Opposition to Conversion Therapy Bill-Waiting for Governor Christie

Bill A3371, the bill prohibiting licensed psychotherapists in New Jersey from providing “conversion therapy” to minors passed in the New Jersey Senate on June 27, 2013. The bill does not affect religious organizations that may still provide “conversion therapy” to minors. While Governor Christie has publicly stated that he does not support “conversion therapy,” the bill is still awaiting his signature.

The Garden State Equality gay rights organization lobbied for the passage of the bill making New Jersey the second state in the country to pass such a law. The executive director of this organization voiced his opinion that the new bill “will save lives and protect our youth.” One of the sponsors of the bill called “conversion therapy” a form on child abuse.

The American Psychological Association (APA) as well as most other national mental health organizations has denounced “conversion” or “reparative” therapy. The APA in 1997 was one of the first mental health organizations to declare that homosexuality and heterosexuality were normal human expressions of sexuality and speak of the lack of scientific evidence to support any assumption that sexual orientation could be changed.

California the only other state in the United States that has passed a ban on “conversion therapy” for minors but is also waiting for a ruling to determine if the hold on the ban will be lifted. The bill was passed on October 2012 and was to be effective as of January 1, 2013. However, the law has yet to be enacted. The Liberty Counsel filed an emergency appeal in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; on behave of the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuals (NARTH) and other proponents of “conversion” therapy to block the law from going into effect. The Federal Appeals Court heard the appeal argues in April 2013 and have yet to issue a final ruling.

In February 2013, State Representative Marko Liias of the state of Washington proposed a new House bill to investigate the effects of “conversion” therapy rather than ban it in the state. One of the stumbling blocks to the California “conversion” therapy ban is that some lawmakers are not convinced of the harmful effects of the therapy. State Representative Marko Liias has recommended having a work group of up to 15 people to evaluate the research that exists regarding the potentially harmful effects of “conversion” therapy.

Senators Deborah Glick and Michael Gianaris of New York state introduced legislation to ban “conversion” therapy in April 2013.

Put Those Feather Boas Back On! Ex-Gay Pride Month Changed

If you have been getting ready for “Ex-Gay Pride Month,” throwing off those shackles of same-sex attraction and signing up for the latest and greatest conversion therapy, you’re going to have to wait to celebrate: the event has been canceled.

Voice of the Voiceless, the organization formed specifically to organize ex-gay events and lobby in congress, has moved to declare September rather than July as the “First Annual Ex-Gay Awareness Month” because of “anti-ex gay extremism” and “security threats” on their ex-gay gala. In their press release on the subject and in responding to those that responded negatively to the celebration: “[Voice of the Voiceless has] long realized that LGBT organizations will not be our allies. We are routinely marginalized by organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA) who routinely shut us out of the debate and refuse to give us a seat at the table.”

That could be just bad science on the conversion therapy’s side. But probably bias.

The group Truth Wins Out, a nonprofit organization that challenges anti-lgbt groups and extremism, challenged Voice of the Voiceless to disclose the names of activists and organizations that were considered part of the security threats on the event. “Until concrete allegations are made, we can only assume Dole is making an excuse for his organizations abject failure to produce a viable Ex-Gay Pride Month event.” The group cites that the most popular figures that were publicized for the event were merely invited, and that the ex-gay camp is using finger-pointing in order to not place the blame on themselves for an unviable and failing campaign.

The event to replace the lobbying dinner at the capital is being led by Dr. Douglas McIntyre, co-founder of a ministry group Homosexuals Anonymous that works with conversion therapy and individuals wanting to become ex-gays. Called “Grandpa Goes to Washington,” McIntyre is organizing a 10-day road trip to Washington D.C., with stops for political rallies and culminating with a lobby in Congress for ex-gay rights, along with all of the supporters he can pick up on the way.

Of three main bullet points he is arguing against, the first is specifically against the children’s show SheZOW , the second for children to have the option be able to overcome their same-sex attractions, and finally to include ex-gays under federal hate crimes law. I suppose with sister organizations closing <> you have to choose something, right? Just anything at all and be upset about it.

We’ll have to wait and see the impact—if any—that Voice of the Voiceless and the ex-gay movement can manage to drum up over the next few weeks, but more than likely these groups will call it a success for their visibility and bemoan the fact that people don’t believe them. If there is any momentum in the movement left, there needs to be some strategy changes because they are losing popularity and credit quickly.

I n all seriousness, if you are unhappy with your gender identity or sexual orientation, you should seek professional counseling to get the help you need to be happy with yourself and your life.

Can Ex-Gay Pride Month Match that of Gay Pride?

