New York Assembly passes ban on reparative therapy ban for minors

NYSCapitolPanoramaThe New York Assembly passed a bill today, 94-23, (Wednesday, April 29) to ban the practice of reparative therapy on minors. It now heads to the state Senate.

Empire State Pride Agenda, the state’s LGBT advocacy organization, praised the move on Facebook, thanking the bill’s author, Deborah Glick, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, both Democrats, for its swift passage.

Conversion therapy, as it is commonly called, is most often used on LGBT minors to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Formally barring the process is nothing new. Numerous medical and mental health organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association and American Medical Association, have long denounced the practice. But the nationwide momentum to legally the bar practice is gaining steam following the December suicide of a young transwoman, Leelah Alcorn.

Earlier this month U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, re-introduced the Stop Harming Our Kids Resolution, which calls on states to protect minors from the practice, also known as “conversion therapy.”

President Barack Obama called for an end to the discredited practice earlier this month in response to a WhiteHouse.gov petition written by senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, and signed by more than 120,00 people calling for a ban on the practice.

Similar bills have gained steam in other states and already California, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. have enacted laws protecting LGBT youth from conversion therapy. In Texas, Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, introduced HB 3495 to ban conversion therapy. It is currently awaiting a committee hearing.

—  James Russell

Congresswoman re-introduces resolution calling for end to reparative therapy

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Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California.

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, re-introduced the Stop Harming Our Kids Resolution today (Tuesday, April 14), which calls on states to protect minors from the discredited practice of reparative therapy, also known as “conversion therapy.”

“It’s time to end this abusive quackery masquerading as medicine. Being transgender, gay, lesbian or bisexual is not a disease to be cured or a mental illness that requires treatment,” Rep. Speier said at a press conference. “That view has been rejected as scientifically invalid by the American Psychiatric Association and many other mental health groups for nearly 40 years.”

National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling lauded the resolution. “Discredited by every major mental health organization in the U.S., these unsafe programs take advantage of vulnerable transgender and LGB kids and their parents. Today’s resolution draws attention to these baseless programs and encourages states to take steps to protect minors from these efforts,” she said.

“Transgender youth face extraordinary challenges. Many desperately need real support. Nationally, 75 percent of trans youth feel unsafe at school. Unfortunately, many parents just don’t have information about what it means to be transgender. They are reaching out for insight and support, because they love their child,” NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin added. “So-called ‘conversion therapy’ offers a dangerous illusion for these families–instead it delivers harm…Today’s resolution draws attention to these baseless programs and encourages states to take steps to protect minors. Every child deserves to be loved for who they are.”

The action comes on the heels of White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett’s response last week to a “We the People” petition calling for a federal ban on conversion therapy. The petition, which generated more than 120,000 supporters, was sparked by the tragic suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen in Ohio who was forced into conversion therapy by her parents.

“We share your concern about conversion therapy and its devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer youth,” Jarrett said. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban conversion therapy for minors.”

Currently California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have banned conversion therapy. Bills have been introduced in 18 states, including Texas, that would ban the process. Texas Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, who authored HB 3495 to ban conversion therapy, is currently awaiting a committee hearing on her bill.

—  James Russell

Bill would bar reparative therapy for Texas youth; garners national praise

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Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin.

Bill filing season has ended in the Texas Legislature, and the sausage making has begun. The March 13 issue of Dallas Voice includes a list of bills that had been filed as of 5 p.m. Thursday, March 12.

Friday, March 13, was the last day for your favorite cattle callers to crack their whips. And a few of ‘em filed some doozies; some good, most predictably bad.

Among the good bills is HB 3495 filed by Rep. Celia Israel, an out lesbian and Democratic lawmaker from Austin, that would ban the harmful and discredited practice of reparative therapy on minors.

Similar bills have gained steam in other states and already California, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. have  enacted laws protecting LGBT youth from the discredited practice.

Numerous national groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and National Center for Lesbian Rights, lauded the move in a statement.

