Viewsday

Analysis, discussion and opinions by members of Newsday's editorial board.

Uberti: New York should outlaw gay conversion therapy

New York should join New Jersey and California

New York should join New Jersey and California in outlawing gay conversion therapy, a practice that has been debunked and which hurts kids. (Credit: TCA Illustration/Mark Weber)

Forty-eight states still allow mental health professionals to inflict cruel and unusual punishment on homosexual minors through gay conversion therapy.

Only California and New Jersey have taken steps to protect gay and lesbian youths — populations hard-pressed to protect themselves — from such “therapy.”

A federal court in San Francisco ruled in late August that a California law prohibiting gay conversion therapy for minors doesn’t violate the First Amendment rights of parents or mental health professionals.


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The opinion came little more than a week after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a similar law, banning state-licensed counselors, therapists and social workers from the practice. The statutes don’t extend to unlicensed individuals such as religious leaders, allowing them to continue such programs.

Therapists opposing the laws argue that they trample on First Amendment rights. And supportive parents charge that government shouldn’t infringe on their ability to choose the best treatment for their children.

But calling something as absurd as gay conversion therapy “treatment” isn’t just bending the truth, it’s a ludicrous fallacy. The American Psychological Association has found “sexual orientation change efforts” to be ineffective. More troubling is the long list of possible adverse effects: helplessness, self-hatred, loss of faith, substance abuse, high-risk sexual behavior and suicide, among others. Parents who refuse to accept a child’s sexuality effectively force these dangers on to gay and lesbian kids who are already at a higher-than-average risk of anxiety and depression.

Many people, myself included, find it easy to laugh at folks who believe homosexuality can be “cured” through counseling or prayer. But we shouldn’t. Some parents force children into “therapy” simply because they are who they are. Teenagers have enough insecurities already. Trying to brainwash them that a foundational piece of their identity is sick and twisted arguably amounts to psychological child abuse.

That may not sound as ugly as a physical beating, for example, but depression is a chronic disorder — unlike homosexuality. And it can haunt someone for life.
New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) introduced a bill in April that would prevent mental health professionals from trying to change minors’ sexual orientations.

It also includes specific provisions separating potentially harmful conversion therapy from therapies aiming to support children in accepting their own identity. That’s crucial. Lawmakers should pass the legislation upon their return to Albany. This has nothing to do with politics; it’s a question of right and wrong.

If you’re a gay or lesbian adult and want to try to magically turn straight, knock yourself out. But bigoted parents need to ask themselves how they would respond to being forced into therapy for being straight. I, for one, would fight like hell against “treatment” aiming to turn me gay. I don’t loathe the idea of being a homosexual, but I do loathe the idea of not being myself. 

Tags: Gay , homosexual , lesbian , conservative , conversion therapy , new Jersey , California

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