Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ending Barbaric Anti-Gay Conversion Therapy


Last year when Blue America endorsed Ted Lieu for the open congressional seat on the West Side of L.A. (Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Venice, Malibu, Westwood, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Torrance), Alan Grayson sent a letter to his own supporters asking them to consider supporting Ted Lieu as well. Grayson had plenty of reasons to get behind Lieu's progressive vision of governance, but the one he focussed on was Lieu's heroic-- and highly successful-- fight against anti-gay conversion therapy.
Right-wing cranks and fools haven't come up with a "cure" yet for stupidity, greed, paranoia, bigotry, hypocrisy or even laziness. But they do think that they've come up with a "cure" for something that requires no cure: homosexuality. It's called "conversion therapy," and here's how it "works":

In one form of conversion therapy, they attach live electrodes to your genitalia, they start showing you gay porn, and then they turn on the juice.

In another form of conversion therapy, they feed you an emetic, they turn on that gay porn (is it OK to use the phrase "turn on" here?), and then they wait until the emetic takes hold, and you puke all over the floor.

Here's another method: prayer. Or as they call it, "spiritual intervention." They try to pray the gay away. The Religious Right has set up "counseling clinics" for gays, or rather against gays, that purport to "cure" homosexuality.

Who would be so stupid and cruel as to think that conversion therapy is a good idea? Or, more specifically, which spouse of which Member of Congress would be? That would be Rep. Michele Bachmann's husband Marcus. Marcus Bachmann who runs a Christian counseling clinic in Minnesota that indulges in conversion therapy.

And the U.S. of A. is not the only land in which you find such things. If you're curious, you can look up the case of Pitcherskaia v. Immigration and Naturualization Service, 118 F.3d 641 (9th Cir. 1997), and see how it's done in Mother Russia. There, gay students are beaten up-- not only by other students, but also by the school principals. Gay students are incarcerated in mental institutions, and they are "treated" with shock therapy. When released, they are required to continue such "treatment" at outpatient clinics. Other attempted "cures" include hypnosis and sedatives. All of this came to light when Ms. Pitcherskaia, a lesbian, sought political refuge in the United States. Fortunately for her, she was not required to undergo "conversion therapy" with Marcus Bachmann as a condition of entry.

The American Psychiatric Association has unequivocally condemned any psychiatric "treatment" based on the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder. The Attorney General has written that "a growing scientific consensus accepts that sexual orientation is a characteristic that is immutable." The World Health Organization has said that "sexual orientation by itself is not to be regarded as a disorder." And yet in the United States, gay teenagers have been held in isolation for months, and forced to attend this "conversion therapy."

Except in California. Thanks to Ted Lieu.

In 2012, State Senator Ted Lieu wrote a bill to prohibit conversation therapy for minors in California. That bill passed in the California Legislature, and was signed into law. Ted Lieu made California the first state to ban conversion therapy for minors, but hopefully not the last. That was a very important accomplishment.

Now Ted Lieu is running for Congress, and he needs your help. He is seeking the seat of Rep. Henry Waxman. Henry has served for 40 years in Congress, and yet he kept his seat last time with only 54% of the vote. It's a difficult district, it's a close race, and we need Ted Lieu in Congress... He had the guts to take on the Religious Right when it was the Religious Wrong, and he rescued countless children from the bigoted lie that their sexual identity was a "disease" that demanded a quack "cure." Ted Lieu deserves our support.
California may be way out ahead of most of the country on this, but last week President Obama introduced ending conversion therapy as a national issue. "President Obama," wrote Jonathan Capehart, "did something rather extraordinary Thursday. He came out in favor of banning so-called conversion therapy. That’s the psycho-quackery inflicted on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people that attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity."
“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,” wrote Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.” With that, the president threw his support behind efforts to enact a nationwide “Leelah’s Law.” Jarrett called the organizers of the petition in advance of the public announcement. “I wanted to tell them directly,” she told me.

