- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A California congresswoman has introduced a House resolution asking all states to ban gay “conversion” therapy.

The Stop Harming Our Kids (SHOK) resolution comes after more than 120,000 people signed a petition to the White House decrying the therapy, said Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat.

 “It’s time to end this abusive quackery masquerading as medicine,” Ms. Speier said at a Capitol Hill press conference.

“Being transgender, gay, lesbian, or bisexual is not a disease to be cured or a mental illness that requires treatment. That view has been rejected as scientifically invalid by the American Psychiatric Association and many other mental health groups for nearly forty years,” she said.

Sen. Cory Booker, New Jersey Democrat, is likely to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

On April 8, President Obama and senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett said states should outlaw therapy that attempts to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction in youth.

“The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm,” Ms. Jarrett said.

Gay rights groups, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Human Rights Campaign, support state bans, which are currently in California and New Jersey, as well as Washington, D.C.

Representatives of these groups, as well as Sam Brinton, a survivor of conversion therapy, attended a Capitol Hill press conference Tuesday to introduce the SHOK resolution.

The SHOK resolution is the first proposed federal action to put an end to conversion therapy, it added.

Other groups support sexual-orientation change efforts (SOCE): These include trade groups for therapists who offer SOCE counseling; former homosexuals who say they benefited from the therapy; and others who believe people, including minors, have the constitutional right to obtain the counseling of their choice.

Opponents of the state bans note that no studies have ever been conducted on SOCE and minors, so claims about scientific proof of harm are unfounded. They also say that many “horror stories” about therapy have not been verified — authorities have been unable to identify the camps or doctors associated with the abuse.

Meanwhile, federal appellate courts have upheld state bans on SOCE.

On Monday, the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld New Jersey’s ban, saying it was constitutional.

“John Doe,” 15, sued to overturn the law, saying the therapy was helping him, and the state’s denial of it for him infringed on his rights to receive information and exercise his religious beliefs. His parents joined him in the lawsuit, arguing the law interfered with their parental rights.

The family is likely to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, said their lawyer, Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.

Mr. Staver also said Tuesday that Liberty Counsel has filed a brief with the Supreme Court in another case, King v. Christie, that challenges the therapy ban on behalf of mental health professionals.

“The State has no authority to silence only one viewpoint on same-sex attractions, behaviors or identity,” Mr. Staver said.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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