A Look at Debate Over Therapy for Gays, Lesbians
The Texas Republican Party is considering endorsing psychological treatment that seeks to turn gay people straight. Adding such language to its new platform would contrast with efforts in some other states to limit such counseling.
Here are some questions and answers about the issue:
Q: What sort of practice is involved?
A: The controversy concerns a range of practices known by various terms, including gay conversion therapy and reparative therapy. The aim is generally to try to change a person’s sexual orientation, or to lessen their interest in engaging in same-sex sexual activity.
Q: What do experts say about the practice?
A: The American Psychological Association and other major health organizations have condemned the practice, and said it should not be used on minors because of the danger of serious psychological harm. Smaller groups, including the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, have defended the practice.
Q: Have any states passed laws dealing with this issue?
A: California and New Jersey have both passed laws barring licensed therapists from trying to turn gay youth straight, and both laws have been upheld in court. Similar bills have been proposed in several other states. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, signed the ban in his state against the wishes of some conservatives, saying the health risks entailed in trying to change a child’s sexual orientation overrode concerns about parental choice.
Q: How does religion fit into the debate?
A: Some advocates of conversion therapy have asserted that prayer and religious faith can be helpful in suppressing or overcoming same-sex attractions. However, the largest Christian ministry engaged in such work, Exodus International, closed last year and its leader apologized to the gay community for inflicting "years of undue suffering." The laws passed in New Jersey and California do not cover the activities of pastors and unlicensed counselors who provide therapy through church programs.