Washington D.C. has joined New Jersey and California in banning a dubious and toxic form of "therapy" for young people. On December 2nd, the District of Columbia City Council voted unanimously to ban conversion therapy for minors, according to the Washington Blade. The Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Amendment Act forbids licensed mental health care providers from seeking to change minors' sexual orientation or gender identity.
Conversion therapy, long touted by the so-called "ex-gay" movement, has come under increasing scrutiny by medical professionals. For example, a 2009 report by the American Psychological Association concluded that efforts to change people's sexual orientation are not only unlikely to be successful, but involve risks of harm as well. The Pan American Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and other health groups have criticized conversion therapy, while research has shown sexual orientation change efforts to be highly dubious. Defenders of conversion therapy such as NARTH have been accused of promoting dangerous junk science, misrepresenting other professionals' research, and fueling homophobia. The infamous George Rekers hailed from the NARTH's board, as many may recall.
LGBTQ rights organizations were pleased with the D.C. city council's decision. "No child should be subjected to this extremely harmful and discredited so-called therapy," said Human Rights Campaign legal director Sarah Warbelow in a December 2nd press release. "While the LGBT youth in our nation’s capital will soon be protected once this bill is signed into law, HRC is committed to making sure these kinds of protections are secured throughout the entire nation."
Similarly, the National Center for Lesbian Rights applauded the city council's decision. In a December 2nd press release, NCLR staff attorney Samantha Ames praised the District of Columbia for protecting minors.
"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."Predictably, the Religious Right was disappointed. Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, accused the city council of attacking freedom of speech and religion in a recent press release.
"The DC City Council disregarded powerful testimony by therapists who debunked misconceptions about sexual reorientation therapy and by clients who had benefited from it.Similarly, Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver blasted the legislation as an alleged affront to religious liberty in a December 4th statement.
This new law is an outrageous assault upon the freedom of speech of therapists, the freedom of religion of clients who seek help in living lives consistent with their faith, and the privacy of the therapist-client relationship."
"The unfortunate irony here is that this bill was passed in the name of ‘human rights.’ By restricting religious freedom, a fundamental human right, this bill is injurious to human rights and equality ... Liberty Counsel will continue to stand with the churches, schools, therapists, and families of Washington, D.C., in opposition to this restriction of religious freedom."In a December 5th statement, Voice of the Voiceless president Christopher Doyle condemned the bill, claiming that sexually abused children somehow benefit from conversion therapy. He resorted to using the ugly stereotype of LGBTQ people as sexual predators, mocking LGBTQ rights advocates by referring to the recent arrest of HRC co-founder Terry Bean.
"The real torture that is occurring is a life-time of hopelessness that a sexually abused child will have to undergo after they are raped by the likes of HRC’s Terry Bean. No wonder HRC was one of the key supporters of this bill. Their headquarters are in Washington, D.C. and they need to ensure access to as many young boys as possible to keep their leadership satiated. Now we have a better idea as to what Terry Bean may have been doing for those ten hours per week that he is listed as ‘serving’ on HRC’s Board of Directors, according to their latest non-profit filing."Chris? Accusing others of sexual predation might not be a smart move on your part. Just sayin'.
Conversion therapy bans are important tools for protecting LGBTQ youth from bigotry masquerading as "therapy". At stake is the health and well-being of young people, not religious liberty, a fact that more jurisdictions are beginning to understand.