“No child should be subjected to this extremely harmful and discredited so-called therapy,” said Human Rights Campaign National Field Director Marty Rouse. “These harmful practices are based on the false claim that being LGBT is a mental illness that should be cured, using fear and shame to tell young people that the only way to find love or acceptance is to change the very nature of who they are. Psychological abuse has no place in therapy, no matter the intention.”

“We commend Representative Israel on making the lives of LGBT children a priority, as well all the local organizers who have worked tirelessly to get this bill introduced and ensure all Texans have the opportunity to grow up in a safe community where they are loved for exactly who they are,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Staff Attorney and #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator Samantha Ames.

Legislative observers expressed concern a bill condoning the practice would be filed at the last minute after the June 2014 Texas Republican Party convention voted to include a plank, submitted by Texas Eagle Forum’s Cathie Adams of Dallas, embracing conversion therapy.

Then-Texas Republican Party chair Steve Munisteri told Texas Public Radio he disagreed with the language. “And I just make the point for anybody that thinks that may be the possibility: Do they think they can take a straight person to a psychiatrist and turn them gay?”

—  James Russell

MORONS MAKE LAWS: Okla. bill protects the sanctity of reparative therapy

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Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern

If today feels like pick on Oklahoma day, it’s only because they’re competing for the title, “most homophobic bills filed in a single session.” And how could we overlook our favorite Oklahoma legislator Sally Kern!?

While other states are banning reparative therapy for minors, a bill written by our buddy Sally Kern to protect the practice passed an Oklahoma House committee, 5-3. Kern called Dallas Voice “a source of evil” in her brilliant book.

Kern has dubbed her gay torture bill The Parental and Family Rights in Counseling Protection Act.

Her bill clearly described the torture she expects gay and lesbian youth to endure in order to change to her preferred sexual orientation:

“Aversion therapy” means any counseling by a mental health provider that exposes or asks a client or patient to undergo physical pain, such as electroshock or electroconvulsive therapy, touch therapy, pornography exposure or vomit-induction therapy, in order to change sexual behaviors or gender identity expressions and/or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.

Kern said that even though nothing in Oklahoma law prevents conversion therapy, the practice is under attack by every medical and psychological organization in the country and has been declared illegal in a growing number of states. The bill has been declared an emergency meaning it would go into effect immediately after passage and signing and not wait the standard period after the legislative session before becoming law.

 

—  David Taffet

Conversion therapy proponents won’t be allowed to testify in lawsuit against JONAH

The judge in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s consumer fraud lawsuit against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing — JONAH, a so-called reparative therapy group based in New Jersey — ruled Thursday, Feb. 5 that several prominent gay-to-straight conversion therapy proponents will not be allowed to testify as defense experts.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. will be presiding over the trial, set to begin in early summer. In New Jersey courts, scientific expert opinions must be based on premises and methodology generally accepted within the relevant professional field. And Judge Bariso said Thursday that the conversion therapy proponents’ opinions are based on the false premise that homosexuality is a disorder.

Bariso wrote: “The theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel but – like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it – instead is outdated and refuted.”

Joseph Nicolosi

Joseph Nicolosi WON’T be testifying in court in New Jersey

SPLC’s lawsuit — Michael Ferguson, et. al., v. JONAH, et. al., filed in November 2012 — alleges that JONAH counselors used abusive and discredited techniques, with counselors instructing young men to undress and stand naked in a circle with a counselor. The lawsuit alleges that JONAH counselors organized group activities in which clients were directed to re-enact past abuse, and engaged in violet role-play exercuses and “therapeutic techniques” that alienated some clients and taught them to blame their family or themselves for making them gay.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of former JONAH clients and two parents of former clients, charges that JONAH, its founder Arthur Goldberg and counselor Alan Downing violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act. It claims JONAH used deceptive practices to lure the plaintiffs into their services, which can cost some clients more than $10,000 per year.

David Dinielli, SPLC’s deputy legal director, said Bariso’s ruling is “a major development in our effort to show that conversion therapy is a complete sham masquerading as science.”

