according to the Advocate story, is particularly prevalent in South Africa. The Advocate piece discussed the issue in the context of the brutal murder of South African lesbian Duduzile Zozo, age 26.
More “Ex-Gay” and “Conversion” Updates
In other “ex-gay” and “conversion” therapy news:
- Singer-songwriter Steve Grand brought attention to the issue of sexual-orientation change therapies by revealing publicly that he attended “conversion” therapy after he came out to his parents. Grand recently catapulted to Internet fame with the self-funded music video for his ballad, “All-American Boy,” which as of today has received almost 1.5 million views on YouTube. Check out the video at the top of this post for more about Grand’s story.
- Zack Ford of Think Progress reports that “ex-gay” therapists will participate in a conference of the Courage ministry. The Courage ministry calls on gay and lesbian Catholics to lead a celibate life.
- Over the last several weeks, bloggers, journalists, and editorial boards have published numerous articles and opinion pieces about the challenges facing the “ex-gay” and “conversion” therapy movements. Notable pieces include Closed for Business: The Death of the ’Ex-Gay’ Movement, by Chris Sosa at the EDGE; The Downfall of Exodus International Signals Change, by Mia Norton at the Huffington Post; and The End of ‘Ex-Gay’ Conversion Therapy, by Peter Weber at The Week.