Opponents are weighing a lawsuit against a recently passed bill in the District that would ban therapies aimed at steering children and teens out of their unwanted same-sex attractions.
Unlike other jurisdictions, the District’s nondiscrimination law protects ex-gays, Christopher Doyle, founder and president of Voice of the Voiceless, said Thursday.
Therefore, if the bill is signed into law by Mayor Vincent C. Gray, as expected, a sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit will be prepared, said Mr. Doyle, an ex-gay himself whose group represents former homosexuals, people struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions and their families.
Elliot E. Imse, public affairs officer for the District’s Office of Human Rights, said Thursday that in 2009 the D.C. Superior Court ruled that “those who identify as ex-gay are protected under the sexual orientation trait of the DC Human Rights Act.”
“Therefore, people who identify as ex-gay can file a complaint with our office if they believe they have been discriminated against while accessing housing, employment, a public accommodation or educational institution,” Mr. Imse said.
The D.C. Council voted unanimously Tuesday to pass the Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Amendment Act of 2014, which says a mental health provider “shall not engage in sexual-orientation change efforts with a consumer who is a minor.” Violators would be subject to professional discipline and penalties.
California and New Jersey already have such laws.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights, whose #BornPerfect campaign seeks to ban this kind of “reparative” or “conversion” therapy in all 50 states in five years, praised the council for using its authority to “protect our most vulnerable youth from dangerous and discredited pseudoscience.”
The bill “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,” said NCLR attorney Samantha Ames, who recently attended a United Nations conference to ask for a global ban on the therapy.
The Human Rights Campaign also applauded the vote, saying conversion therapy falsely treats same-sex orientations as a mental illness that must be cured, and that young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people may be coerced into these harmful practices.
Voice of the Voiceless counters that young people who don’t want same-sex attractions can successfully respond to talk therapy, and bans on this counseling encourage the unproven idea that people are “born” gay and can provide cover for child molesters.
HRC co-founder Terry Bean, for instance, has been arrested recently on charges of sodomy and sexual abuse of a 15-year-old boy, said Mr. Doyle. And yet HRC is pushing for laws to keep boys “out of the counseling office,” where they might be able to heal from such traumas, he said.
On Thursday, Mr. Bean pleaded not guilty to the charges; his lawyer, Kristen Winemiller, has said the wealthy real estate developer and Democratic activist is the victim of an extortion plot.
To date, federal appellate courts have upheld both California and New Jersey’s laws banning sexual orientation change therapy for minors.
Legal victories like these have inspired lawmakers in more than a dozen states to introduce bills to ban conversion therapy for minors.
None of those measures passed, but more are expected in 2015: New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman said in September that since two appellate courts have upheld the bans, passing a ban in New York should be “a top priority” when the legislature convenes in January.
Mr. Doyle, however, predicted less interest in these bans, especially in states with newly elected Republican governors and state legislative leaders.
Despite passage of the D.C. bill, the “momentum for the gay activists has actually been taken away,” Mr. Doyle said.