The views of the conversion therapy proponents are “so discredited that the supposed ‘experts’ are not even permitted to testify in a court of law,” Dinielli continued, adding that, “Proponents of this bogus therapy lack any valid basis for their opinions promoting the abusive practice, yet they continue to scam vulnerable gay people and inflict significant, long-term psychological harm.”

According to information from SPLC, “expert” witnesses who have been specifically excluded from testifying are Joseph Nicolosi, Christopher Doyle, Dr. James Phelan and Dr. John Diggs.

Nicolosi is a psychologist and author of A Parent’s Guide To Preventing Homosexuality. He is also a founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a discredited organization which claims homosexuality is caused by psychological trauma or other “aberrations” experienced in childhood.

Doyle is a conversion therapist who leads the International Healing Foundation, founded by Richard Cohen, who was permanently expelled by The American Counseling Association in 2002 for multiple ethical violations. His conversion therapies include violently beating effigies of parents and “father-son holding” between clients and their counselors, several of whom claim to have overcome homosexuality.

Phelan is a previous leader of NARTH’s “Scientific Advisory Committee,” which promotes discredited pseudo-scientific studies. The defendants planned for Phelan to testify that conversion therapy is effective based on a bibliography of studies, including ones where “treatments” included lobotomies and electro-shock. During his deposition, he testified he made no attempt to assess the validity of the studies he compiled but merely accepted their conclusions at face value.

The defendants wanted Diggs to testify that homosexuality is an “unhealthy lifestyle” of misery and disease.

—  Tammye Nash

DC Council bans conversion therapy

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Samantha Ames

The District of Columbia Council today (Tuesday, Dec. 2), unanimously approved a bill protecting LGBT youth from the practice of conversion therapy. When the statute is signed into law, Washington, D.C., will become the third jurisdiction, behind California and New Jersey, to ban conversion therapy, also called reparative therapy, a discredited practice intended to turn gay people straight.

Samantha Ames, staff attorney for National Center for Lesbian Rights and coordinator of NCLR’s Born Perfect campaign, praised the council’s vote.

“The DC Council sent a powerful message to LGBT youth and their families that they are accepted, supported, and loved,” Ames said. “The Council has used its authority to protect our most vulnerable youth from dangerous and discredited pseudoscience that tells them who they are is wrong, and reaffirmed the consensus of every major medical and mental health organization that all children are born perfect, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The bill — the Youth Mental Health Protection Act — was authored by Councilmember Mary M. Cheh and supported by a broad coalition of organization that included NCLR, other LGBT organizations, mental health organizations, faith leaders, youth advocates, reproductive justice groups and civil rights organizations.

—  Tammye Nash

Ex-gay leader marries his husband in Oklahoma

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The happy ex-ex-gay newlywed couple

John Smid, a leader of the ex-gay group Love in Action, married his partner Larry McQueen on Nov. 16 in a ceremony held in Oklahoma.

Several years ago, we ran a story about a Dallas couple tortured with so-called “reparative therapy” by Love in Action. After the story ran, the ex-gays involved in their ordeal who had all become ex-ex-gays by then, contacted the couple to apologize for their involvement.

The couple live in Paris, Texas, where marriage — thanks to the hard work of people like Smid — is still not legal. Nice that he lives close enough to marriage equality state Oklahoma that he can take advantage of their liberal marriage laws.

We wish Smid — who has done so much harm to so many gay people — and his husband happiness.

—  David Taffet

Chinese activist wants WHO to condemn ‘gay cures’

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Xiao Chen

Officially in China, homosexuality stopped being considered a “mental disease” in 2001. But there are still thousands of clinics there that offer “gay cures,” according to All Out, an international LGBT rights organization. Xiao Chen —that’s not his real name; it’s a pseudonym being used to protect him — was one of the gay men forced to undergo such a “cure.”

In a video about his ordeal (see below) Xiao Chen, 30, tells how one such clinic used electroshock therapy to “shock the gay out” of him.

