The federal government took sides Thursday in the battle over therapy aimed at helping youths deal with same-sex attractions as a powerful agency released a report condemning “conversion therapy” as harmful, calling for its end, and recommending that government regulators and professional associations ban it.
Children and teens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or “questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity” (LGBTQ) need positive and affirming support to develop properly, said the report issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Any attempt to “convert” or change these youths “perpetuates outdated views of gender roles and identities, as well as the negative stereotype that being a sexual and gender minority or identifying as LGBTQ is an abnormal aspect of human development,” the report said.
It concluded that because there is a professional consensus that trying to change people’s sexual expression, gender identity or sexual orientation doesn’t work, such therapies should be ended — even if it requires changes to state and federal laws.
A discussion about the report and its findings was held Thursday at the Utah LGBT Summit, part of the National LGBT Rural Summit Series hosted by the White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
The center has launched the #BornPerfect Campaign to denounce “conversion therapy” and ban it in all 50 states.
California, New Jersey, Illinois and Oregon, as well as the District of Columbia, do not permit state-licensed mental health professionals to offer such therapy to youths.
The report — which was written for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration based on the findings of a panel of researchers with the American Psychological Association — said conversion therapy could be eliminated through professional ethics codes of the APA and other organizations.
Mental health and other associations could revise their codes to say that trying to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity is inconsistent with using the “best scientific knowledge” or with nondiscrimination policies.
The White House also could take steps to block the use of the therapy, similar to its role in ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military. The administration also could discourage the practice through funding restrictions or other regulatory policies, the report said. The White House has often claimed regulatory power to bypass Congress on issues such as immigration and the minimum wage.
“The science rebukes this so-called practice, and so do we,” White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett told reporters during a call Thursday.
Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat who has introduced a bill to ban the practice nationwide, and Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, issued separate statements praising the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report. Both men said conversion therapy was tantamount to child abuse.
Supporters of sexual orientation change efforts said many former homosexuals have benefited from the therapies, but their positive experiences and outcomes are being ignored for political rather than scientific reasons.
David Pickup, a licensed marriage and family therapist and former homosexual, said the report omitted key information. For instance, he said, evidence of the efficacy of change therapies can be found in the Journal of Human Sexuality, published by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. Also, dozens of anecdotal testimonies of former homosexuals can be found at Voices-of-Change.org, he said.
Mr. Pickup, a board member of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity, recently spoke at the Safe Exit Summit in Washington by Voice of the Voiceless, Equality and Justice for All, and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays.
Christopher Doyle, director of the International Healing Foundation, noted that while the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report says therapy should be client-centered, federal and state bans would prevent it for people who want to reduce or eliminate same-sex attractions. They could receive only counseling that encourages them to accept their homosexuality as normal and healthy, he said.
⦁ Dave Boyer contributed to this report.