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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Why Banning Conversion Therapy May Do More Harm Than Good

Therapies promising to "cure" homosexuality are potentially harmful, but so are laws to ban them

On September 29, Jerry Brown signed into law a bill banning therapy that purportedly “cures” gays for minors in the state of California. Brown had previously Tweeted that these practices, known as conversion therapy, “have no basis in science of medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.” Almost immediately after being signed into law, a Christian legal group called the Pacific Justice Institute sued the state, saying that the ban was a violation of free speech and private relationships between youth, families and their therapists. Is the law a helpful effort to protect minors or a nanny-state intrusion into a private and intimate issue?

Both, possibly. First, it should be clearly stated that the empirical research supporting the efficacy of this form of therapy is weak, at best.  A 2009 task force report    by the American Psychological Association concluded that efforts to therapeutically change sexual orientation do not work, and carry significant risk of harm.  Consenting homosexual behavior is no more harmful than consenting heterosexual behavior, but instilling or reinforcing in patients the view that their sexual orientation is wrong can do psychological damage. Outside of religious conservatives, few defenders of conversion therapy can be found.


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