Outcome of Battle Over Fraudulent Therapy Practices Still Undecided in NJ. Leader in Fight Warns that Gay Rights Advocates Still have a Long Road Ahead.

As the debate in Washington over gay marriage heats up, some gay rights advocates currently fighting other battles point out that there will still be a long way to go, even after marriage equality is achieved.  Troy Stevenson, the director of Garden State Equality, spoke about the issue with The American Prospect:

“The marriage-equality movement gets a lot of press [because] it’s viewed as the glass ceiling, that once we get that done, we’ve achieved equal rights. But that’s not the truth,” Troy says. “In many ways, these smaller battles are more important because they are less understood.” He points to the history of the women’s rights movement as evidence that full equality for homosexuals will not come with the stroke of a pen or a single Supreme Court decision. “After Roe v. Wade, a lot people declared victory and dropped out of the [women’s rights] movement, and now 40 years later they’re fighting the same battles again,” he says. “This is not something that we want to happen in the LGBT community.”

His comments stem from another current fight in in the gay rights movement, over the use of “gay conversion,” or “pray the gay away” therapies.

Gay rights advocates, including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), are targeting the practice of conversion therapy on the grounds that by perpetuating the belief that homosexuality is a treatable mental disorder, it helps to legitimize discrimination against LGBT people.

Not to mention the fact that these kinds of therapies have been discredited by every major medical, psychiatric, psychological and counseling organization in the U.S.  Aside from having been shown to be ineffective, many even consider these therapies to be psychologically damaging and harmful.  Despite these facts, the practice has been allowed to continue.

Homosexuality was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of pathological disorders in 1973.  But for decades, an ideologically motivated fringe industry has quietly carried on the work of trying to “cure” gay men and women.

Last year though, a bill was introduced in New Jersey that would take a major step towards ending these harmful and fraudulent practices:

Garden State Equality has been coordinating with New Jersey lawmakers to advance legislation that would ban conversion therapy for minors under the age of 18. The bill was introduced last fall by Democratic state Senator Ray Lesniak and is modeled on a similar law in California currently being challenged by proponents of conversion therapy.

The position of the charlatan “therapists” who are spearheading the opposition in California is that the ban violates their right to freedom of speech.  Lesniak points out, though, that this argument doesn’t really have a basis in reality.

“There is no scientific basis for this treatment—it’s akin to a chiropractor saying they can cure cancer by manipulating your spine,” he says. “Free speech does not mean anyone licensed to practice therapy can engage in fraudulent speech without being subject to a penalty.”

I couldn’t have possibly put it better, myself, Ray.  This is NOT an issue of freedom of speech.  It’s an issue of one group of people selling a service that is ineffective, at best,  to another group of people, based on a fraudulent claim: that homosexuality is a mental illness, and that it can be “cured.”

Still, gay rights opponents in New Jersey, including the organization  Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, or JONAH, quickly geared up to make a fight of it in their state, too, enlisting the aid of attorney Charles LiMandri.  You remember him, right?  He’s the anti-gay attorney who has committed such disgusting displays of public bigotry as calling homosexuality “destructive and pathological,” and threatening a second civil war if same sex marriage becomes legal.

They have been unsuccessful in their opposition to the bill, so far, as it was passed by the New Jersey State Senate last week.  Governor Chris Christie still hasn’t signed it, though, saying that it is a complex issue that has him divided:

“I’m of two minds just on this stuff in general. No. 1, I think there should be lots of deference given to parents on raising their children,” Christie said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t – this is a general philosophy, not to his bill – generally, philosophically, on bills that restrict parents’ ability to make decisions on how to care for their children, I’m generally a skeptic of those bills. Now there can always be exceptions to those rules, and this bill may be one of them.”

Here’s my last thought on the issue: these “therapies” are nothing short of psychologically abusive.  Sexual orientation is NOT a choice, and therapy practices that maintain that it is, and try to force people to change it do nothing but heap shame, guilt and emotional trauma upon people who have NOTHING WRONG WITH THEM.  So, while parental choice issues may be a complex topic, Governor, abuse of minors is not.  Stop pretending that it is, just so you can continue toeing the political line.

-J.C.

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