 

If you’re upset that June’s Gay Pride month has ended, you can change your tune and celebrate for another full month by revoking your gay status.

In response to the increasing acceptance and equal legal standing of lgbtq people in the United States, the Family Research Council is launching two new ex-gay organizations and sponsoring a dinner in Washington DC to cap what they are calling the first annual “Ex-Gay Pride Month.” The new organizations Voice of the Voiceless, a lobbying group whose work is “to defend the rights of former homosexuals, individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction, and their families,” and Equality and Justice for All, sought a Presidential Proclamation (that has not come) in June to acknowledge the month of July to “recognize the unique experiences of ex-gays and former homosexuals and celebrate their existence in American culture.”

While advertising as having events throughout, the main focus is a dinner being held in DC at the end of the month. The groups cite that since DC protects ex-gays under its non-discrimination laws pursuant to a 2009 district court case filed by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays it is the only safe city to meet and celebrate. The invitation for the dinner bills the event “to celebrate the lives of former homosexuals and hear about their unique stories and achievements!” Those invited to speak include Representative Michele Bachmann, Representative Tim Huelskamp, former Senator Jim DeMint—all whom greatly oppose gay rights, board members of Voice of the Voiceless, and other ex-gay ministry organizations.

This event comes at a poor time in the ex-gay movement. Mid-June, Exodus International announced that they would be closing after 37 years of advising ex-gays and using conversion therapy. This Orlando-based group was the largest in ministry-based conversions and was situated worldwide.

The President of Exodus International Alan Chambers released an apology entitled “I Am Sorry”  aimed at the lgbtq community. He wanted to detail what he saw was wrong with the work his organization did and on what he would be working to change it. Acknowledging the highly-criticized methods rejected by the American Psychological Association, among others, Chambers said, “I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.”

Many people have criticized the ex-gay movement as being harmful in the way it “cures” people of their homosexuality and by basing what they do on improper science. Others have criticized the notion of the ex-gay movement needing a pride month, stating that ex-gays are not denied rights and aren’t discriminated against, they are simply not accepted by the lgbtq community, whom they work against.

While the events of the “Ex-Gay Pride Month” are advertised as celebrating people, with those advertised to attend and speak it will most likely turn into a forum for denouncing and vilifying the lgbtq rights movement and to try to drum up support for a failing business model.

 

Bill Banning Reparative Therapy in N.J. Approved by Assembly

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Prohibits Licensed Therapists from Performing Conversion Therapy on Minors

An Assembly panel, The Women and Children’s Committee, in the New Jersey State Legislature on June 13, 2013, has approved a measure that disallows licensed therapists from practicing conversion therapy on any person under the age of 18 – even with parental permission, The bill will next go to the Assembly and Senate for votes.

Late last month, the N.J. Senate was due to vote on the measure, but the vote was held up so some unspecified changes that could be made to the legislation.  The measure is backed by the American Psychological Association and is expected to be approved by Governor Christie.

Controversial practice, but Still an Option for Many Minors

Last year, four gay men said that their gay-to-straight program included making them strip naked and attack effigies of their mothers with bats.  They have sued a Jersey City group.

The state legislature in California passed a similar bill that was signed into law in September by Governor Jerry Brown.  A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, placed the law on hold until it can consider a challenge to the issue –that the ban violates the First Amendment rights of therapists and parents. “The law is an astounding overreach by the government into the realm of counseling and would have caused irreparable harm, “said Matt Saver, the chairman of a right-wing organization that challenged the California law.

Opponents of conversion therapy say banning the practice is having the government intervene in the lives of parents and children. They believe that the states should focus instead on educating parents and children on why therapy is harmful instead of outlawing it and creating a network of unlicensed therapists. “Banning it may simply drive it underground, where it won’t even be subject to state regulation or limited to therapists who are licensed,” argues Christopher Ferguson, associate professor of psychology and criminal justice at Texas A & M International University.”

Although homosexual was removed in 1973 from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders, many people still believed that reparative therapy was a solution for gay and lesbian people who wanted to change their sexual orientation.

The practice has drawn criticism from professional organization, yet states have been hesitant to ban the practice for minors.

Horror Tales From Conversion Campers

One such critic is Jason Utley. At twenty-five, he began attending a support group in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Evergreen, “helped people diminish same-sex attractions and overcome homosexual behavior.” A Mormon, Utley spent two years in the group and eventually left to pursue a relationship with another man.

His group was given prescriptive medicine for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia to treat what was regarded as an “addiction.” Utley didn’t take the medicine, but was talked into believing he’d been molested as a child, a reason for his same-gender attraction. The men were not allowed to see each other outside of Evergreen.