The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a “mental disorder” in 1973. The organization officially opposed “any psychiatric treatment, such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy” in 1998. Only California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia ban such therapies. In a statement upon signing his state’s prohibition, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said, “[E]xposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate.” Risks such as depression, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts. Christie and Obama don’t agree on much. But when they do and their agreement is on a controversial issue such as this, you know it’s serious.
Lieu is calling for a national ban similar to the one he passed in Sacramento (S.B. 1172). "So-called gay conversion therapy, which seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, is a dangerous but often overlooked form of discrimination against LGBT Americans," said Lieu. "I was elated to hear of President Obama’s support for a permanent ban. Conversion therapy has critical medical and ethical flaws that can be seriously damaging to the physical and mental health of those who are compelled to undergo it. Minors, who may not be empowered to make their own health decisions, are especially at risk.

“California’s ban on conversion therapy has survived several court challenges by anti-LGBT groups and has inspired the passage of similar bills in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. I applaud the President’s decision to fully support state-level initiatives that make the use of these practices on minors illegal. However, I believe that a federal ban is the only way to completely protect young people from the harmful effects of conversion therapy and to ensure that they are celebrated, not shamed, for their identities. I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues in Congress to pass a national law that forbids this destructive and discriminatory pseudoscience once and for all. In the meantime I will seek to block any federal funding from supporting this discredited and cruel practice." Lieu spoke with the Southern California LGBT weekly Frontiers about moving the ball down the field.
“I am ecstatic that the leader of the free world has called for an end to gay ‘conversion’ therapy. And I commend President Obama for recognizing ‘reparative’ therapy for the crappery that it is,” Lieu said in a late phone interview.

Lieu says he had already directed his staff to look at legislation that would create a nationwide ban. But, he says, “there are some issues because states primarily do the licensing of mental health professionals. We’re looking at the mechanics of how a nationwide ban would work.”

However, Lieu says his staff is working on a simultaneous parallel track to craft a bill that would cut federal funding to therapists who engage in the practice.

“At a minimum, no federal funding should be going to places that engage in ‘reparative therapy.’ Remember-- Michele Bachmann’s husband received Medicaid funding for his clinic that performed gay ‘conversion’ therapy,” Lieu says “So it’s my hope that Congress immediately shuts down any federal funding to any mental health professional that engages in ‘reparative’ therapy.”

Lieu sits on the House Budget Committee and is currently fighting over the federal budget but he thinks this is an issue that will cross partisan lines. “I do believe that we can get bipartisan support for stopping federal funding for ‘reparative’ therapy,” he says, “and so that’s an issue I hope will happen soon-- in the next few months.”

Lieu says that it’s “very helpful that the president came out and made the statement that he did,” adding that “with the LGBTQ civil rights in general, you’re seeing a very quick shift in American society towards embracing the LGBTQ community. And that’s terrific. And I believe that with every passing month, it is my hope that Congress actually catches up with where the rest of the American public already is.”

Lieu says he thought what the conservative Indiana legislators tried to do with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was “horrendous.” But he also thinks the intense backlash in Indiana and Arkansas was a hopeful sign. “I think what you’re seeing, really is the last gasp of virulent discrimination against the LGBTQ community,” he says.

After Lieu introduced SB 1172 in the California State Legislature, he held hearings and worked with Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights and other organizations to get it passed. But even after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill on Sept. 29, 2012, SB 1172 faced a series of lawsuits from religious conservatives who argued that the bill stifled the free speech of therapists and the rights of parents to make decisions on their child’s behalf.

But Lieu was not intimidated. Lieu, a Lt. Col. in the Air Force Reserves and former military prosecutor-- a graduate from Georgetown University Law Center in 1994, after which he clerked for Judge Thomas Tang on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals-- looked at every angle of the bill from the perspective of law, science, and called the practice “psychological child abuse” to minors.

“Federal funding is not based on religious beliefs,” Lieu says. “In terms of banning conversion therapy, the way we were able to do it in California was to convince not just the legislators and governor but the judges that this was a law based on science and all the medical evidence, as well as all the medical professional associations have come out and said that ‘reparative therapy’ does not work and when you try to do it, it causes great harm to your patients. And religion does not give you any freedom to engage in what amounts to psychological child abuse.”

After the California State Assembly passed SB 1172 on Aug. 29, 2012, Lieu said: “It’s heartening to see the majority of the Assembly agrees that this kind of so-called ‘treatment’ essentially is psychological abuse of children. Even the person who brought any legitimacy to this kind of psychological technique, Dr. Robert Spitzer, renounced his study and apologized to the LGBT community. Even professionals agree that this quackery needs to stop.”

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