He said: “In families like mine, being gay is still seen as something that can be cured, and scam clinics prey on that fear. Now, I want my friends, my family and everyone in China to understand that being gay is normal. If we get the World Health Organization to join in and speak out against gay ‘cures’, it could create a perfect storm.It could help convince officials to finally ban these dangerous gay ‘cures.’”

He has sued the clinic and a ruling in his lawsuit is expected soon.

Xiao Chen and All Out have gotten officials at the World Health Organization to agree to meet with them. They also have a petition circulating online urging WHO Director-General Margaret Chan to denounce so-called “gay cures.”

Watch the video below. Go here to sign the petition.

—  Tammye Nash

Democratic platform calls reparative therapy quackery and calls for Texas marriage equality

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Stonewall Dallas President Jay Narey, center, at the Texas Democratic Convention

The platform that emerged from the Democratic Convention held in Dallas last week stands in stark contrast to that of the Texas Republican platform that encouraged reparative therapy to “cure” gays.

“For decades it has been beyond dispute by health professionals that homosexuality is a normal, natural and positive variation of human sexual orientation,” the Democratic platform says. “Similarly, it is clear that a person’s gender identity — one’s inner sense of being male or female — is deep-seated and cannot be changed.”

Jeff Strater, a gay delegate, was elected to serve on the state Democratic Executive Committee from Senate District 23. He said he was overwhelmed by Democrats’ response to the Republican platform.

“LGBTQ mentions are peppered throughout the platform,” Strater said, adding that each plank in the platform was passed by the entire convention.

“There were no holdouts,” he said. “No cranky ‘no’s’ from East Texas.”

Strater is not the first gay man elected to the executive committee from District 23. Gary Fitzsimmons and Buck Massey held that seat in the past.

Former state Rep. Glen Maxey said he was impressed by the planks submitted by the trans community that passed just as easily as the others. Those planks would make it easier for a person to change information on their state identification.

While LGBT is mentioned elsewhere in the platform, one whole section is devoted to “personal security and equal protection for LGBTQ Texans.”

Had Texas Republicans not made so-called “reparative therapy” an issue by calling for it in their state party platform, Strater said, most Democrats would likely not have given the concept a second thought. But with the GOP platform making headlines on the subject, reparative therapy ended up being included in the first section in the Dems’ platform relating to the LGBT community. Democrats want to ban the practice — referred to as “quackery” in their platform.

Strater said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro reflected the sentiment of the convention when he addressed delegates on Saturday: “Gov. Perry, if you believe gay people need repairing, then I would suggest your soul needs repairing,” Castro said.

Jay Narey, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said, “Democrats stand in stark contrast to Republicans — like day and night.” He said the reparative therapy issue was just the obvious contrast, but positive platform planks on issues affecting everyday life in the LGBT community’ were passed overwhelmingly.

Other planks Democrats adopted dealt with marriage equality, trans-inclusive employment nondiscrimination and personal security that call on “social, health care and public service professionals to seek out and adopt best practices in the delivery of services to all Texans.”

Narey also pointed out that while Log Cabin Republicans were not allowed even a small table at the GOP convention, the Stonewall Caucus was so large, it met on the main convention floor while other caucuses were assigned meeting rooms.

Narey said he had no idea how many people attended the Stonewall Caucus because there was no controlled access to the convention floor. Hundreds of people — and all but one statewide candidate — attended the caucus. He estimated at least 300 LGBT delegates participated, but hundreds more allies also participated in Stonewall events.

“There’s been a dramatic shift on our issues over the last four election cycles,” Narey said. “State Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa is extremely supportive of the LGBT community. He’s largely responsible.”

Strater said he was energized and motivated as a result of the convention and made quite a few new contacts that he’ll call on through the campaign. His only negative comment about the weekend concerned the Ladybird Johnson breakfast: “When [anti-gay Dallas City Councilwoman] Vonceil Jones Hill was introduced to give the prayer, there were gasps from the audience,” he said.

—  David Taffet

Stonewall Caucus at the Texas Democratic Convention

The Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus met on the main convention floor of the Texas Democratic Convention on June 27. Major candidates for statewide office and current officeholders addressed the caucus.

—  David Taffet