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Psychologists to review stance on
The American Psychological Association is embarking on the first review of its 10-year-old policy on counseling gays and lesbians, a step that gay-rights activists hope will end with a denunciation of any attempt by therapists to change sexual orientation.
Such efforts often called reparative therapy or conversion therapy are considered futile and harmful by many gay-rights activists. Conservative groups defend the right to offer such treatment, and say people with their viewpoint have been excluded from the review panel.
A six-member task force set up by the APA has its first meeting beginning next Tuesday.
Already, scores of conservative religious leaders and counselors, representing such groups as the Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family, have written a joint letter to the APA, expressing concern that the task force's proposals would not properly accommodate gays and lesbians whose religious beliefs condemn gay sex.
"We believe that psychologists should assist clients to develop lives that they value, even if that means they decline to identify as homosexual," said the letter, which requested a meeting between APA leaders and some of the signatories.
APA spokeswoman Rhea Farberman said a decision on when and how to reply to the letter had not yet been made.
The current APA policy, adopted in 1997, opposes any counseling that treats homosexuality as a mental illness, but does not explicitly denounce reparative therapy. The APA has decided to review the policy at a time when gay-rights groups are increasingly critical of such treatment and groups that support it.
Conservatives contend that the review's outcome is preordained because the task force is dominated by gay-rights supporters.
"We're concerned," said Carrie Gordon Earll of Focus on the Family. "The APA does not have a good track record of listening to other views."
Joseph Nicolosi, a leading proponent of reparative therapy, predicted the task force would propose a ban of the practice and he vowed to resist such a move. Nicolosi, who was rejected as a task force nominee, is president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.
Clinton Anderson, director of the APA's Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns Office, insisted the panel would base its findings on scientific research, not ideology. He defended the decision to reject certain conservative applicants to the task force.
"We cannot take into account what are fundamentally negative religious perceptions of homosexuality they don't fit into our world view," Anderson said.
One of the counselors denied a seat on the task force was Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College near Pittsburgh. Though Throckmorton doesn't advocate a specific form of reparative therapy, he argues that psychologists should respect gay clients' religious beliefs in cases where the faith teaches that homosexual behavior is wrong.
"We work with clients to pursue their chosen values," he said. "If they are core, unwavering commitments to their religious belief, therapists should not try to persuade them differently under the guise of science."
However, one of the task force members, New York City psychiatrist Jack Drescher, said the conservatives don't acknowledge the harm that might be caused when a gay patient even voluntarily undergoes therapy to suppress or change sexual orientation.
"They want a rubber stamp of approval for a form of therapy that's questionable in its efficacy and they don't want to deal with the issue of harmful side effects," said Drescher, who is editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy.
As the APA planned the policy review, it received input from gay-rights groups, including Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
PFLAG's executive director, Jody Huckaby, said reparative therapy had been particularly harmful for young gays whose parents insisted on trying to change their sexual orientation. His group contends these efforts can cause depression and suicidal behavior.
Current APA policy stipulates that no therapy should occur without "informed consent" of a gay or lesbian client. Jason Cianciotto of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said he hoped the APA would declare that no young person could ever be deemed to have given informed consent, and thus no reparative therapy would be approved for minors.
The largest ministry that does counsel gays to change their sexual orientation is Exodus International. Its president, Alan Chambers who says prayer and therapy enabled him to move away from homosexuality is among those apprehensive of the APA review.
"I had hoped for more diversity on that panel," Chambers said. "I see a lot of people who represent the other side who don't believe that people like me have a right to self-determination."
The task force may submit a preliminary report to the
APA's directors in December. Anderson said a final report
might be completed by next March.
At end of story
Two federal judges in California have arrived at opposite conclusions on whether the state's first-of-its-kind law prohibiting licensed psychotherapists from trying to change the sexual orientations of gay minors violates the Constitution. The measure remains clear to take effect on Jan.1.
U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller on Tuesday refused to block the law after concluding that opponents who have sued in her Sacramento court to overturn it were unlikely to prove the ban on "conversion" therapy unfairly tramples on their civil rights.
The opponents argued the law would make them liable for discipline if they merely recommended the therapy to patients or discuss it with them. Mueller said they didn't demonstrate that they were likely to win, so she wouldn't block the law.
Mueller issued her decision in a lawsuit filed by four counselors, two families, a professional organization for practitioners and a Christian therapists group. It came half a day after her colleague, U.S. District Judge William Shubb, handed down a somewhat competing ruling in a similar, but separate lawsuit.
Saying he found the First Amendment issues presented by the ban to be compelling, Shubb late Monday ordered the state to temporarily exempt three people named in the case before him two mental health providers and a former patient who is studying to practice sexual orientation change therapy.
The judge said during a hearing earlier Monday that he would have considered keeping the law from taking effect for all licensed therapists, but that the case before him had not been filed as a class action that could be applied to unnamed plaintiffs.
Sen. Ted Lieu, who sponsored the law, said Tuesday that because Shubb limited the scope of his decision, Mueller ruling means the law may be applied statewide at the beginning of the new year except for the three individuals mentioned.
The future of the statute remains unclear, however. Mathew Staver, chairman of the Christian legal group Liberty Counsel, appealed Mueller's decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and said he would seek an emergency injunction to keep the law on hold until its constitutionality is determined.
"I'm really stunned by this decision," Staver said. "I think Judge Shubb's decision was really on the money."
The law, which was passed by the Legislature and signed
by Gov. Jerry Brown in October, states that therapists and
counselors who use "sexual orientation change efforts" on
clients under 18 would be engaging in unprofessional conduct
and subject to discipline by state licensing boards.
Shumlin Signs Law to Ban Conversion Therapy in Vermont
"It's absurd to think that being gay or transgender is something to be cured of," Gov. Shumlin said. "Our country has come a long way in a short period of time in recognizing the civil rights of members of the LGBT community, and I am so proud that Vermont has taken a leadership role at every step of the way. At a time when the rights of LGBT individuals are under attack in other parts of the country, Vermont will continue to stand up to hatred and bigotry and show the rest of the country what tolerance, understanding, and common humanity look like."
Conversion therapy has been widely discredited by the scientific community. A 2015 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) "found that variations in sexual orientation and gender identity are normal, and that conversion therapies or other efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity are not effective, are harmful, and are not appropriate therapeutic practices."
Vermont joins California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. in enacting a law to ban conversion therapy. Earlier this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced regulations to ban public and private insurers from covering the practice.
The ban on conversion therapy takes effect July 1,
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