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Sunday, February 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Feds Demand End to|Gay-Conversion Therapy

(CN) - California groups who supported the state's effort to ban "reparative therapy" on children expressed support for a report released Thursday by the federal government calling for an end to the practice.

"Perhaps the tide is turning," Dr. Jo Linder-Crow, CEO of the California Psychological Association, said. "What we all want is to end up in a place where there is support for LGBTQ youth and any mental health services they receive are affirming of their life, starting from the premise that if you take your child to someone for conversion therapy, the message is there's something wrong with you and that you need to be changed. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report is hugely important to bring the issue to the forefront."

The administration is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The report, titled "Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth," is a compilation of research from a panel of experts held by the American Psychological Association in July 2015. It concludes that trying to change a child's sexual orientation or gender identity is ineffective and damaging.

"Given that conversion therapy is not an appropriate therapeutic intervention; efforts should be taken to end the practice of conversion therapy," the report recommends.

"The report on conversion therapy reiterates the administration's support of efforts to ban the use of this inappropriate and unethical practice on minors," administration spokesman Brad Stone said in a statement. "This support includes past and current efforts at the state and local level to prohibit this practice."

Such efforts began with California's pioneering legislation in 2012 that prohibits state-licensed psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors from using sexual-orientation change and other "reparative" methods on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer/questioning patients younger than 18.

SB 1172 was authored by former democratic California senator Ted Lieu, now a United States congressman.

Four California licensed mental health providers, three organizations that support the practice and two families sued in 2012 to stop implementation of the law, but it was upheld by a Ninth Circuit panel in 2014.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the Ninth Circuit's decision that same year.

"SB 1172 essentially ended conversion therapy in the state of California," said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, a sponsor of SB 1172 alongside the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "We and many others have been providing information for this report that shows these practice are harmful and not consistent with psychiatric practices."

The administration issued its report amidst a strong outcry by mental health experts and political leaders against conversion therapy. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama also called for an end to the practice.

The Human Rights Campaign notes that California, New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon and the District of Columbia have all passed laws banning "reparative therapy" by licensed providers, and at least 17 other states have laws in the works.

"We are delighted that the president and the administration are focusing on this important issue," Zbur said. "We think the protections that LGBT youth have in the state of California be extended through the rest of the country, and we've been working to provide support for groups in other states to advance leg patterned after ours."

He added that Lieu is proceeding with a federal bill modeled after California's conversion-therapy ban.

Linder-Crow said the idea that a gay or lesbian person can change their sexual orientation through reparative therapy stems from the falsehood that homosexuality is a mental disorder.

"It's based on stigma and misinformation that homosexuality is a disorder of some kind, which it is not," she said. "This is not really contradicted, the notion that conversion therapy is not effective and that it has the potential of causing harm. Basically every major mental and medial health association has issued a statement condemning reparative therapy."

Linder-Crow pointed to Dr. Robert Spitzer, the author of a 2001 study claiming that homosexuals could change their sexual orientation who later recanted in 2012.

"He denounced the practice and he later apologized for endorsing it," Linder-Crow said. "It was quite a moment when he did that."

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