Like the other Evergreen members, Utley saw simultaneously licensed therapists who had been recommended by both the group and by officials of the Mormon Church.  Utley left the Church in 2006, after his two -year struggle to change his identity. As he states, “why depend on something with such little-documented success?”

 

 

 

Conversion Therapy for N.J. Gay Youth May be a No-No Soon.

Bill Advanced to Senate

On March 17, 2013, New Jersey’s State Senate Committee heard testimony from LGBT activist Troy Stevenson who spoke about the suicide of an individual who had tried conversion therapy which purports to fix homosexuals and convert them to heterosexuality. The Committee also heard from organizations which support young LGBT people on the dangers of conversion therapy, especially for minors. One woman recounted how she had been subject to electric shocks during conversion therapy.

Measure A3371

The bill A3371 being considered in the Senate would prohibit licensed therapists from performing controversial therapy aimed at converting minors from gay to heterosexual.  The Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee moves the bill to the Senate.  Backed by the American Psychological Association’s research, the legislation, if passed, would prohibit counseling for any person under the age of eighteen, that seeks to change the sexual orientation.

The law, even with parental permission, that bans this reparative therapy is not favored by everyone. New Jersey Family Council says “it will infringe on parents’ rights, on their ability to do what they think is best for their children.

The lead sponsor of the bill which bans licensed practitioners from performing conversion therapy on minors is openly gay Democrat from Bergen County, State Assemblyman Tim Eustace. Representing District 38, and endorsed by The Victory Fund that “elects LGBT leaders to change American politics,” Eustace spent ten years as a councilman in Maywood, New Jersey. He was Chamber of Commerce for twenty years.

New Jersey would become the nation’s second state to ban “gay-to-straight” conversion therapy.  California passed a similar bill signed into law last September by Governor Jerry Brown.  The law was set to take effect on January 1, 2013, but the United States Circuit Court of Appeals last month issued an emergency order putting the California law on hold until it can hear full arguments on the issue.

 

Pennsylvania Lawmaker Becomes Only Openly Gay Republican State Legislator

Mike Fleck, (R-Huntingdon), Pennsylvania State Representative announced that he is gay on December 1, 2012.  He is the first out gay legislator in Pennsylvania and the only out gay Republican state legislator in the U.S. until the new year.  Then, in 2013, gay attorney and Democrat Brian Sims, who defeated Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Phila) last April, joins him in the House.

Mike Fleck

Mike Fleck

His Politics Will Stay The Same

Despite his coming out, the move will not affect his committment to the Republican party.  Said Fleck “the Republican party is all about the government needing to stay out of people’s lives. I’m not a one-issue person and it’s not a one-issue party.”

In the legislature, Fleck, 39, has been considered a moderate Republican.  In 2011, he was targeted by the conservative Citizens Alliance for Pennsylvania. During his tenure, there haven’t been significant votes on gay rights issues.  According to PoliticsPA’s Keegan Gibson, registered Republicans outnumber Democrats nearly 2-1 in the conservative area of his 81st district which encompasses most of Huntingdon County with parts of Mifflin and Blair.  In 2014, his district, slightly more moderate, will include all of Huntingdon, a smaller part of Mifflin and a part of Centre County in the suburbs of State College.

In 2006, Fleck won a four-way primary for Rep. Larry Sather’s seat.  Fleck was unopposed this year for re-election.

Local LGBT Advocates Received News Well

“I’m still the exact same person and I’m still a Republican and, most importantly, I’m still a person of faith trying to live life as a servant of God and the public.  The only difference now is that I will also be doing so as honestly as I know how.”

Executive Director of Equality Pennsylvania, who came out at age 39, states that “there’s an opportunity to have an open discussion in a new way.  There’s a real live voice to talk about it inside the Capitol, inside the Republican caucus.  I hope Fleck will want to work with us.”

Diffficult Journey to His Announcement

Representative Fleck is a graduate of Liberty University, a college founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell, known for his anti-gay politics.  “Coming out is hard enough,” he told the Huntingdon Daily News,  “but doing so in the public eye is definitely something I never anticipated.”

A former district executive for the Boy Scouts of America, from 1999 to 2004, Fleck described in an article for Huntingdon Daily News what a tough time he had trying to live a heterosexual life: “I sought out treatment from a Christian counselor, but when that didn’t work out, I engaged a secular therapist who told me point blank that I was gay and that I was caught up in being the perfect Christian rather than actually being authentic and honest.”

Last year, Fleck divorced his wife.  They have no children.