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‘You can’t pray away the gay’

By Aaron Blevins, 10/04/2012

Gov. signs ban on sexual orientation conversion therapy

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Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to sign the nation’s first legislation that bans sexual orientation change efforts has been lauded by LGBT groups across the country and locally.

Authored by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), SB 1172 prohibits children under 18 years old from undergoing gay conversion therapy — or reparative therapy. Lorri Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, praised the bill, and said she hopes it will “set the stage” for similar laws across the country.

“Fortunately, in California and probably around the country, more parents are understanding that sexual orientation is not something that can be prayed away,” she said. “You can’t pray away the gay.”

The center occasionally encounters young people who have been subject to the practice, which Jean said has been discredited by every reputable health authority in the country. She said the “therapy” has resulted in depression, suicide and other “horrible ramifications.”

“The so-called ‘reparative therapy’ has ruined the lives of young people. …It is not possible to change one’s sexual orientation,” Jean said, referencing research from the American Psychological Association and other organizations. “That’s science. That’s medicine.”

She said organizations that attempt sexual orientation change are oftentimes affiliated with extreme religious groups, and that some of the leaders of the movement are in California.

In fact, according to Truth Wins Out, the first “ex-gay” ministry was started in San Raphael in 1973 by John Evans, Rev. Kent Philpott and Frank Worthen. Evans eventually denounced the ministry, but a book authored by Philpott caused the movement to spread, according to the site.

In a press release, Lieu referred to the practice as “quackery,” and praised Brown for signing the bill. He said that listening to the accounts of victims affected by the practice is confirmation that it is “evil.”

“No one should stand idly by while children are being psychologically abused, and anyone who forces a child to try to change their sexual orientation must understand this is unacceptable,” Lieu said.

A handful of groups, including the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), have expressed their intent to challenge the legislation in court.

“I read the lawsuit and, as a matter of fiction, it is a good read,” Lieu said. “But from any reasonable legal standard, the lawsuit is frivolous. Under the plaintiff’s argument, the First Amendment would shield therapists and psychiatrists from medical malpractice and psychological abuse claims simply because they use free speech in their medicine. That is a novel and frivolous view of the First Amendment.”

Attempts to reach representatives of NARTH were unsuccessful by deadline.

 

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